An unexpected, if not shocking, victory in last Sunday’s Aaron’s 499 at Talladega Superspeedway won’t change the way Bob Jenkins does his business in NASCAR.
He will still buy used parts when he can. He will continue to make his own cars and hang all the bodies. And he will continue to surround himself with drivers and crewmen who feel like they’ve got something to prove.
It’s not often NASCAR provides a feel-good winner like David Ragan last Sunday. His team operates more on guile and determination than dollars and technology. So when Ragan and Front Row Motorsports teammate David Gilliland paired in a nose-to-tail tandem to drive from fourth and fifth place on the final lap to a sweep of the top-two finishing positions, it rekindled the long shot hopes of every short-track driver with a big dream.
To understand just how improbable Ragan’s victory was, consider this: Jenkins has 406 starts as a car owner since 2005. Ragan and Gilliland gave him just his third and fourth top-5 finish. And his first win.
“There’s a lot of owners out there that they get the best available driver they can get, and they’re like a hired gun,” Jenkins said. “But the thing that I think makes our team different than some of the rest is we’re so close, and more than anything we’re friends, and I know I’ve got drivers that are capable of winning races. I’ve got guys at the shop that have the heart to win races. We just haven’t always had the resources.”
The victory was shocking. When they passed race leader Carl Edwards on the backstretch during the final lap, Edwards yelled, “Who was that?”
Ragan earned $373,108 at Talladega and Gilliland earned $235,153. Together they gave Jenkins the biggest payday in his career.
“It’s not why we race,” Jenkins said. “In the racing graveyard, my epitaph won’t be I won the most races or championships, but I want to be known as a team that did the most with the least.”
No matter how many upset victories might be ahead, that business model won’t ever change.