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.”

IndyCar teams with NASCAR on IMS road course doubleheader in 2021

IndyCar NASCAR doubleheader 2021
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The NTT IndyCar Series will be sharing Indianapolis Motor Speedway with the NASCAR Cup Series in a race weekend doubleheader for the second consecutive season, but both series will be on the road course in August 2021.

IMS announced Wednesday that IndyCar will hold an Aug. 14, 2021 race on its 14-turn, 2.439-mile road course. It’ll be a day before NASCAR’s premier series runs the same layout for the first time after the Brickyard 400 was contested on the 2.5-mile oval for the first time in 27 years.

This season’s rescheduling of the IndyCar GMR Grand Prix to July 4, 2019 (a day before the Brickyard 400) led to the first NASCAR-IndyCar doubleheader weekend. The Xfinity Series also raced on the IMS road course for the first time July 4 after the IndyCar race ended.

INDYCAR AT IMS THIS WEEKEND: Harvest GP schedule, entry lists

IndyCar will be holding its second race weekend this year at the IMS road course Friday and Saturday with the Harvest GP.

“Our first NASCAR-INDYCAR weekend was a big success last July, with positive feedback from
our loyal fans who watched the races on NBC and from the drivers, teams and participants
involved,” IMS president Douglas Boles said in a statement. “The Xfinity Series’ debut on the IMS road course provided exactly the kind of thrilling action from the green to checkered flags that we anticipated, so we know the teams and drivers of the Cup Series will put on a great show as they turn left and right for the first time at IMS.

“We can’t wait to welcome back fans to see NASCAR and INDYCAR together during this
exciting weekend as we add another memorable chapter in the long, storied history of the
Indianapolis Motor Speedway.”

It also will mark the first NASCAR Cup-IndyCar doubleheader with a crowd as fans weren’t permitted at IMS in July because of the novel coronvavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

Over the course of Wednesday, NASCAR is releasing its 36-race slate for next season. IndyCar has yet to release its full 2021 schedule.