David Ragan has been announced as the new driver of the No. 23 Dr. Pepper Toyota for BK Racing. The news came hours after Matt DiBenedetto officially stated that he would be returning to drive the No. 83 car for the organization in 2016.
Ragan joins BK Racing after facing many unknowns about what his future entailed throughout the off-season. Last July, his future became uncertain after becoming the full-time fill-in driver for Brian Vickers when Michael Waltrip Racing announced that it would be shutting its doors at season’s end.
Last year alone, Ragan started off the Daytona 500 with Front Row Motorsports, a team that he had been with since 2012, but was named the replacement driver for Kyle Busch starting at Atlanta after Busch was injured in the XFINITY Series race at Daytona. He competed in nine events for the No. 18 team, and then moved over to MWR to drive the No. 55 car for the remainder of the season.
Throughout the season Ragan only accumulated one top-10 finish, which came in March at Martinsville. He was in a position where, yes he had to adapt to multiple different teams and crew chiefs, but had he been successful it is possible he would have landed a ride in a top-tier car for the 2016 season.
However, after not performing up to expectations, Ragan was stuck not knowing his future for a long time. He was in the prime position of his career to prove to other teams in NASCAR that he has what it take to muscle the car around and take advantage of an incredible opportunity. Unlike his teammate at MWR, he did not have sponsorship that would follow suit. It was announced in October that his teammate Clint Bowyer would be joining HScott Motorsports in 2016 with funding from 5-Hour Energy.
The Georgia native seemed to be relieved after announcing on Monday that he would be joining BK Racing.
"I'm happy to be part of something that has so much growth potential," Ragan said in a press release. “Ron [Devine] has steadily built his program over the last five years. He's made an even greater commitment in 2016 with new cars, equipment, and additional personnel. I feel that we'll be in a position to bring the team to the next level. I'm looking forward to the season."
The 30-year-old has proven to be marketable over the years. During his career, he has had funding from big-time sponsors such as AAA, UPS and Aaron’s. The two-time Cup Series winner will bring some star power to the young team, which was created in 2012 after Devine purchased the assets of Red Bull Racing.
For the majority of his nine full-time seasons, Ragan worked with Roush Fenway Racing, where he picked up his first career win in July of 2011 at Daytona. He spent his first five full-time seasons with Roush before joining Front Row Motorsports, which he raced with for just over three seasons.
Monday’s announcement was a win for BK Racing in trying to elevate its program to the next level.
“We're very excited to have a driver of David's caliber join our team," Devine said in a team press release. "In addition to being a race winner, I feel that his input and leadership qualities will benefit the team on many levels. Our entire organization is energized to work with him."
Over the off-season, BK Racing purchased more than a dozen of MWR’s racecars. This was a step in the right direction and puts better equipment out on the racetrack for the organization compared to the equipment it has used in the past. Last season, the BK Racing owned cars finished 37th, 40th and 43rd, respectively in the owner standings.
For Ragan, BK Racing was the obvious option. In an offseason that has had plenty of late moves, he was the only big name driver to not have secured a ride through late January. Though it might be a step down from previous teams that he was on, the new driver of the No. 23 car will get the most out of the racecars each week.
This move seems to have been Ragan’s only option in the Cup Series.
There were no deals on the table in the XFINITY Series that would have put Ragan in a competitive ride. However, just last season, rookie Jeb Burton went from being a championship threat in the Camping World Truck Series to a driver who missed multiple races at the Sprint Cup level competing in BK Racing equipment.
Ragan obviously has a more wealth of knowledge than Burton due to experience. However, how much can Ragan get out of the racecar? Everyone knows that he will be competitive on the restrictor plate tracks, he always is. But what about the other 32 events?
It will be difficult for Ragan to be competitive with BK Racing. The organization is making all of the right moves in purchasing new equipment, bringing in a driver who will instantly be the leader of the team.