David Ragan thought last year’s Daytona 500 would be his last. Instead, the Georgia native is getting another shot in next month’s sold out 64th Running of the Great American Race (2:30 p.m. ET, FOX, MRN). This will be his 16th appearance in the annual season opener with the last two being one off appearances. This year’s won’t as he’ll drive multiple races during the upcoming season in the No. 15 Ford for Rick Ware Racing.
That is a chartered car.
This will be the second time in the last three years that Ragan, 36, has driven for RWR in the ‘500. In fact, his best finish was with them in 2020 when he started 30th and finished fourth. Last year, he started 18th and finished 37th in the No. 36 Ford with Front Row Motorsports.
Now, he’s back.
MBM Motorsports announced their plans on Tuesday with Timmy Hill driving the No. 66 Ford. That’s an open car. Another open car is Beard Motorsports and their No. 62 Chevrolet with Noah Gragson.
The thing is, there’s just 38 cars announced for next month’s race. There’s 40 spots that we know will make the race with 36 of them going to chartered cars. Those cars are –
Hendrick Motorsports (Kyle Larson, Chase Elliott, William Byron, Alex Bowman)
Joe Gibbs Racing (Denny Hamlin, Kyle Busch, Martin Truex Jr., Christopher Bell)
Stewart-Haas Racing (Kevin Harvick, Aric Almirola, Chase Briscoe, Cole Custer)
Team Penske (Austin Cindric R, Ryan Blaney, Joey Logano)
Roush Fenway Racing (Brad Keselowski, Chris Buescher)
Richard Childress Racing (Austin Dillon, Tyler Reddick)
Trackhouse Racing (Ross Chastain, Daniel Suarez)
Front Row Motorsports (Michael McDowell, Todd Gilliland R)
23XI Racing (Bubba Wallace, Kurt Busch)
Kaulig Racing (TBA either AJ Allmendinger or Daniel Hemric, Justin Haley)
Petty GMS Racing (Ty Dillon, Erik Jones)
Spire Sports (Corey LaJoie, TBA)
Wood Brothers (Harrison Burton R)
JTG Daugherty Racing (Ricky Stenhouse Jr.)
Live Fast Motorsports (TBA)
Rick Ware Racing (David Ragan, other car TBA)
The not yet named drivers are for Kaulig (No. 16 Chevrolet), Spire (No. 77 Chevrolet), Live Fast (No. 78 Ford) and now one of the cars at Rick Ware Racing. We know Kaulig is down to Hemric and Allmendinger since Noah Gragson will be in an open car with Beard Motorsports. Allmendinger, hasn’t been too keen on superspeedway’s in Cup so this may be Hemric’s opportunity in that seat. Live Fast will more than likely be BJ McLeod again.
Spire appears to be going in the direction of Landon Cassill in the No. 77 Chevrolet with RWR’s other car going in either direction.
Those are the charters and two of the open cars. Here’s the problem, do we have any more open cars coming to round out the field or will we fall just short?
Do we have two cars more to fill the field?
The 39th car could be Team Hezeberg who now looks like they’ll take on Daytona. They initially weren’t but they’re testing down there this week with Jacques Villeneuve.
So, where does No. 40 come from and do we get anymore after to make the Duels beneficial?
In 2018, there were no extra cars with 40 cars showing up for 40 spots.
In 2019, we had six open cars meaning two wouldn’t make it
2020 saw seven open cars and 2021 with eight. Now, we could be back to 40 cars for 40 spots or even worse, less. That’s unfortunately where things may be again for a while due to this structure.
You may first be wondering, where did those eight “open” cars go from last year and secondly, why isn’t anyone there to take what’s not being used?
Kaulig found a charter. JTG dropped theirs. So did Penske who doesn’t need a fourth car this year since Austin Cindric is now a Cup driver.
That’s three of the eight open cars gone. It leaves the Gaunt Brothers, Front Row, MBM and Beard.
We know MBM and Beard are both back but MBM likely scales back from two cars to one. That’s a fourth open car gone. I’ve not heard anything yet from Gaunt or FRR (3rd car) on coming back again for these respective teams.
I don’t think FRR would just magically show up with a third car without having planned yet for one and the Gaunt Brothers have been quiet. So, that’s half the open cars from last year gone and no one really there to take their place outside of Hezeberg.
While that’s a storyline, it’s not huge in the sense that the entire grandstand seating (101,500) as well as all the infield is sold out. It’s not as big of a deal as one would think. People are still showing up and that’s a very good thing.