David Ragan: Expect a surprise winner (or several) in the Chase

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David Ragan and Front Row Motorsports delivered the most stunning result of the 2013 NASCAR Sprint Cup season one year ago at Talladega Superspeedway, when Ragan led teammate David Gilliland to a 1-2 finish.

This year, repeating that feat would put Ragan in the Chase for the Sprint Cup thanks to the new format that allows drivers to effectively make the post-season with a victory.

Yesterday, Ragan was upfront about FRM’s chances, saying that “we are not a Chase contender, we’re a wild card contender.” But he recognizes the opportunity that has emerged in 2014 for FRM and other small teams.

“We are not consistent enough to win several races [or] click off five or six top-10s in a row and we realize that,” he said. “But what NASCAR has done has given us a chance to be in the Chase for the championship and that would really change the course of Front Row Motorsports and what we’re trying to achieve as a team and personally as a driver.”

Altogether, he expects to see a surprise regular season winner or two that perhaps may not be able to truly contend in the Chase but can at least get into it and raise their team’s status like Kurt Busch did with Furniture Row Racing last year.

With the “Outlaw” in the cockpit, FRR shook its also-ran status and became the only single-car team to ever make the Chase since its inception in 2004 (Busch is now at Stewart-Haas Racing, while FRR’s running with Martin Truex Jr.)

Ragan sees several competitors that could help their team follow FRR’s lead.

“I think you look at AJ Allmendinger, Casey Mears – they’ve been running a lot better this year – even look at the Petty cars, Marcos Ambrose and Aric Almirola – they are not consistent enough to make the Chase in the old format,” he said. “I think they would admit that too.

“Look at our team, you look at Tommy Baldwin’s guys, Reed Sorenson had a shot to win the Daytona 500 this year. Yes, there will be one, maybe two cars, that will benefit from the new changes and will make the Chase, absolutely.”

Former 5-time ALMS and Le Mans-winning team owner Dave Maraj killed in accident

Photo courtesy Dave Maraj Facebook page
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Well-known sports car team owner and automobile dealership owner Dave Maraj was killed Saturday night in a boating accident in Florida, according to SportsCar365.com.

Maraj’s Champion Racing teams won five consecutive American Le Mans Series championships from 2004 through 2008, and also captured the overall win in the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 2005, the last American team to do so in the iconic sports car race.

IMSA President Scott Atherton released the following statement mourning Maraj’s passing:

Dave Maraj. Photo courtesy IMSA.

“All of us at IMSA are shocked and saddened by the news of Dave Maraj’s passing. As a team owner in the American Le Mans Series, Dave and his Champion Racing organization were the epitome of professionalism and excellence, as their five series championships and 24 Hours of Le Mans victory will attest.

“Dave was a tremendous competitor and a great friend to all in the paddock throughout his time in our sport. Our thoughts and prayers go out to Dave’s family and friends and to all of his associates at Champion Motors.”

Maraj was a very successful automobile dealership owner, most notably Champion Motors and Champion Porsche in Pompano Beach, Florida, the latter considered the No. 1 Porsche dealer in the U.S.

Details of how Maraj died have not been released.

Maraj sold his racing operation after the 2008 season and devoted himself to his Porsche and Audi auto dealerships, as well as competitive sailing.