ThatsRacin

Opportunity knocks again for NASCAR driver David Ragan

David Ragan already had a full-time ride in the Sprint Cup series, with Front Row Motorsports, when he was selected to replace injured Kyle Busch in the No. 18 car with Joe Gibbs Racing. He drove for Front Row in the Daytona 500.
David Ragan already had a full-time ride in the Sprint Cup series, with Front Row Motorsports, when he was selected to replace injured Kyle Busch in the No. 18 car with Joe Gibbs Racing. He drove for Front Row in the Daytona 500. AP

My two cents

This week, a rather large knock of opportunity was heard in NASCAR and fans found an unexpected driver willing to open the door.

Kyle Busch’s leg and foot injuries from Saturday’s wreck in the Xfinity Series opener at Daytona will leave the Sprint Cup driver out for a good part of the season.

Many names popped up as potential fill-ins, including two-time Truck champion Matt Crafton, who drove Busch’s No.18 Toyota to an 18th-place finish in Sunday’s Daytona 500.

The surprise pick was David Ragan, who had a full-time ride in the Cup series with Front Row Motorsports.

Perhaps his selection by Joe Gibbs Racing should not have been such a big surprise.

Yes, Ragan has a full-time ride, but Front Row struggles to compete with the upper-echelon teams of Hendrick Motorsports, Team Penske and JGR.

Ragan had that opportunity once, when he was whisked into a double-duty season of Cup and what is now the Xfinity Series with Roush Fenway Racing in 2007, when he was 21 years old.

Although he won a Cup race in 2011, he never finished higher than 13th in the series standings and Roush released him at the end of the 2011 season.

While Ragan’s name has popped up occasionally, the best Cup ride he could muster was the Front Row team. In 2013, he provided the organization its lone Cup victory, at Talladega, Ala.

Front Row hasn’t advanced much in terms of performance since Ragan’s win, but he remains its most talented driver.

Is that enough for Ragan?

He’s 29 now, married and the father of a young daughter, Julia. Times have changed, but his desire to reach the pinnacle of NASCAR has not.

Filling in for Busch – even for part of a season – might be the last, best shot Ragan has to demonstrate his potential in top-notch equipment.

Many times along his NASCAR career someone took a chance on him. JGR did so again this week.

Most importantly, though, Ragan moved to JGR to take a chance on himself.

Don’t be surprised if he cashes in.

Notes

Filling them all in: A collection of substitute drivers will make Sunday’s Cup race at Atlanta, in addition to Ragan driving in place of Kyle Busch.

Xfinity Series regular Regan Smith will drive Stewart-Haas Racing’s No. 41 Chevrolet again this weekend in place of Kurt Busch, who was indefinitely suspended by NASCAR last week for his involvement in a domestic violence case.

Brett Moffitt will drive Michael Waltrip Racing’s No. 55 Toyota in place of Brian Vickers, who is scheduled to return the next weekend at Las Vegas after offseason heart surgery.

Rare doubleheader: Saturday will feature a scheduled doubleheader of NASCAR racing.

The Xfinity race will begin at 2 p.m. and the Truck series race is scheduled to begin at 5:30, with both races on Fox Sports 1.

The Truck series has not raced at Atlanta this early since 2010 when Kevin Harvick took the checkered flag March 6. Kyle Busch holds the series record with four wins at the track.

Utter: 704-358-5113; Twitter: @jim_utter

Next race

Folds of Honor 500

Where: Atlanta Motor Speedway, Hampton, Ga.

When: 1 p.m. Sunday

TV: Fox

Radio: Performance Racing Network

Last year’s winner: Kasey Kahne

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