Racing newsmaker: David Ragan
David Ragan admitted he didn’t have enough experience when he replaced Mark Martin at Roush Fenway racing in 2007, but his victory in Saturday night’s Coke Zero 400 at the Daytona International Speedway proved he finally has carved his own niche with the team.
Ragan also talked about finding redemption for his late-race mistake during a restart that cost him a chance to win the Daytona 500 during his post-race interview. Here are excerpts of that interview:
Question: How does it feel to come back to Daytona and win, especially after getting black-flagged for changing lanes during a restart at the end of the Daytona 500?
Ragan: Everybody kept talking about it and I just tried to take the positive from it and move on. I can’t thank my spotter and my crew chief and my team enough. They really humbled me and kept me focused. Matt pushed me to the finish line. The Roush Yates horsepower was great. Doug and Robert Yates back at the house, thanks for all the help. I thank the fans and Sprint. There’s not a better night to win. This is awesome.
Question: So many generations of your family helped you get here. How do you feel about that?
Ragan: I’m just proud. Everybody back home in Unadilla, Ga. – maybe the streets are rocking and rolling tonight. I’ve got my mom and dad here, my older brother, Adam. It’s a lot of fun times here to celebrate this July Fourth weekend. Thanks to all the veterans back home and it’ll be a fun night.
Question: Does this finally prove you’re now ready to be a driver in the Sprint Cup Series?
Ragan: I wasn’t ready a few years ago, but Jack Roush gave me a chance and this is all we needed. We’ve been so close so many times and finally we’re here. I can’t thank UPS enough for standing behind us. We’re here and we’ll enjoy it.
Question: Will this help you forget how the Daytona 500 ended?
Ragan: I was hoping to win one a little earlier than the July Fourth race here, but it’s a good feeling to come back here. We got one back at Daytona. It would have been tough to lose another one. I thought about that under that last caution. I said, “Man, if we don’t win this thing, I’m not going to want to talk to anyone afterwards.” We were able to win. That does ease the pain from February. It’s still nice to think about that Daytona 500 ring, but it’s awesome. This is a great race. Coca-Cola being a partner of ours, a lot of the Ford guys are down here. This is a race that is a total team effort because the engine department has to do their job, the race car has to be good, and teammates helped us win, so it does ease the pain to answer your question. We’ll think about this one a lot more than we’ll think about the Daytona 500.
Question: How deep is the sense of redemption?
Ragan: To get that win would have felt great. If we would have won at Martinsville this year, I would have said, “Man, we’ve moved on past that Daytona race.” But coming back here and to get that win here at Daytona is that extra little bit that I wanted, kind of to show the Daytona race track – “Here’s what we’ve got.” So that makes it a little bit more special. I think a win anywhere on the circuit would have been great and we would have moved on and talked about it probably, but coming back here to Daytona, being able to run the same type of race we ran in February and learning from our mistake, not making a mistake. We had a couple of opportunities to do it on those last few restarts and I didn’t do it, so that’s gratifying that we were able to come back to Daytona and kind of prove to the race track that we’re better than that – that we can take you and we beat ‘em and it feels good.
Question: What are your family ties in racing?
Ragan: My grandfather, I never met him, but he owned a car. He never drove any, but he owned a car in the forties and fifties and drove here on the beach course. Jack Smith drove some races for him, so that ultimately is how my father and his brothers got around the race track at a young age, so they started racing some. He owned a bumper to bumper automotive repair shop, so they did a lot of the work for the local racers and was able to run some Nationwide races and Cup races and made some good friends along the way and that’s what ultimately what sparked my interested. Daytona is a special place for any racer. This is better than Indy. This is better than Sebring or any of those other big races that they have, so Daytona means a lot. Coming down here as a kid, going to the beach, going to the race track just kind of went hand-in-hand. The Daytona 500 is our biggest race of the year. Coming back here in July is the middle point of the year. The July Firecracker 400 is a big race, so to come back down here and win the Coke Zero edition and finally get into victory lane here in Daytona is a special place. That’s kind of the birthplace of NASCAR, so it’s neat to win here. Even though this race pays the same amount of points as winning Kentucky or New Hampshire or Pocono or any others, but it is a special race and I’m very fortunate to get our first win here.