NASCAR Media Conference
July 12, 2011
THE MODERATOR: Good afternoon, everyone. Welcome to this today's NASCAR cam video teleconference in advance of Sunday's at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. Our guest today is David Ragan, driver of the No. 6 UPS Ford in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. David celebrated his first NASCAR Sprint Cup Series victory two weeks ago at Daytona. And with this win, David is currently in the first edition to claim the wild card in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup.
Our question today comes from Twitter. After winning the race in Daytona and a strong eighth-place run at Kentucky, would it be too soon to say you're on an upswing?
DAVID RAGAN: I think we're definitely on an upswing. Are we a lock for the Chase? Absolutely not. We've got eight tough weeks in front of us, very competitive racing. I think there's three or four guys in front of us that are very, very hungry for a win that are probably going to get a win in these next eight races.
We've got to be on top of our game for these next races, a lot more top fives, top 10s. We're in a good spot where we control our own destiny, but there's no time to let up now.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you. We will now go to the media for questions for today's guest David Ragan.
Q. David, I wanted to talk about Jack Roush. He has been very adamant from day one that he's sticking with you through thick and thin and you're his driver. How does that make you feel to have a team owner who is going to stand behind you through everything you've gone through? What is it like driving for Jack Roush and having that support behind you?
DAVID RAGAN: Well, to have Jack's support behind our team is very, very important. Without it, we couldn't go and do our jobs. You know, from day one when Jack gave me an opportunity that I probably didn't deserve, being a young kid, not having a full Nationwide Series or not having a full Truck Series underneath my belt, being promoted to the No. 6 car in '07, he probably went out on a limb and he certainly put me with some good people on the years.
We had a lot of hard conversations after bad weekends and good conversations after good weekends. Jack Roush is at the race shop a lot. He's at the racetrack every weekend. To have that supporting cast there, it gives me some extra confidence in my ability and my decision making that it's the right thing.
So definitely a team owner that's around, that's supportive of the team, is very important.
Q. When Ricky Stenhouse was taken out of the car in the Nationwide side, did you ever for a minute think, Maybe I'm next if things don't start turning around? Do you know Jack is going to stick with you, never any doubt of that?
DAVID RAGAN: You know, it was probably three or four years ago, my rookie year even in '06, where I was running the Craftsman Truck Series some, my first year in a Nationwide car, we talked about it: Was my Nationwide car affecting my Cup performance in '07?
I think Jack really just looked at the situation and said, Hey, you know, you don't have any experience, you're very raw, we're going to keep working. He saw I had a lot of driving force behind me to go out and do a good job, a lot of pressure that I put on myself. So I always had a lot of confidence that I was the guy and that I needed to show progression.
There for a while, I did tear a lot of stuff up, made some bad decisions. The last couple years, we really weren't fast enough to tear anything up. We were just slow. We didn't compete as well as we should have.
That's not something that I can go and turn around. It's one thing if I'm spinning out every qualifying session or spinning out every lap of the race. The last year or two, no worries. We're just working so hard trying to get our cars back faster.
Q. As you mentioned earlier, there's a lot of possibility of things happening in the Chase over the next eight races or so. Are you kind of keeping an eye on guys like Keselowski and others who are kind of on the edge themselves, or can you just look forward and watch out for what you are doing?
DAVID RAGAN: Well, a little of both. We control our own destiny. If we have several top fives, top 10s, if we win another race, no DNFs, we're going to make the Chase, there's no if, ands or buts about it. If we struggle, don't win another race, it's going be a dogfight. And you're darn right, I pay attention to Keselowski, Kasey Kahne, Mark Martin right behind us in points. We have guys right in front of us in points. They can win these races coming up just as well as we can.
Now is the time to fight. We've got to go out and fight every lap. We can't given away positions. We've got to be really aggressive.
I think to answer your question, yes, I keep up with what they're doing. I don't let it affect me or bother me on race weekends. But absolutely, when we get back to the plane on Sunday night, or Monday, Tuesday, we're watching very closely who we have to beat and how much we have to beat 'em by.
Q. David, I've read stories about you and your brother. Seems like a wonderful relationship. Can you talk about him. I know he's been described as your biggest fan. Is he at all of the races or most of the races?
DAVID RAGAN: Yeah, my older brother is Adam. He's 27 years old. He has Down's syndrome. He's a huge fan. He comes to 10 or 15 races a year, about as many as my parents come to. They live in Georgia. He works at our Ford dealership that we have in Georgia. He's a big race fan. He probably wears nothing but Roush, David Ragan, Ford Racing T-shirts every day.
It's cool to have him be a part of the team, cheer for the team. Obviously being at Daytona for our win was huge. He's a big fan of racing. Whoever may be winning, he's buddies with Kevin Harvick, Jimmie Johnson, he talks sometimes. He sees and recognizes a lot of other drivers around the garage. They're always very nice and are open for a conversation.
He's just a big race fan and enjoys being at the racetrack.
Q. This is my conjecture. With the switch of Greg Biffle's crew chief, if you and your crew chief weren't getting along so well, they might have shaken it up and moved things around a little bit. Given that you guys are doing well, there wasn't kind of a place to move him right yet. Do you feel like you could explain the situation between you and Drew, because it seems like you have found that click.
DAVID RAGAN: You know, everyone's different. Jimmy Fennig and I had a good relationship to begin with. He had a little different way of communicating than I did. I needed something a little bit more in-depth and explain and talk about things. You have to go through some guys to find that sweet spot.
I think it's not only the driver and the crew chief has to get along and see eye-to-eye, but that crew chief has to be represented and respected and have a good line of communication with the crew guys, the team engineers and the other teammates on the team.
So Drew and I found that good combination. We both believe in each other. He's definitely got some ways that he does things a little different than some of the other guys in the Roush Fenway organization. But that's what makes him special and unique.
He works good with our team engineer. I've explained it several times. Our engineer is a little older school. He's been around for a long time. He was with Rusty Wallace for a number of years. So Drew coming in, he's new school, got some fresh ideas. They kind of balance each other out and I can throw my opinion in.
Sometimes you just find that good fit. We see eye-to-eye on things, we like the same food, listen to the same music. We get along on and off the racetrack, and that certainly helps.
Q. You were talking earlier about needing another win, top fives, top 10s. You go to Loudon where you have one top 15. Some of the tracks leading into the Chase aren't your best tracks historically. What do you have to do to put up the results at those tracks? Is it a continuation of what you're doing over the last couple weeks or do you have to do something more to put those results together?
DAVID RAGAN: Yeah, you know, it's funny that you bring that up. Loudon is a racetrack that statistics-wise we're horrible, maybe one of our worst tracks. We've had better runs there. Just seems like a lot of crazy things happen. I go back to we control our own fate. We can't go there and make mistakes. I can't knock the fenders off of it. I can't miss a shift, blow an engine, cut a tire. So we've got to be on our game.
Our cars are fast enough this year. With the Ford that we unload this weekend, it's going to be pretty fast. We've just got to work with it the right way to be there in competition at the end of the race.
So there are a few tracks that statistics-wise do not look good for us. But the good thing is, our racecars are very fast. I feel like we're on a roll. Sometimes good momentum is very contagious. That seems to just kind of roll, just like bad momentum is contagious. Sometimes it's hard to shake that off. I think we've got some good momentum going on. We've just got to go, not make mistakes, run good races, just be on our marks.
Our short track program is a lot better at Roush Fenway than it has been. In four years, we have nicer racecars that we're taking than we've taken in four years. You look at Richmond, Martinsville, the two short flat tracks, we've got a top five, a top 10. That's the statistics I look at. I look forward to a good weekend.
Q. You spoke earlier talking about now is the time to fight, be really aggressive. Can you define how is that different from how you were racing a few weeks ago, how you were racing a few months ago? What more aggressiveness, what level do you have to reach now, and what are you going to have to do more on the track than maybe you weren't doing a while back?
DAVID RAGAN: Yeah, it's hard to go out and give 120% or 110%. All you can do is your best. We've just got to do a little bit better job of being perfect. We need to be more quality on Fridays making changes, getting ready for qualifying. I just got to really do some searching to get every last bit of effort that I can driving the racecar.
There's a lot of situations that, you know, I look at myself as a pretty laid back, respectful driver. If someone gives me a spot and they're faster, I may give a spot back later in return in the race. I think some instances like that have to go away. You go to a racetrack and someone is catching you, typically you let them by if it's early in the race. I don't think we can afford to do that anymore.
I think I've got to be on my game. Track position is so important whether we go to a short track, a big track, high speed, low speed. We've got to be aggressive on pit road. We've got to push the pit road speed every segment every time. We can't take one break and be conservative.
I think by that win, by our top fives, by our position we've put ourselves in this year, I think everyone else is stepping their game up because they feel that pressure. They're this close to the Chase. We can't let it slip away.
We certainly feel the same thing, that we have a great chance of making not only the wild card spot but one of those final top 10 spots. We're only 30 points out. We made up almost 40 points in the last two or three weeks. We've got a lot of racing left. There's no way we can sit back and say, We just got to be content at getting one of those wild card spots. I think the top ten is something we look at. If we hit our marks, we can certainly get there.
Q. What did you learn from your experience a few years ago when you were battling and close for the Chase spot? When you look back to that season do you feel like at times that you were too nice on the track, I don't know if that's the right word, kind of be more assertive? Is that what helps you with the experience for these next eight races?
DAVID RAGAN: That experience is exactly where I'm coming from. That year we were 12th in points around the Coke 600 time. We had maybe a DNF at New Hampshire. Blown engine, got in a wreck at another race. We were a hundred points out. It's going to be tough. Stay focused, everyone. 13th is a respectful spot. Let's go and try to continue to run well.
Here we go to Richmond, we're only 20 something points, a few spots between myself and Matt and Bowyer. So looking back at that, we thought we were out of the equation for a little while. It was probably my inexperience, communication between my crew chief and myself at the time. I don't want to say we certainly didn't give up at all, we continued to work hard, but we didn't fight for that extra spot here, that extra six inches here on pit road.
That's the way we look at it now. It's going to be a tough road in front of us. We've got to fight and fight and fight. That's what I learned a few years ago.
Q. What are you doing to keep your mind off of things so you're not thinking about this 24/7 throughout the week?
DAVID RAGAN: Well, I raced my Legends car last night, finished second. Tyler Green, Mark Green's son, he beat me. He's a good racecar driver. I'm going back tonight. If I would have won last night, I wasn't going to race tonight. Being as he beat me last night, we're going to go back, see if we can win one.
Next week is an off week. Go back to Georgia, visit the family. I enjoy thinking about it, talking about it. We got a great support cast at Roush that helps me manage things. This is right up my alley and I like it.
Q. Got a sponsor question for you. What is it like for you to represent thousands of UPS workers that make delivery their prime goal?
DAVID RAGAN: Yeah, hundreds of thousands. There's UPS workers all over the country. I can relate to a lot of them. They work hard. They're passionate about their jobs. You won't find any other employee base that's more loyal to the company they work for than UPS. They're very well-respected, they're trustworthy. My UPS guys know where my hide-a-key is to the house so he can drop packages off when I'm gone.
It's cool to have that connection between them. I've got some family members that have worked for UPS over the years. It's neat to have that relationship. You see a lot of them at the racetrack. They're big fans of not only the UPS car but just of the sport, of drag racing, of NASCAR, circle track racing. About anywhere we go, we always bump into a UPSer somewhere.
Q. I couldn't catch some of the drivers. I went to my local UPS store in Florida and I asked Daniel kind of questions he would like to ask David Ragan. I have a couple questions from him. He wanted to know how your brother and family reacted to your win. He also wanted to know how negotiations were going with UPS to renew your contract for 2012.
DAVID RAGAN: Certainly they were pumped at the racetrack to be at Victory Lane. They come to 10 or 12 races a year. They're not at every one of them. To be at Daytona, Saturday night atmosphere, that's a great atmosphere to win a race in. I had a few aunts and uncles there that were part of the crowd, too. It was cool to get that first win with the family around, 4th of July holiday weekend.
As far as the UPS negotiations, that's between the management of Roush Fenway Racing and UPS. I think they're going well. I look forward to some good things to come down the road.
I try not to worry about that. All I can think about is doing my job on the racetrack, working with my team, working with Drew. The guys that are in the boardrooms and in the meeting rooms, they're work out all the details. I have faith everything is going to work out good.
Q. What was the immediate thought that crossed your mind at Daytona? Was it retribution?
DAVID RAGAN: My immediate first thought was, Am I sure 100% that was a checkered flag? Sometimes you get lost in the shuffle, you're racing, looking in the mirror, talking to your teammate. You have all this commotion going on. I do remember that year that Mark Martin pulled off the racetrack and he thought it was a checkered but it was really the white. I didn't want to make that mistake.
Every time I win, I always run hard through one and two just making sure. I was making sure that was the checkered flag.
Q. With all the pressure building this season, what is the most vital information that Jack Roush has given you and how have you applied it?
DAVID RAGAN: Jack tells you just to focus, don't mess up. He always reminds you, don't mess up. Jack told me a long time ago, he said, You're the driver of the No. 6 car. You're young, you've got talent. That's why you're here. Just remember that and don't think about what happens if I get shuffled to another team, what happens if I get let go, get injured. Don't think about that stuff. Just get caught up in the moment, do your deal, and it's going to work out.
I've tried to stay focused on what our goals are, long-term and short-term. Just stay focused for the next race, take it one race at a time. That's really the best piece of advice. Don't worry about everything else that's going on in the world that we live in. Just focus on that racecar and it will take care of you.
THE MODERATOR: We appreciate your participation today. David, thank you so much for taking the time today to join us. Best of luck this weekend in New Hampshire.
DAVID RAGAN: Thanks for inviting me. See you.
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