David Ragan's frustrating stint on NASCAR's unemployment line is finally over.
The Unadilla native has signed with Front Row Motorsports to drive one of their Ford Fusions during the 2012 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season,the Charlotte Observer's Jim Utter reports.
An official announcement is expected Monday, at which time the team will likely say which of their cars Ragan will pilot. The team fielded three cars last season. David Gilliland and Travis Kvapil raced full-time for the team in their No. 34 and No. 38 cars, while a variety of drivers piloted the No. 55 car during the last part of the year. That number has now gone to Michael Waltrip Racing and the Aaron's-sponsored car Waltrip and Mark Martin will drive.
Front Row is quite a step down for Ragan from his old ride as driver of the UPS-sponsored No. 6 Fords for Roush-Fenway Racing. He lost that seat when UPS cut their racing program to an associate role on another Roush car, the No. 99 of championship runner-up Carl Edwards.
Ragan had been rumored to be the favorite for a pair of high-profile seats, first the No. 22 Penske Racing Dodge when the team and Kurt Busch parted ways, then the No. 43 Ford when its old driver, A.J. Allmendinger, took the Penske seat. Aric Almirola instead got the nod and Cole Whitt took over his ride for Dale Earnhardt Jr's Nationwide team, yet another rumored destination for Ragan.
Front Row, owned by restaraunt entreprenuer Bob Jenkins - not the beloved commentator who spent years covering NASCAR with ESPN - began life as a joint effort with former driver Jimmy Means. In 2005, Jenkins took full ownership of the team and has fielded cars ever since. His team has just two top-10 finishes, both recorded by Gilliland last season. One was a third-place finish in the Daytona 500.
Ragan,who turned 26 on Christmas Eve, enters 2012 with one Sprint Cup win, coming at Daytona last July. In five full seasons at NASCAR's top level, he has recorded 30 top-10 finishes, including eight last season. His best year was his sophomore campaign of 2008, when he scored 14 top-10s and narrowly missed qualifying for the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship. He also has two victories in the Nationwide Series, both coming in 2009.