After a weekend of wild weather at the Daytona International Speedway, it shouldn't surprise any race fan that the forecast for Phoenix is rain! Although the weather may play a factor in some of the weekends activities, the drivers and teams of Front Row Motorsports aren't going to let a chance of bad weather stand in the way of a productive race.
"The Phoenix weekend is kind of your first test. What's the new rules package going to bring? What's the new qualifying format going to bring? Phoenix has the ingredients to be wild for qualifying because it's a fairly new racetrack and sometimes cycles on your tires do make you go faster," stated David Ragan, driver of the No. 34 Farm Rich Ford. "So, there will be some strategy and there will be some crew chiefs and engineers that will have some tricks up their sleeve. Phoenix is going to be a racetrack that just gets better with age. The groove widened out and it was a great race last year, and it will continue to get better and better."
Ragan has 14 Sprint Cup career starts at Phoenix International Raceway, with his best finish at the one-mile oval coming in 2008 when he crossed the finish line in the 10th position.
"We'll have Farm Rich back on our 34 Ford for Phoenix. They've become a great partner after first joining us last year at Talladega where we won the race with them. We're going to be visiting Fry's Food Stores in Phoenix with them and we'll probably bring back a whole shopping cart of Farm Rich Snacks for the team."
Ragan's teammate, David Gilliland, is also hopeful for a good showing in the desert.
"Phoenix is an awesome racetrack. I've won there in other divisions and really enjoy going out west and seeing friends and family," added David Gilliland, driver of the No. 38 Love's Travel Stops Ford. "We'd struggled there in past years, but last year we ran really well there in both races. So that gives us confidence going back."
Gilliland has 15 Sprint Cup career starts at Phoenix International Raceway, with his best finish also coming in 2008 when he crossed the finish line in the 15th position.
"We're looking forward to getting on track at Phoenix. Frank (Kerr) feels like he's got a great package figured out and I think it will give us some extra speed. I consider Phoenix a short track, and short tracks kind of put things back in the driver's hands, where last week we had to deal with a lot of stuff out of our control."
Both Gilliland and Ragan will have a new companion in the garage area in Phoenix, as West Palm Beach resident Blake Koch takes the wheel of the No. 35 MDS Transport Ford as part of a two-race deal for Front Row Motorsports.
"I'm really excited to get into the Cup car. I'm looking at this as a great opportunity and an audition, too, to go to Phoenix and, first off, make the race and then, second, finish the best we can and learn as much as we can," added Koch. "And then go to Vegas and do the same thing. And we'll see where it takes me from there. I'm definitely very grateful for this opportunity and I'm going to give it all I've got."
Koch has one other Sprint Cup start at Charlotte Motor Speedway in October of 2013, but has nine career starts at Phoenix in the Nationwide and K&N West series.
"Phoenix is the type of track where I could go there and realistically have a shot at qualifying top-20 and have an amazing weekend. I think I've raced at Phoenix more than any other track," Koch continued. "It will still be a tough race to qualify for. I won't have many laps in the car before we actually qualify. But I'll just apply everything I've learned up to this point, put it all together and run the best lap I can."
The Profit on CNBC 500 presented by Small Business Fueling America NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race is on Sunday, March 2, and it will be televised live on FOX beginning at 3:00 p.m. (ET). The Motor Racing Network (MRN) will carry the live radio broadcast.
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