March 17, 2019
Auto Club Speedway
2 mile, D-Shaped Oval, Asphalt
400 miles, 200 laps
there are ways to except them and to live through them.
- Robert Zemeckis, American film director, producer and screenwriter
Before the drop of the green flag on Sunday afternoon, drivers took their cars in a 5-wide salute to the fans that was utterly spectacular.
During the opening laps, Ragan fell from P19 to P29, while McDowell and Tifft were named “big movers”, having gained 10 and 8 spots respectively.
Until lap 10, drivers were spread wide across the track but then settled into single file.
Tifft was told by his crew chief, Mike Kelley, that his lap times were good, and to “keep the momentum up, just like in Xfinity races.”
Ragan radioed in, noting that his car was “building tight, off turn 2 especially.” He also suggested “making a big swing” on the first pit stop.
Green flag pit stops began on lap 27, and while the three drivers awaited their orders to pit, they worked up to the top-6.
After their initial pit stops, each driver was set behind a lap - a hole they were unable to dig out of.
The teams took “big swings” on the cars throughout the race, adjusting the track bar, wedge, packer, and air pressure on each of the cars. And while improvements were made, after getting lapped at such a lengthy track and with minimal cautions to work with, only two for incident, the drivers were too far behind to make up ground.
At the end of the day, McDowell finished P24, Ragan finished P25, and Tifft finished P26.
Post-race, McDowell shared via Twitter, “We got some work to do. However after the last 3 weeks for the 34 team we will take it and move on to [Martinsville Speedway].
Tifft also took to Twitter, saying, “P26 today. Not exactly the result we wanted, but solid gains all day after having some adversity to overcome starting in the back and changing engines in practice. On to the paper clip.”
Ragan noted, "We took a big swing at the car on Saturday night and it didn’t work out in our favor. The car was really tight during the first run, but Seth and the team were able to make a lot of great adjustments to get it handling better. Unfortunately, when you start that far off in a 400-mile race without a lot of opportunities to work on it, you just get behind the eight-ball too quick. I felt like towards the end of the race our Ford was a lot better, but it was a little too late at that point. I’m looking forward to getting to a short track like Martinsville where aero won’t mean quite as much."
Ragan sits 26th with 61 points
McDowell is 28th with 54 points
Tifft is 31st with 41 points
As each driver said, it is on to Martinsville Speedway, the famed short track where tempers fly. In 25 MENCS starts at the Paper Clip shaped track, Ragan has one top-5 and 3 top-10s, with an average starting spot of 22.8 and an average finishing spot of 22.3. McDowell has 16 starts Cup Series starts with an average finish of 31.2. Tifft has 3 Gander Outdoors Truck Series starts which include two top-10s and an average finish of P11.
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March 10, 2019
1 mile, Asphalt Tri-Oval
312 laps/312 miles (500km)
While qualifying did not go as expected for the three drivers from Front Row Motorsports, they definitely got some air time as Michael McDowell and Daniel Suarez went head to head on pit road after the opening round of qualifying.
After the sparks died down, it was noted that McDowell would start P27 at his home track of ISM Raceway, while David Ragan and Matt Tifft qualified to start P29 and P30.
Practice sessions were a struggle for the trio, with no one placing higher than P25 between the three sessions. A lot of work happened in the garage, and the three drivers prepared the best they could for Sunday’s race.
The opening lap sent drivers jockeying for position. Within two laps, McDowell had lost two positions, while Tifft and Ragan had both gained a spot.
The field fell to single file and spread out with minimal passing as the opening laps ticked by. The first caution for incident flew on lap 38 when Erik Jones went spinning in turn 2.
At this time, each of the Front Row drivers were scored a lap down with McDowell in P26, Ragan in P27 and Tifft in P30.
The trio took the wave around to be scored on the lead lap.
After a 3-wide restart, the front of the field fell to single file while the remainder of the field took their cars 2- and 3-wide, taking full advantage of the expansive apron.
The second caution came on lap 62 as Brad Keselowski, who had been complaining of issues, slammed into the wall.
Each of the Front Row drivers came to their pit stalls for fuel, tires, and various adjustments. They hit the track for the final five laps of the stage, and as the end of stage flag flew, Ragan finished P24, McDowell finished P25, and Tifft finished P27.
The start of stage 2 came on lap 83 with McDowell in P26, Ragan in P24, and Tifft, who stayed out to gain track position, in P13.
The restart was again wide across the track. Two laps later, Tifft was sandwiched between Ragan and Aric Almirola battling for P20.
The trio fluctuated in the 20s throughout the first half of the second stage, while Tifft was told on lap 97 that he had just laid down his "fastest lap of the race".
On lap 119, there were 24 cars on the lead lap, and Ragan was the first car a lap down in P25, immediately followed by Tifft and McDowell.
The next caution for incident came with three laps left in stage 2 as Alex Bowman got into the wall.
The stage would end under the caution with all three a lap down. Each driver came to their pit stall for fuel, tires, and more adjustments.
As soon as the green flag dropped on the final stage, the caution was flying. This time, it was for McDowell who had a part failure, sending him into the wall in turn 3, with Ragan getting into his rear bumper. As Ragan attempted to avoid McDowell, he got into the side of Ryan Preece. This incident ended the day for McDowell.
Under caution, Ragan brought his car to his team for fresh tires, a track bar adjustment, and to get a patch for the hole on the nose of his car. He left his pit stall with instructions from his crew chief to “Keep an eye on the temps.”
The race restarted on lap 166 with Tifft and Ragan both down a lap, in P24 and P25 respectively.
A few more cautions interrupted the action, and Ragan did what he could to finish with a badly damaged car and avoid a DNF. He did so and finished the day P25.
Tifft used the remainder of the race to learn even more about his Cup car and brought home his first top 20 of the season.
As the checkered flag flew, his crew chief, Mike Kelley told his rookie driver and No. 36 team, “Solid day. Keep up this progression.”
Tifft echoed his crew chief saying, ‘Great job! We’re going to surprise some people!”
McDowell (P36) told NBC Sports, “I just came off the corner and I noticed that the throttle pedal was gone. I knew I was in trouble at that point because it was still wide-open, so I tried hitting the ignition and jumping on the brakes and did everything I could to keep it up against the wall and try not to make a big mess. I was trying not to run into the car in front of me, which I think was Menard. I was just jamming on the brakes as hard as I could to try to get it to slow down and not take a bunch of people with me.”
Tifft shared his thoughts post-race via a video on social media:
Ragan took to Twitter for a post-race, pre-flight video sharing his thoughts on the race:
Standings after 4 races:
26th - Ragan, with 49 points
30th - McDowell, with 41 points
31st - Tifft, with 30 points
One race remains in the West Coast Swing as teams head to Auto Club Speedway - the 2-mile track in Fontana, California, next weekend.
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March 3, 2019
Las Vegas Motor Speedway
1.5 mile, Asphalt Tri-Oval
267 laps/400 miles
David Ragan made a Front Row Motorsports statement during qualifying, setting not only a team best at Las Vegas Motor Speedway but a personal best, qualifying P6.
Michael McDowell would start P16 and Matt Tifft qualified P35.
McDowell had Love’s Travel Stops on board his No. 34 Ford Mustang again this weekend.
Tifft had Surface Suncare/Tunity on the No. 36 once again.
Ragan had Citgard, reminiscent of his 2018 Darlington Raceway paint scheme, on the No. 38.
As the green flag dropped, Ragan immediately lost the ground he earned in qualifying. He radioed in noting that he was “tight on exit.” He fell to P17 within six laps. Tifft and McDowell also lost ground on what was a wild opening lap for the Pennzoil 400.
Drivers took their cars 3- and 4- wide, and stayed racy for the first portion of the opening stage.
On lap 26, McDowell let his team know that he was “starting to free up” as he sat P26. Tifft had lost a lap and was sitting P34, while Ragan had fallen to P28.
The field was stretched to single file as green flag pit stops started on lap 39. While awaiting the leaders to pit, each of the Front Row drivers took to their stalls on lap 60.
Ragan was scored P6 and came for 4 tires, fuel, and a wedge adjustment.
Tifft was scored P31, down two laps, and got two tires and fuel, while McDowell was P5 and came for 4 tires, fuel, and an air pressure adjustment. McDowell was forced to serve a pass-through penalty after having a crewmember over the wall too soon.
As the opening stage finished, Ragan was the leader of the three teams in P26, down a lap.
The stage two restart went wide and wild in the opening laps with Ragan sitting P24, and Tifft and McDowell P31 and P32, both down a lap. There was a great deal of shuffling on the restart, but within 10 laps, drivers settled to a single file line.
Green flag stops began on lap 111 with Tifft leading the way for the FRM drivers. He came first from P34, down three laps, for tires, fuel, and a track bar adjustment, but had to come back down pit road a second time as he reported a vibration.
McDowell came next, pitting from P24, down a lap, for tires and fuel, while Ragan attempted to wait for a caution. He finally had to pit from P6, down a lap as he ran out of fuel. He filled up with gas and got four fresh tires.
As the second stage ended, Ragan was the Front Row front-runner sitting P25, down a lap. McDowell was P31, down 2 laps, and Tifft was P34, down 4 laps.
Ragan and McDowell took the wave around to earn back a lap, while Tifft stopped for fresh tires, fuel, and a track bar adjustment.
The final stage, and ultimately the final restart, came on lap 167. Ragan restarted P22, McDowell restarted P30, down a lap, and Tifft restarted P33, down four laps.
The restart again brought cars fanned out on the front stretch with a great deal of shuffling.
Within 15 laps, Ragan was told, “The track is changing. Everyone is complaining about plowing tight.”
Lap 188 brought McDowell to the pits for a green flag stop of tires, fuel, and a track bar adjustment.
And on lap 194, Tifft was told his lap times were increasing and to “Keep it up.”
Ragan came to his pit stall for tires, fuel, and a wedge adjustment on lap 198. He cycled out P28, down two laps, and was told he would be about 3 laps short on fuel, so he would need to save as the race stretched on.
With 29 laps remaining, Tifft came to his stall for tires and fuel, and with 16 to go, McDowell took to his stall for two tires and fuel.
As Ragan slowed his lap times to save fuel, the race stayed green and caution free.
Ragan finished the race P28, McDowell finished P30, and Tiff P34.
Post race, the Front Row trio took to Twitter to share their thoughts on the race, the aero-package, and more.
McDowell tweeted, “Never could overcome our penalty from early in the race. Needed a few cautions to get caught back up. We will keep digging and try to clean it up for [Phoenix].”
In a video, Tifft stated, “We made a lot of gains, and that’s the frustrating and promising part….In the race, there were times when we were really fast and actually had decent speed out of the car...but we had a few issues on pit road that made us have a loose wheel.” You can see his whole video here:
Ragan tweeted, “Man. We missed the set up today. Seth and the #38 team did a great job on pit road and had a great strategy. Just needed at least 1 caution there at the end. Had to save gas the whole last run and ran out on the last lap. Can’t wait to get to [Phoenix] in a few days!”
After three races, the Front Row drivers rank:
26th - McDowell with 40 points
27th - Ragan with 37 points
33rd - Tifft with 13 points
Next up in the West Coast Swing is McDowell’s home track of ISM Raceway in Phoenix, Arizona.
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February 25, 2019
Atlanta Motor Speedway
1.5 mile, Asphalt Oval
500 miles/325 laps
Heading to Atlanta Motor Speedway, sponsors for the Folds of Honor/QuikTrip 500 for Front Row Motorsports drivers included:
No. 34 of Michael McDowell - Fr8Auctions
Retweet to help us welcome @fr8auctions aboard @Mc_Driver's No. 34 Ford Mustang for @amsupdates! This will be @fr8auctions 5th year partnering with us and we look forward to hitting the track with them this weekend!— Front Row Motorsports (@Team_FRM) February 19, 2019
More info: https://t.co/nHcfkTdQ1w pic.twitter.com/Q3jsQY4S0V
No. 38 of David Ragan - FireAde
Really excited to have @Fireade2K coming on board with me this weekend at @amsupdates! They are an Atlanta-based company, so it is very special for me, being a Georgia native, to have them on my car. It is also their first race in the sport so please help me in welcoming them! pic.twitter.com/W1JBuXoVYU— David Ragan (@DavidRagan) February 20, 2019
No. 36 of Matt Tifft - Surface Sunscreen/TunityTV
How exciting! @matt_tift will be running this gorgeous Surface Sunscreen livery @AMSupdates. We can't wait to see that beautiful machine on track track! NASCAR #Racing @XfinityRacing @NASCAR_Xfinity @low_nascar2 @SharonKarkowsk2 @dega_boy_87 @Kemmo @The_SuperSquad_ pic.twitter.com/rvlUHYgZT3— Nascar Low Teams (@low_nascar) February 20, 2019
Practice Sessions and Qualifying:
Friday, Practice #1:
McDowell - P20 (177.801mph)
Ragan - P22
Tifft - P32
Tifft qualified to start P31, while Ragan and McDowell advanced to round 2. In round 2, Ragan’s best qualifying effort was P23 with McDowell finishing the final round in P12. This was a personal and team best qualifying effort at Atlanta.
Saturday, Final Practice:
McDowell - P4 (178.672mph)
Ragan - P30
Tifft - P32
Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500
After rain washed out and threatened most on-track activity on Friday and Saturday, Sunday brought clear, sunny skies. Because of the Saturday night rain, NASCAR announced there would be a competition caution on lap 36.
As the green flag dropped, the action on track immediately was wild as drivers took their cars 3- and 4-wide in the opening laps.
Trials for Tifft:
Tifft started the weekend with his car chief, Brandon Lee, being ejected and unable to return to the garage after the No. 36 failed pre-qualifying inspection multiple times on Friday. Tifft began Sunday’s race P31 and maintained that position through his competition caution pit stop, where he took 4 tires and fuel, as well as packer and wedge adjustments.
He got back on track P31 and held steady while experimenting different lines, all while still learning the ins and outs of the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series car. As stage 1 came to a close, he finished P30, down 1 lap. After another 3-wide restart to start the second stage, Tifft fell from P29 to P31, still down a lap. After a green flag stop, he cycled out P28, down two laps. While the rest of the race remained much of the same, Tifft kept his Surface Suncare/TunityTV Mustang damage free, and he definitely gained valuable learning time on track. Tifft finished the day P28.
Misadventure for McDowell:
Front Row fans were excited to see what the driver of the No. 34 would do after an impressive qualifying session and solid final practice. McDowell held steady in the mid-teens through the crazy opening laps but settled into the top-twenties by the competition caution.
After an adjustment had him losing ground, he finished the stage P27, one lap down. However he was in the lucky dog position, which got him back on the lead lap.
He came to his pit stall for 4 tires, fuel, and a wedge adjustment, and cycled out P27 to start stage 2. McDowell maintained his position but lost a lap after a green flag pit stop for tires, fuel, and a track bar adjustment. He finished stage 2 down two laps, sitting P29. He took the caution to come in for tires, fuel, and a wedge adjustment and restarted P30, down 3 laps.
He immediately radioed in after the stage 3 restart to say that his car was “real tight and darty.” His crew chief, Drew Blickensderfer, told him to hang on (literally and figuratively) because they were working on a plan. But within 10 laps, McDowell was headed to the garage with a broken tie rod. He stayed in the garage for much of the remainder of the race, but with 17 laps remaining, McDowell’s team got him back on track to finish out the race P37. It was truly a team effort to avoid a DNF.
Post-race, McDowell tweeted, “Unfortunately we had a parts failure during the race that put us behind the wall but proud of the speed we had all weekend and we will get ready for [Las Vegas Motor Speedway]. Thank you [Fr8 Auctions] for all the support.”
After a DNF to start the season, Ragan was looking to make his mark on the 2019 season at his home track. With the wild start, he lost his starting position but was able to gain it back after working some lines and figuring out what he could, and could not, do with the new aero-package. After stopping for tires, fuel, and an air pressure adjustment, Ragan got back on track P26 and, after some floating between positions, finished the stage in the same position.
He let his team know he could “hang with them [other cars] in the corners but not the straightaway.” After a stop for tires, fuel, and a wedge adjustment, he started stage 2 in P23.
As cars again went 3- and 4-wide, he worked up to P17, but lost a little ground as the drivers fanned out on the track. As the relatively calm second stage passed, Ragan maintained his position in the top-twenties, to finish the stage P22.
The start of the final stage brought the same crazy restart and Ragan maintained his top-twenties position until the caution flew on lap 221 when Kyle Busch scraped the wall and cut a tire. Ragan was sitting P18 and restarted P11. Ragan lost some more ground, and stayed on track when a pit road incident between BJ McLeod and rookie Ryan Preece brought out another caution.
The restart, with 43 laps remaining, had Ragan sitting P20 and letting his spotter, Rocky Ryan, know that he needed to be “extra detailed” because there was oil and dirt all over the windshield of the No. 38.
Ragan gained two positions after two Team Penske drivers took to pit road with tire issues, and he passed two more drivers to a P16 finish - a Front Row Motorsports best at the 1.5 mile track.
After the race, Ragan tweeted, “Proud of our #38 [FireAde] team. Made a lot of changes last night and car was pretty solid all day. Need a little more speed to crack the top 15, but like the direction [Front Row Motorsports] is headed with all 3 cars.”
Front Row Motorsports Standings:
After two races, with Ragan and Tifft finishing and earning points, the drivers sit:
23rd - McDowell with 33 points (1 point earned this weekend)
27th - Ragan with 28 points (up from 7 points)
33rd - Tifft with 10 points (up from 1 point)
Drivers and teams prepare to head to Vegas this week where they kick off the West Coast Swing: a trio of races in Las Vegas, Nevada, Sonoma, California, and Phoenix, Arizona - a home race for McDowell.
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February 18, 2019
Daytona International Speedway
2.5 mile, Asphalt Tri-Oval
500 miles/200 laps
500 Practice Sessions:
Friday afternoon brought two practice sessions for the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series drivers. The opening session provided a decent amount of drafting practice, but more importantly, it allowed Cup rookie, Matt Tifft, more time to get the feel of being behind the wheel of a Cup car.
The opening practice had David Ragan sitting as high as P2, finishing P9 after 18 laps, with a top speed of 199.296mph. Michael McDowell jumped to P4 and finished P13, topping out at 198.636mph. And Tifft finished up P28 at 191.518mph.
Ragan and McDowell both found themselves on the best 10 consecutive lap averages chart with Ragan in 8th and McDowell in 10th.
The final session on Friday came at 3 PM, which would be very close to Sunday’s race time. Ragan was the highest scoring of the three teams, P12, with a top speed of 199.845mph. McDowell was one spot behind him topping out at 199.751mph and Tifft sat P16 (199.020mph).
Saturday brought one lone practice with only about half the field taking to the track. Ragan only practiced pit road speed, but McDowell and Tifft both spent time on track. Tifft was P15 out of 21 cars (188.818mph) while McDowell led the practice. He jumped to the top of the leaderboard early on and stayed there throughout the practice. His top speed was 191.440mph.
After the pomp and circumstance that comes before every race, but is always extra special before the season opener, it was finally time to kick off the 2019 season. After a rousing command, engines were fired and drivers took to the track for their pace laps. Fans waited with bated breath to see what kind of race it would be - a wild, unbelievable showing like the Gander Outdoors Truck Series on Friday night, or single file, follow the leader similar to that of the Xfinity Series on Saturday afternoon.
Tifft, in contention for 2019 MENCS Rookie of the Year, had an impressive showing for his first 500. The green flag dropped and the racing action stayed 2 cars wide, which was encouraging to fans. He immediately made ground and surged ahead to gain a few positions, fluctuating in the high thirties in the opening laps. He took to his pit stall on lap 15 for a green flag, gas and go pit stop, and cycled out P30. Tifft’s spotter, Chris Monez, did an incredible job cheering on, encouraging, and informing his young driver throughout the race. As the race stretched on through the opening stage, Tifft continued to slowly work his way forward, hitting P25 before the caution flew for incident. Tifft came to his pit stall for left side tires and fuel, gaining 10 positions, allowing him to restart P12 on lap 53.
Tifft broke into the top 10 two laps later, but as the stage came to a close, he feared he had a tire going down and slowed to the apron.
He finished stage 1 in 23rd and came to his pit stall for fuel, tires, and adjustments. With a longer stop, he cycled out P35 but worked his way to the mid-twenties in the early laps of the second stage. Tifft came in for a fuel only, green flag pit stop on lap 80. Stopping under green has the potential to be detrimental to your track position, and this time, Tifft was eventually put a lap down. However, a timely caution allowed him to make up a lap when Casey Mears and Parker Kligerman got into each other with 14 laps remaining in stage 2. Tifft told his team his No. 36 was “dragging in the front” and he took to his pit stall for fresh tires and fuel, along with packer and track bar adjustments.
After hitting the track for the restart, the action was ratcheting up with just a few laps remaining in the stage and cars were 3-wide for multiple rows. Tifft saved his car and finished stage 2, again in P23.
A quick pit stop had him getting right-side tires only, along with fuel, and he got back on track P17. As the final stage began, the tension was palpable. There had been great racing action, but it was Daytona - a track that is not usually kind to drivers. As cars stayed 2-by-2 throughout the field, the top line was moving hard. Tifft quickly lost position and within 12 laps was pushed back to P26. As drivers began their last green flag pit stops around lap 150, Tifft maintained P26. As he took to his pit stall, the caution flew as a random wreck on pit road sent five cars spinning. Tifft pitted and then took to the track to finish out the race, but not before a debris caution again slowed the field.
With 23 laps remaining and Tifft sitting in P22, the end was in sight. The field stretched to a single file line, and within 11 laps, two more cautions flew.
With 10 to go, the “Big One” happened and, unfortunately, Tifft was collected in the melee, along with 21 other cars.
Tifft was checked and released from the medical center and after his 36th place finish, he said, “It was definitely getting crazy on that restart. Everyone knew it was time to go with 10 to go. So you knew it was going to be crazy. We were stuck in the middle, three-wide….I thought I saw the 95 or someone get turned up front and I just couldn’t see after that. I tried to get on the brakes but I couldn’t see anything and we were right in the middle of it.”
Fans of the No. 38 driver know he has waited years for redemption at the season opener, and after an impressive showing at Speedweeks, many thought this might be the year for Ragan. While he started P24, within 5 laps, he cracked the top 20. As always, over his scanner, he was heard giving valuable information about the handling and balance of his car to his crew chief, Seth Barbour, and spotter, Rocky Ryan.
On lap 6, Ragan told his team his car was “a lot freer than what it should be,” but that didn’t stop him charging forward - he gained two positions in as many laps. After a fuel only, green flag stop, he cycled back to the track in time for a caution. Under the caution, many teams took to their pit stalls and Ragan made ground, restarting P10 on lap 24. Ragan worked up to P7, but after getting stuck between Chase Elliott and Denny Hamlin, he was sucked back to P14. After getting in a slow moving lane, Ragan fell to P28.
He maintained position until the caution flew on lap 48 as Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. got into Kurt Busch. Ragan took the convenient yellow to hit pit road and grab four tires, fuel, and adjustments to his air pressure and track bar. As the opening stage wound down, Ragan worked his way to P10. It looked like he might earn some coveted stage points, but he lost the ground he made and finished P15. Funnily enough, the NASCAR scanner app was having issues and all fans heard from Ragan was, “Those Penske Fords…” before he cut out.
Ragan was the big winner on pit road, taking fuel only and gaining 8 positions to restart P13 on lap 66. Ragan got back to work where he left off before the recent caution and broke the top 10, but his work was quickly erased when he was caught speeding on pit road for a fuel-only stop. This forced a pass-through penalty and he cycled out P36, down 1 lap.
After help from Paul Menard, he gained a few positions, but not much before the caution flew again. After it was confirmed he would not get the Lucky Dog Pass, he stopped for 4 tires, fuel, and no adjustments.
He was reminded then that his goal was to “focus on the (No.) 37” of Chris Buescher to get in the Lucky Dog position. Within 3 laps, he took care of that and was scored the first car a lap down in P30 and was given the free pass at the end of stage caution.
On the restart for the final stage, Ragan proved to be in the right place at the right time and made quite a bit of ground in the opening laps. He moved from P30 to P19 in 12 laps. After hovering around the top twenties for about 15 laps, he took to his pit stall under caution for fresh tires, a “drink and a tear off.”
Lap 166 brought the restart and Ragan was sitting P15. Within 9 laps, the caution flew again for debris and Ragan was sitting P6. He stayed on track to maintain position, and on the restart, he was being pushed by the No. 14 of Clint Bowyer. But, as the field shuffled to single file, he lost the ground he made and fell to P13. Two more cautions flew, and Ragan stayed on track both times, giving him a restart position of P7 with 10 laps remaining.
But the Daytona 500 would escape his grasp again. The caution flew as Matt DiBenedetto received an ill-placed shove from Menard. DiBenedetto went spinning and took 21 other cars, including the SelectBlinds.com No. 38 with him.
All drivers were checked and released from the infield care center and Ragan told NBC Sports, “I just saw someone get turned in front of me….That is a product of speedway racing, pushing and being that aggressive at the end of a race. You have guys blocking and you have guys coming fast….Unfortunate that we were in the wrong place at the right time but we were up in the top-10, where we needed to be to try to win the race and sometimes things just don’t fall your way.”
Ragan finished P30 for the 2019 Daytona 500.
McDowell and Ragan are both known for their restrictor plate, speedway racing, but McDowell is still seeking that elusive first Cup series win. Starting from P34, he fluctuated in the mid-thirties until mid-way through the opening stage when he hit the top twenties. When the caution flew on lap 48, he came to his team for four tires and fuel to restart P22 on lap 53, and on the closing laps of stage 1, he cracked the top 20 to finish P19.
He stayed out under caution to gain track position, allowing him to restart P8. McDowell broke into the top 5 after the restart, but after going 3-wide, his car got sucked back to P10. The leaders were single file and behind them, the action was 2-by-2, forcing him back to the high twenties. He took to his pit stall just 13 laps into stage 2 for fuel only, but even the quick stop set him back into P34, down a lap. While the racing action picked up, McDowell was not able to gain his lap back until he took a wave around after the caution between Kligerman and Mears. He finished the second stage in P13.
To start the final stage, McDowell lined up P16 on lap 126 and throughout the opening 10 laps, he worked his way to P12.
In a wild, unfortunate turn of events, as McDowell took to pit road for P11 for tires and fuel, Stenhouse, Jimmie Johnson, Tyler Reddick, and others all collided on pit road.
McDowell made it through the carnage and cycled out P1. Suddenly viewers saw him falling back and quickly learned that the caution flew before he officially made it onto pit road, and since he continued with his pit stop, his penalty would be to start at the tail end of the lead lap in P23. After that frustration, McDowell was a man on a mission. After another caution, this time for debris, McDowell was lined up P19 with 22 laps remaining. Within two laps, McDowell rocketed to P8 before another caution flew. He stayed on track to maintain P7 and had gained two more spots before yet another caution flag was in the air.
Six laps later, the Daytona “Big One” occurred, taking out both McDowell’s teammates along with 20 other drivers, but also bringing out the red flag for track clean up.
With 6 to go, McDowell restarted P4 and moved up two positions before the caution flew again.
NASCAR announced it would be 3 to go - a green white checkered finish. McDowell was starting on the second row beside Joey Logano. But before drivers got too far, the red flag was out again for another five-car wreck.
As the yellow was brought back out, McDowell was heard over his scanner saying, “Let’s do this.”
Only the first 14 cars were on the lead lap and McDowell was sitting P4 in the outside lane. As the racing went back to green, he floated between P3 and P4, but got sucked back to finish P5.
Post-race, he caused a bit of controversy when he told reporters that is was not his job to push Logano to a win. He told NBCSports, “Yeah, there’s always things you could do differently. We just didn’t have the speed to break the plane of 18 (Kyle Busch) or the 11 (Hamlin). We were trying like heck, but so was everybody else. When the 18 shot to the outside there he had a big run, a lot of momentum and I tried to go with him to hope that the 18 and the 11 would get together and maybe I’d sneak a win out of it. It just didn’t work out….We would have loved to pull into Victory Lane, but a top five is great.”
Front Row Motorsports Standings:
After one race, the trio of drivers sits in the standings:
9th - McDowell with 32 points
29th - Ragan with 7 points
33rd - Tifft with 1 point
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February 15, 2019
The organization of Front Row Motorsports hit Daytona International Speedway with a lot of changes and a fresh outlook on the 2019 season. The off-season was busy and included a move from Statesville, NC to nearby Mooresville, the addition of Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series rookie, Matt Tifft, to the FRM lineup in the No. 36, and some crew chief and spotter swapping.
Among the many changes, a few things remained the same - David Ragan and Michael McDowell returned to their respective numbers 34 and 38 as full-time drivers, along with high expectations for the season with the series-wide switch to the Ford Mustang body and the 2019 aero-package rules.
Daytona 500 sponsors for the three full-time drivers included Loves Travel Stops for McDowell, SpeedCo for Tifft, and a new sponsor in Select Blinds for Ragan.
Saturday afternoon held two practices - the only two for Daytona 500 Qualifying and the Duels. It also brought Tifft’s first time on track behind the wheel of a Cup car. After adjusting and getting their cars to their liking on a very windy afternoon, the opening session had the FRM drivers sitting in P10 (McDowell) with a top speed of 192.769mph, P29 (Ragan) with a top speed of 188.953, and P37 (Tifft) topping out at 186.293.
Pouring rains came and track officials had to get to work drying. After some debrief time, the final practice session came and the FRM teams hit the track to try a little drafting practice. Before too much time could be spent on the track, the rain returned, sending drivers back to the garage under a red flag, which finished the session. Ragan claimed P3 (194.940mph) and McDowell sat P6 (193.370mph). Tifft was still working out some kinks and came in P35 (185.246mph).
FRM was declared the Ford Performance team of the day between the two practice sessions.
Unfortunately, when qualifying rolled around Sunday afternoon, none of the three FRM drivers made it to the second round of single-lap qualifying. The drivers finished P25 (McDowell), P35 (Tifft), and P23 (Ragan). William Byron and Alex Bowman would sit on the front row for the Great American Race.
Tifft lined up P18 in Duel 1 on Thursday night to finalize his Daytona 500 starting position.
As the green flag dropped, he held steady in the top line that ran with the entire field, save five cars. By lap 3, Tifft had worked his way to P15. The action almost went south when Brad Keselowski squeezed into a hole behind Tifft - a hole that didn’t exist.
A lap later, Tifft sat P13 in a “19 car freight train.” On lap 13, Tifft took to his pit stall with the majority of the field, but unfortunately was assessed with speeding and had to serve a pass-through penalty.
His crew chief, Mike Kelly, and spotter, Chris Monez, discussed staying out as long as possible, hoping for a caution, but ultimately came in two laps later. While serving his penalty, he was caught speeding again, forcing him to come to pit road again to serve a stop and go.
Tifft came out P20, down one lap on lap 20. Three laps later, the caution did fly as Jimmie Johnson sent Kyle Busch spinning. Tifft came down to practice his pit road speed and acquired four tires, fuel, and a packer adjustment.
Tifft restarted P20, down 1 lap, noting he was “tight in the front.” While the action remained fairly calm, Tifft was told to “stay focused” and think about what would need to be adjusted on his No. 36 for Sunday.
With 10 to go, Tifft was sitting P19, down 1 lap. He told his team his car felt “fairly balanced….just scraping the splitter.”
Tifft hung on to P19 to finish out the opening Duel.
McDowell and Ragan hit the track for Duel 2, starting side-by-side in P11 (Ragan) and P12.
As in the opening Duel, the outside lane was moving and McDowell had worked up to P9 while Ragan fell to P15.
Drivers fell to a single file line by lap 3, and over the next few laps, McDowell fluctuated between P9 and P10, while Ragan fluctuated between P14 and P15.
Ragan ultimately worked his way past Denny Hamlin to solidify his claim of P14 and while moving on the inside lane, gained one more spot. He called in to let his team know “the ride quality is a little on the harsh side...and the car feels a little stiff.”
In Duel 2, drivers were attempting to, and succeeding at, making moves throughout the field, whereas, in the opening Duel, they seemed content with staying single file.
Green flag pit stops started on lap 13, but the Front Row teammates waited till lap 14 to hit their pit boxes for fuel only. Ragan and McDowell cycled out P19 and P20 respectively.
Lap 16 brought McDowell to P16 while awaiting the leaders to pit. The leaders pitting had Ragan sitting P10 in the second pack behind Chase Elliott and Austin Dillon.
Elliott attempted to make a move, pulling out of the high line, and Ragan went with him. This move did not pan out in Elliott’s favor, or Ragan’s, as the driver of the No. 38 lost the pack and fell back - claiming P11, but also riding solo for some time.
Meanwhile, McDowell had fallen to P15, 1 lap down with 20 laps remaining and his team opted to hit pit road to practice a 4 tire pit stop in preparation for Sunday’s race.
The duo finished the night P18 (McDowell) and P11 (Ragan).
Looking Ahead to the 500:
Assuming all goes well with practices and inspections, the FRM teams should line up for the Daytona 500:
Ragan - P24
Tifft - P33
McDowell - P34