Before the road course, there’s the road. For David Ragan, 2,800 miles of it.
The Sprint Cup Series driver will have had his share of seat time well before he straps in for Sunday’s event at Sonoma Raceway. Ragan is heading to Northern California on Tuesday morning in Front Row Motorsport’s hauler, and will split time with regular driver Mike Smith on the 42-hour journey from the team shop in Statesville, N.C.
Ragan has had a commercial driver’s license (CDL) for about a year, because he occasionally drives the tractor-trailer that carries his short-track car. But wheeling the 80-foot-long, 80,000-pound big rig cross-country promises to be a new experience for someone better accustomed to driving stock cars.
“I’ve always had a fascination with big trucks and trailers and stuff like that,” Ragan said. “So a year or so ago I decided I was going to go get my CDL, and that really came about first. I just wanted to be able to say I could drive one if I wanted to. I’ve got a semi-truck and trailer that we go short-track racing with, and so I wanted to be able to drive it some. In doing all that, I thought it would be fun to take a trip across the country and see everything, and at the same be able to spend some time with my truck driver and see the open road. I don’t know if it’s something I will ever do a second time, but everybody needs to make a cross-country trip at some point, and I definitely don’t want to do it in a small, compact car.”
Ragan, who won earlier this season at Talladega Superspeedway, said he’s driven the tractor-trailer carrying his short-track car to races in Florida and Georgia. He said Smith will probably wheel the big rig through the mountains, while Ragan would prefer to drive at night when there’s less traffic, and out West where the roads are more open.
“I know he’s probably going to sleep with one eye open just to make sure I’m not driving too crazy, but I’m a safe driver on the road. I won’t take any chances,” Ragan said. “It will be fun to see what he goes through. Certainly a lot of people don’t respect the truckers enough, certainly in our situation. They stay gone all the time and have to put in a lot of hours on the road. It will be fun to do it this one time, and we’ll see if anything comes from it ever again.”
Smith is happy to have the company. “We’re going to have a good time and he’s going to be just fine behind the wheel,” he said.
The two plan to chronicle the journey on Twitter, where Ragan is @DavidRagan and Smith is @MikeS702.
Once in Sonoma, Ragan’s attention will turn to his No. 34 race car, which will ride the whole way with him in the transporter’s upper storage bay. When it comes time to return home, though, he’ll take another mode of transportation -- the team airplane.