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NASCAR Media Conference

American Government Special Collections Reference Desk

Stock Car Racing Topics:  NASCAR

NASCAR Media Conference

David Ragan
March 27, 2007

DENISE MALOOF: Good afternoon, everyone. Welcome to the NASCAR Nextel teleconference. Our guest today is David Regan, driver of the No. 6 AAA Ford in the NASCAR Nextel Cup Series. David is 22nd in the standings and returns this week to Martinsville Speedway, where he experienced a rather eventful series initiation last October.
A Raybestos Rookie-of-the-Year candidate, he's tied with Chip Ganassi Racing's Juan Pablo Montoya atop the rookie standings. He is succeeding the legend Mark Martin at Roush Fenway Racing. Today he is joining us from NASCAR Busch Series testing at Richmond International Raceway.
I know last fall the event at Martinsville was a difficult experience, but I expect you're looking forward to the opportunity to show how much you've learned.
DAVID RAGAN: Certainly. I feel like we had a decent car at Bristol. The last few laps were a little rough. We lost a few spots that we should have had at the end of the race. But I'm always looking forward to all the short tracks on the Nextel Cup circuit.
Yeah, it was a rough race last year. I feel again we had a good car, but a few mistakes on my behalf, a long day at Martinsville. We came out on the lead lap in 25th spot, but we're certainly looking forward to a lot better run upcoming this weekend.
Our new Car of Tomorrow we tested yesterday at Caraway. We feel like the AAA team is ready for the challenge. I think that we need to go into Martinsville with the game plan as we have the previous four or five race: finish, run all the laps, and the finish will take care of itself.
DENISE MALOOF: Sounds good. We'll now go to some media questions for David.

Q. Try not to open up painful wounds for you, but sometimes I think the NASCAR fans can identify with somebody who has been through some rough roads to hoe. You had the rough time at Martinsville. Bristol last week, tough time towards the end. Replacing Mark Martin, who has been getting so much attention this year with his other team. Then the all-time poster boy for NASCAR diversity, Juan Pablo Montoya, as a competitor for Rookie-of-the-Year. Do you sometimes wonder if fate could have given you a much tougher mountain to climb all the way around than what you've been through from Martinsville last year on up through now?
DAVID RAGAN: I think it has been tough. Certainly Jeff Gordon could get in the No. 6 Ford Fusion and it would be tough to fill Mark Martin's shoes. Mark is a guy that's kind of irreplaceable. He's a great driver, champion, and you can definitely see by his new team he's with this year, he's doing a great job with what he's got to work with.
But that fits our style just fine. I don't mind being the guy that six, 10, 15 races into the year, everyone's been talking about Montoya, been talking about Mark, you look up in the standings, hopefully you'll see the No. 6 AAA Ford Fusion there in the top 15 or top 20 tied with Montoya for the Rookie-of-the-Year lead or something like that. "Man, we haven't even talked about him all year."
That's just fine for us. We're going to take care of what we can control. I'm continuing to feel more comfortable week in and week out. I'm working with Jimmy better week in and week out. That's fine. We'll sneak up on this thing. 15, 20 races into the year when we pop up with a strong top five run, possibly a pole, a win or something down the road, it will surprise everyone. That's just the way we want it to play into our hands.

Q. Are short tracks for some reason in these big heavy cars, have they emerged as more of a challenge for you or is it just a coincidence that you had Martinsville last year and then had to face the Car of Tomorrow last week?
DAVID RAGAN: I feel comfortable with short tracks. I grew up racing, just like a lot of the other Nextel Cup racers, we grew up racing on the short tracks in our local venues, south Georgia, the Southeast, being where I was racing when I was a young kid.
I think I'm going into these races with the mindset I'm going to cut some people some breaks, I'm going to move over if someone's faster, but also I've got a good enough race car where I can race them hard. We need to come out with a top 15 or top 20 finish.
I think I cut a few people some breaks, but then sometimes they don't return the favor. It's going to get old after a while. I know there's a couple of incidents at Martinsville last year I created on my own behalf. Bristol I felt like I had some help. Every single time that I was spun around, all three or four times, there were some top drivers, Jimmie Johnson, Kasey Kahne, that was the cause of some of that.
Certainly I understand that I'm the rookie in the series. I feel like I have paid some of my dues. If we have a fast-enough race car, I can get out and race with those guys on the same lap, I feel like this weekend it's time for us to start racing some more.

Q. I was around when your father was racing. Last November at Atlanta I remember I met your uncle standing outside the media center. It was after Martinsville, the race that NASCAR wanted you to sit out. Being from Georgia, I think your uncle told me the Atlanta Journal had a particularly terse headline, something like Regan banned from Atlanta. Being from Georgia, going through that week after Martinsville, missing Atlanta, could you describe your feelings.
DAVID RAGAN: Well, at the current time it was real tough. Looking forward to making my first Cup start at Atlanta, that was something that was going to be very special for myself and for my family. I grew up racing in Atlanta. Ed Clark, everyone at the Speedway has been really great to my family.
But things always seem to work out for the best. What happened, qualifying got rained out. Got to run the Craftsman Truck Series. We qualified strong, ran in the top 10 the whole race, finished sixth in the truck race that Saturday. If things would have worked out for me to run the Cup race, I would not have run the truck. Michel Jourdain would have run the truck. Guess what, I wouldn't have got to make any laps at Atlanta. Qualifying would have been rained out. I would have been sitting on the sideline with nothing.
What happens in NASCAR makes me sit back and think about things that happen at Martinsville, looking forward to some of the bigger races, and also getting approved for Daytona this year. It worked out perfect. I got to race the truck, had a lot of fun, finished sixth, a nice finish for our truck team, and things couldn't have worked out any better. I'm glad the events did take place and I'm very thankful for it.

Q. Thinking about you and Juan Pablo Montoya, the rookie honors, it's kind of got to blow you away. After the race you were quite worn out. Montoya said the race was pretty easy. I'm wondering the difference between your two comments after that race, and you being worn out after the race at Bristol.
DAVID RAGAN: I don't know if his car was driving a little better than mine was. We did finish ahead of him, so I don't know if that meant I was driving harder than he was or what. I don't know. I think Kyle Busch was probably tired after the race.
Bristol is a tough race. That was my first ever 500-lap race at Bristol. The 300-lap race Saturday. I don't want to say it was a piece of cake. I try to drive as hard as I can throughout the race. I'll have to talk to Juan maybe this weekend and see how cool, calm, relaxed he did feel after the race because I really felt like the last 200 laps I really gave everything I could to get a top 20, to get that top 15, really trying to get every second that I could on the racetrack.
Something my dad's always preached to me, whether it be a football game or a race, you know, if you're not tired after you get done, you didn't put all in that you had. So I really make sure, I preach to myself during the race, I've really got to concentrate. So mentally and physically I'm wore out after a race because I do give a hundred percent. I'm sure Montoya was, too. Maybe he was cutting up a little bit with you. I can assure you, he was a little tired. He wasn't completely good to go for another 500 after that race.

Q. How does it feel to be compared to him as a rookie in the rookie standings? Sometimes you just sort of laugh and think, Juan Montoya from F1.
DAVID RAGAN: It's funny to sit back and look. It's an honor to be able to compete with Montoya for Rookie-of-the-Year honors. I look back and, yeah, we had a few strong runs. We struggled a little here and there. At the same time, hey, we're sitting here tied with him. I passed him some. He's passed me some. We really raced hard in the Busch and Cup Series.
I tell my buddies, remind my dad, he's an Indianapolis 500 winner. He's won races overseas and all. I said, that's something pretty special. He's not a rookie. He's not looking at the Rookie-of-the-Year the same way I am. I don't want to say he's above that, but he's coming in as a champion in other divisions. He's going about it in a little different way than I am. But it's certainly cool to be on that same level playing field and it definitely gives us something to shoot for every week.

Q. You've had some peaks and valleys in a short Cup career, from Martinsville last fall, Bristol last weekend. In the middle, you have a fifth place in the Daytona 500. How would you classify your respect in the garage area, the way you've interacted with not only the rookies but veterans in the garage?
DAVID RAGAN: It helps to have some great teammates to lean on. Matt Kenseth, I think he's probably one of the most respected guys in the garage maybe besides Dale Jarrett this week. I think Matt is one of the best drivers out there. He's one of the smartest definitely.
Greg Biffle, Carl Edwards, all been through a lot of the same things I've been through. I think it is great to have them on my team. But at the same time I think the way you earn respect is go out, you don't have to let 'em by, you don't have to suck up to 'em, but race them hard, race them with respect. That's something I've really tried to do. When their car's a little faster than mine, I try to move over and let 'em by because at times, you know, maybe they'll repay the same favor.
I understand when you're 50 to go or maybe 100 laps to go, you're not as lenient as you are in the beginning. That will come with time. I feel that I'm trying to do a good job. I may be a little too conservative at time, giving people a little extra room. I certainly want to finish as many races as I can. I don't want to have many DNFs. I'm trying to be as cool and collected out on the racetrack as I can.
Time will tell. I don't really know. Right now I don't go around and ask other drivers what they think. Time will tell. I think that we're on that right track in getting a little more respect in the garage.

Q. After the October race at Martinsville, Tony Stewart called you a dart without feathers. What was it like hearing that and experiencing that at an early stage in your career? Do you think it also helped your progression having to deal with it early in your career?
DAVID RAGAN: When I first heard that, I think my dad called me. I said, man, that's pretty cool, at least Tony Stewart knows who David Ragan is. Six months ago I was a kid wanting his autograph; now he knows who I am.
Tony and I have talked a lot since then. He's a great racer. He says a lot of things. He's liable to say some more bad things about me on down the road. But I think he's one of the greatest racers that NASCAR's had, and certainly got a lot of respect for him.
It didn't bother me at all. Things like that I think just make you a tougher guy, have more respect for the series that we're competing in now. But after I heard what he said, I was just kind of glad he knew who I was.

Q. You spoke about your teammates a moment ago. You work for Roush Racing. Jimmy Fennig is your crew chief. How much have they helped you through your first full season?
DAVID RAGAN: Again, time will only tell, but there's no substitute for someone like Jimmy Fennig. He reminds me a lot of my dad, who is very focused on the end result. He's a guy that's always in the right direction, and that's moving forward. He's great to have on my team. I'd hate to know that I had to line up against him every week racing for someone else.
Having Jimmy leading the AAA pit crew is a blessing almost. Certainly it's going to take some time for myself, for the crew, for Jimmy and all to gel together. It's pretty much a whole new group of guys from the last few years. Time will definitely help a lot. But having Jimmy is probably the biggest thing that Jack Roush and Jeff Smith -- it's the best Christmas present I could have ever asked for.

Q. You were talking about the Tony Stewart comment. I heard a rumor that the next week, did you pay to go for a ride-along with him so you could discuss the incident with him?
DAVID RAGAN: I was at a Speedway Children's Charity auction, which is a very -- the Speedway Children's Charity group is very important, Atlanta Motor Speedway, to my family. We've always attended those programs in Atlanta for the past few years. They were auctioning off rides with the Nextel Cup drivers for that Sunday.
They were all playing up the Martinsville thing. I really wasn't looking to just do something for Tony, I was looking to do more for the charity and for the young kids that were there that was going to benefit from me spending the money.
It just worked out perfect where I bid on this ride and won it. Basically just got to ride with Tony in the back of the truck for the parade lap at Atlanta. Certainly we talked before then. Tony does great things for different charities, for different groups of young kids. It was a win-win situation.
But I did tell Tony that he should match whatever I spent, and I think he did.

Q. After that weekend, got some time with Tony, showed your character, what was it like with the other drivers in the garage, having them get to know you, overcome any perception or stereotypes that you maybe carried out of Martinsville?
DAVID RAGAN: Well, I think that other drivers do look on certain situations like that and judge how you may act or how you are. I think the more you race with them and the more interactions that you with the drivers on a personal basis, it's going to help out a lot. Certainly we all look and judge people from the outside in all aspects of life.
I think the more that you're at the test, you're at racetracks with them, you're flying out here and there, you get to hang out with them. That's probably the biggest thing. We're with each other 36, 37 times a year. So we have to be good friends in order to make things go as smooth as possible throughout the year.
I think that maybe helped a little bit. But, like I said before, time will help everything. A lot of these questions, I'm just thinking that, yeah, this will help, this might hurt, I don't need to do this. Only true testament will be to look back six months from now and see where we're at.

Q. Your crew chief said after the race Sunday they've kind of maybe reined you in a little bit this year to get some points to build up your momentum. How frustrating has that been to kind of not be able to go as hard as you want to every race?
DAVID RAGAN: It's been tough. That's probably been one of my toughest challenges for the switch from a Craftsman Truck to a Cup car. 500 miles versus 200 or 300, you have to go about things a little different way. They've been preaching to me you don't have to drive as hard as can you for all 500 laps. You have to be in a comfort zone at times. You have to think about how to have your car handling at the end of the race versus the start of the race.
Things like that have been a lot different for me moving up into the Cup Series. I feel that we're taking the right steps to get going. As a racer, I want to go as hard as I can. I want to try to win poles. I want to try to win races every week. But we've really been -- when we get to the racetrack, we've been concentrating on our race setups, we've been doing a lot of practice laps, we really haven't concentrated that much on our qualifying effort, which something has been brought up over the past few weeks in our meetings and all. That's something I'd like to work on. I'd like to qualify better. I'd like to be a little better at the beginning of the races.
Certainly throughout the next 10 races, next 15 races, we're going to keep seeing things that come up that we're going to work on. Yeah, you know, I'm probably scaled back to 90 or 95% right now. As I get more comfortable, know what I want, as Jimmy understands what I need to go fast and still be able to take care of the race car, we'll learn how each other feels about that. Like I said, over the next month or so, we'll be better.

Q. Back to the Driver X show last year, your dad told me a story before you were getting ready to go on one of the drives, don't just be part of the crowd, go out there and stand out. Do you remember that conversation? Did you consciously try to make yourself more confident in that situation?
DAVID RAGAN: Certainly confidence is a very powerful thing in everything that you do in life. That's something that my dad's really preached to me, is to not be overconfident, but have the confidence that you can go out and get the job done. If you believe you can do it, and if we work hard enough, we can accomplish anything. I feel that through that Gong Show, I knew young drivers like myself, we grew up in south Georgia, didn't have a tremendous amount of money, had a lot of good friends and family that helped me out with different sponsorships and things throughout the years. To get an opportunity to showcase whatever I felt like I had at the time in front of Jack Roush and some of the guys at Roush Fenway Racing, this is probably the only chance I'll get to show everyone what I have.
Same thing, he coaches me a little bit still today, just try to go out and do something where they'll recognize you because there's a lot of young kids in America that have a lot of talent that can go out and drive a race car fast. You have to just get an opportunity. I felt like that was my one and only shot.
Things worked out. I did what I was supposed to do. Erik Darnell, Danny O'Quinn, three or four of us got an opportunity to come out, drive for a great race team, and here we are today.

Q. Apparently your mom was not really impressed with what she maybe perceived as some overconfidence. When did she say to you after that?
DAVID RAGAN: You know how moms are. They don't want any controversy. They don't want any people talking bad about you. Dad just tries to keep that quiet. That's all right. At times you can be a little overconfident. I'm trying to think right off the top of my head. I've seen different quotes. I try to remember some of this stuff. Mohammed Ali was a great boxer, he loved to run his mouth. I think that's a little bit too much. Certainly if you can go out and get the job done and back it up on race day, I remember Greg Biffle, I think it was a year ago, he qualified well at Las Vegas or something. He said, I'm going to be leading this race in five laps. You might call that a little overconfident. Guess what, he was leading on lap three. Checked out from them.
If you can talk the talk, you better make sure you can get the job done on the racetrack.

Q. You talked about your Roush Fenway teammates. Who is the one you lean on the most in the garage? What is one lesson you've learned so far in this experience that you won't forget?
DAVID RAGAN: I try to talk to all the guys because they all have different ideas. Each driver has a little different driving style. Jimmy Fennig really thinks a lot of Matt Kenseth. He got to work with him some last year on the Busch side. Certainly Matt is a great racer, very smart racer. He can go fast. He's been there, won championships. I think that I try to talk to Matt as much as I can.
I talk to Carl. He's running a lot of the Busch races. Him and I can relate on a lot of things. Then Greg has come up through the Truck Series, the Busch Series somewhat like I have. I really try to talk to those guys a lot.
We were testing yesterday at Caraway with Jamie. All of them have different perspectives on a lot of different things. I think I probably lean on Matt the most.

Q. What was your experience with the brakes on your Car of Tomorrow at Bristol? Did you have any issues turning the car? Did you have to use more brake to get it to turn? What do you feel like that will be like at Martinsville?
DAVID RAGAN: I feel like our brake package at Martinsville was 100%. We do a lot of work on our brakes for the short tracks to make sure we don't have any problems. We'll have enough problems getting the car to handle, keeping all four tires on the whole race. We don't need to have any problems on our brakes.
As a whole organization, I feel like our brakes were fine the whole race. Obviously different drivers or different teams might have had a little different handling problem. We were fighting a tight condition most of the race. The more I slowed it down, the better off it would turn.
At the same time I felt that we didn't have any brake problems. We tested fine yesterday. I think that Martinsville will be a true test for the brakes.
We have so many years' experience going to places like Martinsville and Richmond today, that if you do have a brake problem, you shouldn't have, because we have great sponsors where we can buy great brake products and at the same time we shouldn't have any problems.
DENISE MALOOF: David, I know you have to go jump in a car and test today. We appreciate you joining us. Thanks for giving us the time.
DAVID RAGAN: Yeah, thank you very much. Look forward to doing it again.
DENISE MALOOF: Sounds good. Good luck this weekend.
DAVID RAGAN: Yes, ma'am.

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