STATESVILLE, N.C. – Auto Club Speedway is rough, worn out and abrasive, but David Ragan is looking forward to racing on the two-mile oval in Fontana, Calif. The character-filled track will be a good test of Front Row Motorsports’ new Ford Fusions and how they handle on an intermediate track.
The team made strides in the off-season to improve the aero platform for its cars, which the team builds in-house at its Statesville, N.C., shop. But, like every other team in the Sprint Cup Series, the team is still learning and adapting as the Gen-6 car makes its debut at each new track where the series races.
Sunday’s Auto Club 400 will be Ragan’s 11th start at the Southern California speedway. He has one top-10 and four top-15 finishes at the track, with a top result of seventh (2009).
Comments from Front Row Motorsports team driver David Ragan heading to Fontana: “Going to Fontana, by then we should have a pretty good notebook of what the car’s done, how it’s reacted, what kind of issues we’ve had to overcome, maybe mechanical parts and pieces that we need to improve. The racetrack is very worn out and has multiple grooves, and we usually have to deal with weather throughout the weekend. It’s a racetrack that’s very hard on tires. It’s abrasive. It’s going to be interesting to see how the tires react to a little bit lighter racecar with the new Gen-6 car.
“As we talk about each race coming up, I think the first time we go to each track with this car it’s going to be a new slate. The first time we go to a Chicago or a Michigan or a Pocono or a road course, everything is going to be different. So, Fontana will be very much different, too. It will be very interesting to see who has a lot of momentum going into Fontana, who’s done well the first few races.
“We worked really hard on our downforce tracks – the high-speed, mile-and-a-half, two-mile racetrack program – at Front Row Motorsports over the last year or two. The team’s done well at the superspeedways and road courses and had some solid runs at the short tracks. But we’ve really needed to work on the mile-and-a-half and two-mile programs. And it’s something we’ve worked hard on this off-season, trying to hang our bodies to maximize the downforce at these places. Our engine department is doing a nice job. The Roush-Yates engines are always strong. We’ve just got to keep working on getting our aero platform better, trying to get our tires to work more efficiently, and hopefully we can close the gap to some of our competitors at these mile-and-a-half tracks.
“Southern California does have some cool places to visit. When you first join the Sprint Cup circuit, you do all that stuff. But once you’ve done it three or four times, you scale back a little. You’ve always got these cool restaurants that you go to every time. There’s a neat little Italian place right down the road from the racetrack that’s a good place. But as far as the lights and the Hollywood stuff, we tend to skip that stuff now and take it easy closer to the track.”