News & Media


Ragan rebounds after missed chance at Daytona

February 25, 2011, Mark Aumann, NASCAR.com

AVONDALE, Ariz. -- Says the No. 6 Ford brought to Phoenix is the best car Roush has built in a year

David Ragan gave himself 24 hours to get over his Daytona 500 disappointment, and then he put it behind him.

"Yeah, I thought about it all day Monday," Ragan said. "But I couldn't change the outcome, as much I thought about it. So I decided to move on and get ready for Phoenix.

""We've been inconsistent the last couple of years, and then this year we feel like we've got our race cars and our engines and our team a lot stronger than we've been.""

--DAVID RAGAN

"Yeah, I had a chance to watch the replay on Monday morning. We had our post-race meetings and stuff on Monday. But really once that rolled around, I tried not to think about it as much as I could."

While winner Trevor Bayne jetted to appearances from coast to coast this week as NASCAR's newest media darling, Ragan was left to ponder the what ifs resulting from his decision to switch lanes to try and get in front of his drafting partner in the No. 21 Ford before crossing the start-finish line on a late-race restart.

The mistake was costly, resulting in a stop-and-go penalty and an eventual 14th-place finish for a driver who had one of the strongest cars in the field and an excellent chance of scoring his first top-five finish since 2008. And losing the opportunity to win NASCAR's most prestigious race stings a bit more than making a similar bad decision somewhere else.

"No, definitely being the Daytona 500 certainly amplifies it," Ragan said. "If it were Pocono, it would be bad. But it wouldn't be as bad as the Daytona race. It's one of those deals where you learn a valuable lesson. You just wish you could have watched someone else make that mistake and learn it second-hand instead of first-hand."

Ragan's future with Roush Fenway Racing looked bright when he replaced Mark Martin in the No. 6 Ford beginning in 2007. He finished second to Juan Montoya in the rookie of the year race, then nearly made the Chase in 2008, winding up with six top-fives and 14 top-10s on his way to a 13th-place finish.

But the past two seasons have been a confusing and frustrating struggle for the Unadilla, Ga., native. Ragan finished 27th in 2009 and 24th last season, with just five top-10s over a 72-race span.

Compounding matters is Ragan's contractual situation. He's in the contract year of his deal with Roush Fenway Racing -- and the UPS sponsorship is up at the end of the year. So is there additional pressure to perform in 2011?

"In my opinion, it's the same as it has been," Ragan said. "I feel like there's a lot of pressure to perform up to the level that the No. 6 car and David Ragan wants to perform at. We've been inconsistent the last couple of years, and then this year we feel like we've got our race cars and our engines and our team a lot stronger than we've been. So that gives us extra confidence and kind of balances out the extra pressure added."

Yes, not winning the Daytona 500 hurts. But Ragan would rather think about the positives of last weekend.

"That gives us some confidence in our team and our engines and our race car," Ragan said. "It just shows everyone that we are capable of running at the front. But we've still got to run perfect races in order to win these things. We got some good points leaving Daytona, but after Phoenix, we'll be talking about Las Vegas. The next time we'll probably think about it is when we get back down in July and start making some laps."

Phoenix hasn't been kind to Ragan. His only top-10 finish was a 10th in the fall of 2008. But he has confidence in his equipment, and perhaps renewed confidence in himself.

"I feel great coming into the weekend," Ragan said. "We brought our best package. Obviously, every car in the garage brought their best car out there for the first normal race of the year. It's all we've got. So we'll hit the track and it may be great and we might set the world on fire, but it may be mid-pack and struggling to find speed.

"It depends on how everyone else improved their car over the offseason. But I think this car is the best car Roush has built in a year or so, and look forward to seeing it out there."