As David Ragan looks forward to Darlington, it’s still hard to get all the electricity from Sunday’s exciting win at Talladega out of his system.
Ragan’s teammate, David Gilliland, locked up with him for a last-lap push to the finish and both Front Row Motorsports drivers made their way to the front, which led Ragan into Victory Lane for the small organization’s first victory.
“We’re still excited at Front Row Motorsports to have that win,” said Ragan, who has two Sprint Cup wins now. “We’re definitely getting ready for Darlington, but there’s a lot of racing left in the 2013 season. We’ll cherish this forever. I remember my first Sprint Cup win, but to get a win for Front Row Motorsports and for [team owner] Bob Jenkins, it’s special. It’s really cool, everyone works hard.
“The win was great but a 1-2 finish was that much better. It’s a great feeling and very gratifying.”
Ragan, in his second year at Front Row, hopes the momentum helps lead to a solid finish in the Bojangels’ Southern 500 on Saturday night at ‘The Lady in Black.’
“It gives us a lot of confidence as a team … for me, the team, our pit crew and all the guys working in the garage,” said Ragan, who moved up four spots to 26th in points following the win. “You can always look back and it always gives you a some extra confidence. Since it’s such a different racetrack, not a whole lot will carry over to Darlington.
“Darlington is very unusual. It’s a narrow racetrack so it’s tough to get the right set-ups in. It’s very hot and muggy there this time of year, too. But Darlington is very mentally tough and very demanding physically as well.”
Ragan has had mixed results at Darlington Raceway. His best finish was fifth in the 2008 Dodge Avenger 500. Last year, after starting 37th, Ragan drove his No. 34 Peanut Patch/Margaret Holmes Ford to a 28th-place finish.
“I think I got one top 5, a top 15 and then a couple of bad runs,” he said. “Darlington is tough racetrack, it’s a tough place. It’s a fan-favorite but it’s very challenging so we’re looking forward to getting down there.”
Ragan hopes his win at Talladega will help open up new sponsorship avenues, a key to keeping a Cup team in competition.
At Darlington, Ragan will sport the Peanut Patch No. 34 Ford Fusion car. This is the second primary race Peanut Patch has sponsored, having made its debut at the same track last year.
“They’re an S.C. local company, so it’s great to have them on our car this weekend,” said Ragan, who has raced at Myrtle Beach Speedway in the past in an Allison Legacy Race Series car and worked as a pit member in a Goody’s Dash Series race there.
Woody Swink, regional director of sales and an owner of McCall Farms, which produces Peanut Patch, said the company is enthused about its presence at the Southern 500 because Ragan is a good example of a racecar driver at their finest and one who represents the Southern aesthetic of the Peanut Patch brand well.
“NASCAR has been a goal of ours for over 10 years now,” Swink said. “It was always a dream to be on the hood of a car and do several races. David Ragan is a great representative. He fits everything our company believes in with everything he does. He’s a hard-working go-getter and we just appreciate the way he goes about racing.
“Going to the races and getting to know David has been really great. The way he represents our brand fits us real well. He’s a great guy and has become a great friend.”
Ragan’s recent success also increased the chances of luring more permanent sponsors. Swink said their partnership could be extended in the future.
“Absolutely. We’ve got Darlington with him this year and five or six other races. We’re going to add races every year to keep expanding our brand,” Swink said.
Said Ragan: “It certainly makes it easier to call on sponsors and say we’re a winning team. We’re getting a lot of press after the win, and that’s big for our sponsors. But the sponsors we have, they’re all smiling now. The decisions they made to help our team makes sense and they’re excited.”
Swink said a big factor in working with Ragan is the belief in his potential.
“We certainly think it will be great exposure. That’s one of the reasons we picked Ragan,” Swink said. “He stands a chance in all races, so him winning at Talladega, we think it will draw a bunch of attention to Peanut Patch and its brands.
“It’s been real good. We’ve reached people from all over. People are trying Peanut Patch for the first time and they become a fan forever.”
Should Ragan win Saturday, a unique Victory Lane celebration will ensue, Swink said.
“We’ll give him the boiled peanut bath,” Swink said. “Many drivers get a Gatorade bath, but we’ll plan on dumping two big cans of boiled peanuts on him if he wins.”
Contact MAX MCKINNON at 626-0302.