By admin | January 9, 2011
By Richard Allen
One thing everyone naturally tends to do at the start of a new NASCAR Sprint Cup season is to look around and gauge which drivers are on the so called hot seat. Or in other words, what driver is it that must produce quickly or run the risk of being replaced.
Going into 2011 one of the hottest seats in NASCAR has to be inside the No. 6 Roush Fenway Racing Ford. David Ragan will be going into his fifth season as the fulltime occupant of that seat. Since 2007 he has not managed a win and has placed within the top-10 only twenty-two times. And more, he has not scored a top-5 finish in either of the previous two seasons.
Aside from his own lack of competitiveness, there are other factors that would seem to be turning up the heat on Ragan. First, the Georgia driverâ€™s contract is set to expire at the end of 2011. From a financial point of view, making a change at any point in the season would not cause a significant monetary shortfall in these more difficult economic times race teams are having to adjust to. And keep in mind, whenever an organization has the intention of keeping their driver they typically renew his contract before the final year comes about. There has been no word of any renegotiation regarding Ragan from within the RFR camp.
Another more damaging aspect of the current situation at RFR for Ragan is the fact that the contract of the No. 6 carâ€™s sponsor, UPS, is set to expire at the end of the upcoming campaign. The delivery company has had its name on the side of that car since 2009 with very little to show for it.
Granted, RFR has fallen as an organization in recent years, but even with that, Ragan has failed to keep up with the somewhat slower pace of his teammates.
RFR has experienced some degree of difficulty in lining up sponsorship deals for its more accomplished drivers so the thought of letting a primary sponsor get away without trying something different would seem unthinkable.
It was just recently reported that Trevor Bayne, who last year came into the RFR fold from Diamond-Waltrip Racing, will drive the first five races of the season for the Wood Brothers Racing team. That team fields Fords just as RFR does and receives some support from the bigger team.
That, to me at least, indicates Bayne could very well be the driver in waiting to provide a boost to the No. 6 car should Ragan not produce immediate results within those first five races on the schedule.
Bayne made his first and only Sprint Cup start last fall in Texas driving the famed No. 21 car for the Wood Brothers. Importantly for a rookie driver, the Knoxville native completed every lap in that race on his way to a 17th place finish.
The powers that be at Roush Fenway Racing have not publicly said they are considering any sort of change as the one I have suggested here. However, simple logic says that something of this sort has to be at least in the backs of their minds. It would be hard to imagine that this has not been discussed behind closed doors in their Concord, NC offices.
My guess is that if David Ragan does not make something happen in the first five races of 2011, his bosses will.
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