The 2015 season has been a whirlwind year for David Ragan. He started the season with Front Row Motorsports. After Kyle Busch’s injury in the XFINITY Series race at Daytona, he took over the No. 18 ride. After Talladega, his nine-race deal with Joe Gibbs Racing was over and he transitioned to the No. 55 Toyota for Michael Waltrip Racing, replacing an ill Brian Vickers.
All of those moves were in the first 11 races. Since then, the Georgia native still doesn’t know what his future beyond 2015 is. This season is a race-by-race deal.
“It’s been a lot easier than I thought,” Ragan said of transitioning between three different teams. “All of these teams are very completive; they’re strong. They’ve got some really good people, and it’s made me a better driver coming in and working with different crew chiefs with different engineering staffs. Everyone at MWR has been very welcoming and they’ve got a good core group of guys, so it makes the transition easy.”
Since coming over to Michael Waltrip Racing, Ragan usually has qualified rather well, averaging a starting position of 14.53 in 12 races. However, the No. 55 team has struggled to put up results during the races.
“It’s not really one thing,” Ragan said of how the Toyotas have improved in recent weeks. “We just keep getting our racecars a little better and learning from some of the mistakes that maybe we’ve made directionally as a company in March, April, May and just making our racecars a little better. I think we’ve adapted to these new packages a little better than some of the older packages and it’s kind of evened the playing field out.”
There are some things that Ragan believes Michael Waltrip Racing needs to improve on.
In the midst of driving for three different car owners this season, Ragan has worked with four crew chiefs. In the beginning of summer, it was time for a change.
Billy Scott, who had sat atop the pit box the last two seasons of the No. 55 car with Vickers, moved over to the No. 15 car to work with teammate Clint Bowyer. Brian Pattie came over to work with Ragan. Pattie and Bowyer had been a duo at Michael Waltrip Racings since Bowyer joined MWR in 2012.
“We’ve just got to get our racecars a little faster,” Ragan said. “I think that the pit crews are some of the best on pit road. Our engines are great. But we’ve just got to get our cars a little faster. I think that the Gibbs organization has done a good job at building new racecars this summer and it’s shown. You just got to keep working hard on parts and pieces that bolt on to your racecar and spend a lot of time in the wind tunnel, trying to get caught up to speed on the new downforce rule packages that NASCAR has come out with.”
“Brian is a racer. He’s a hard worker and been around this sport for a long time. We’ve gotten along great and it’s been a good fit. I’ve enjoyed working with Brian, and he’s done a good job with the 55 team and bringing a few of his engineers over.”
In recent weeks there had been speculation of Michael Waltrip Racing merging with another team for the 2016 season. On July 30, the news broke that Rob Kauffman, co-owner of MWR purchased an equity interest in Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates.
Bowyer is expected to take the No. 15 team and move over to Chip Ganassi Racing with sponsors 5-Hour Energy, Peak and more. He signed a three-year deal effective starting in 2015 that lasts until 2017 with MWR, and the contract would continue over to Ganassi if we were to move to that organization. Ganassi currently fields two Chevrolets with Jamie McMurray and Kyle Larson.
Where does that leave Ragan?
It is unknown where Ragan will land a ride for the 2016 campaign. There are questions in the mortality that is Michael Waltrip Racing. MWR’s shop, which prepares the No. 15 and No. 55 cars, is currently up for sale. This means that Waltrip may want out of the sport as an owner as a whole if he cannot find additional sponsorship to field a second car. It is also unknown what long-time MWR partner Aaron’s will do following this season.
When asked simply if he knew where he would be in 2016, Ragan simply said, “nope.”