David Ragan enters Saturday’s race at Kentucky Speedway in prime position for one of two Chase wild card spots thanks to his first career win last week at Daytona. Ragan talked about the pressure associated with that and recapped last weeks big win and more with media at Kentucky Friday afternoon.
DAVID RAGAN, No. 6 UPS Ford – HOW DOES IT FEEL TO BE IN CONTENTION FOR THE CHASE? “It certainly adds some extra pressure. We have to make that win count for something. I think that we have felt like we were close to being able to win some races this year and we knew we could do it. Until you finally get that win you never really think about how close you can be to making the Chase. Those wild card spots are going to be fought for extremely hard. I think this final seven or eight or nine race schedule – I was talking to Keselowski earlier and he is right behind us in points are we are another win or some more top-fives from being in the top 12 or 13 and a realistic chance of making the Chase. It puts some extra pressure on you and makes you really appreciate that win and look forward to these next races and make sure we are perfect and spot-on.”
WHAT WAS THIS WEEK LIKE FOR YOU? WHAT WAS THE COOLEST PART? YOU WENT TO ESPN, WHAT ARE SOME THINGS YOU WILL REMEMBER FROM THIS WEEK? “Well, I remember eating airport food a lot. I had a schedule appearance July 4th in Atlanta for Ford already so we went down and did that which kind of worked out cool. It was at Stone Mountain before their Fourth of July deal talking about the new 2012 Ford Focus. That was fun to hang out with local hometown people and some friends stopped by and saw us. Going up to ESPN was a lot of fun. It is something where we always watch NASCAR Now and SportsCenter but to be able to go up there and talk about something fun that happened and exciting, it was neat. That was a cool trip because you don’t realize what goes into the production of all the ESPN stuff around the world and to see that first hand and taking a tour talking about our win was fun for me. Talking to some of the local media on Wednesday when we did Race Hub and some of the stations in the Charlotte area was fun. Then we got back to work. I stopped by the shop for 30-minutes on Wednesday and usually I am there every day for a little bit of time so it was weird not being at the shop to kind of enjoy it with my team. I haven’t even seen some of our pit crew members and stuff since then because we have had different schedules. It was a busy week but it felt good to get back to the race track.”
YOU WOULD THINK THAT WINNING WOULD RELIEVE THE PRESSURE, BUT IT SOUNDS LIKE YOU ARE PUTTING MORE PRESSURE ON YOURSELF NOW TO TAKE IT TO THE NEXT LEVEL. “Yeah, sometimes I perform and the teams performs better under pressure. We have had pressure my entire career here. We will enjoy the win more in December and January when we can really enjoy it and say, ‘Hey, we are a Sprint Cup winner at Daytona,’ and this that and the other. We have a lot of fight left. It would be one thing if we were 25th in points and hadn’t been running well and we could just say, ‘Hey, we won a race and there is no pressure and that is cool.” Now we have to do something with that win. We’ve been close and we’ve had some top-10 runs consistently this year and now we have to make the best of it. I think we are as close to making the Chase as we were in ’08 and I have learned from that and hopefully we can close the deal on that this year too.”
YOU ARE THE THIRD DIFFERENT FIRST TIME WINNER THIS YEAR AFTER NONE LAST YEAR. WHY DO YOU THINK THAT IS? “That is a great question and I don’t know that there is an answer for it. I think in a situation like Regan Smith, I think the teams like that having an alliance with a litter bigger team like RCR or the Wood Brothers with Roush Fenway Racing closes that gap amongst the guys in the top-15 or 20 to guys that are 30th in points because you have cars like Regan’s example where he has been fast a lot this year and they have better cars than they have ever had and he is able to win races. I think by the smaller teams merging and having a technical alliance with other teams it makes the competition tighter than it ever has been. I think it may just also be one of those years where you have some first time winners and I am certainly glad to be on the list.”
WHAT IS YOUR TAKE ON THE SURFACE HERE AND ARE YOU AFRAID THAT WITH HOW BUMPY IT IS THAT IT COULD HURT THE SHOW TOMORROW NIGHT? “I am a little concerned because my car doesn’t drive that well over the bumps but there are some that do drive okay. I think that is character at a race track and I like it. It would be boring if we came here and the track was perfectly smooth and brand new asphalt. That wouldn’t be any fun. I like a track that has some bumps and grooves you can move around. I was kind of surprised at how the outside groove came in a little more yesterday than I thought. There were guys running a lane off the bottom to kind of maneuver around the bumps. The track here is perfect. It is different and unique and not really like any track we go to. I hope they don’t change it.”
IN THE WAKE OF YOUR WIN UPS PUT OUT A STATEMENT OF SUPPORT WHICH IS KIND OF UNUSUAL. DO YOU FEEL LIKE YOU ARE STILL RACING TO KEEP THEM AND IF YOU CONTINUE TO DO WELL THEY WILL STAY? “I think that the summer months are certainly the time when all the decisions are made. I don’t know for sure but my guess would be in the next four to six weeks is when a decision would be made. Certainly winning helps and running well helps and getting TV time and sitting on poles all helps. That is what I can control. The management at Roush Fenway and UPS will go to work figuring out the details. What I think about is what I can control. I have had a great time with UPS and I feel like we have a good relationship and a good thing going and I look for it to continue but that is something that the management at Roush and UPS will work on and hopefully I can uphold my end of the deal and keep that Ford up front.”