NASCAR Media Conference
September 2, 2008
THE MODERATOR: Twelve drivers qualify for the Chase, and so today, appropriately, we have as our guests three guys who are in a really heated battle for the final spot in the Chase: Clint Bowyer, 12th place this week, David Ragan, 13th place and Kasey Kahne, 14th place.
What we are going to do is try to have each driver with us for approximately 15, 20 minutes and we are going to start off with David Ragan, driver of the No. 6 AAA Ford. David trails Clint Bowyer by 17 points coming into Saturday night.
David, big, big race, I know you must be excited. What's the mind-set going into Richmond this week?
DAVID RAGAN: Well, we absolutely are excited just to have an opportunity to get into the Chase. The bottom line is, we've just got to go out and beat these guys. No other way around it. We can't count on the other teams having problems or issues throughout the race. We've got to make sure we are on our toes and we don't have any mechanical failures or any screwups in the pits and also on the racetrack.
Richmond has been a good track for us in the past. We have had some success there, which we could have run a little bit better in California and we were able to pretty much maintain the same differential getting into the points and getting into the final 12.
So the bottom line is, we've just got to go to Richmond, run as hard as we can, and when the checkered flag falls, hopefully we are in front of 07 and the 9 car and we'll be able to start thinking about what we have to do in the Chase.
Q. Let's just assume for a minute that you're for fortunate enough to get to the end of the Chase. How competitive do you think you can be, given the way you've run the second half of the season?
DAVID RAGAN: Well, I think we are definitely going to have to continue to step our program up a little bit. One good thing about the Chase, the final ten races, there's not one track on there where we haven't run well in the past. So I feel like, you know, the ten races in the Chase are all good chances to win a race and to run well.
But you know, in the past, in order to be the champion, you have to win a lot of races and be very consistent. Certainly we'll think about that once we make it in. But I feel like we'll just have to lien on some of our teammates that have experience in the Chase in the past few years, and we'll have to continue to step our program up. I think we are a Chase team, but we are not quite a championship team yet.
Q. Can you expect to contend without the benefit of bonus points that some of the leaders will have?
DAVID RAGAN: No, you can't contend for the championship, overall championship without winning some races. I think winning a race is a must, and certainly with Carl and Kyle and now Jimmie, they all have multiple wins, you're going to have to be able to win some races and get those bonus points.
You can, you know, contend for a good points finish. There are some great guys in the Chase now that are locked in that haven't won a race yet this year, and I still think that they will be able to contend for a good finish. But certainly Carl and Kyle are definitely in the driver's seat.
Q. Thanks for doing this, first of all. My question is, Tony Stewart was here at Texas Motor Speedway during a charity event and your name came up and he was very complimentary to you saying there was one day where he really got it and sort of turned it on. Did that feel that way to you? When do you feel like you got it, and you know, could start really competing?
DAVID RAGAN: Well, certainly the start of this season has been a lot easier than when we went through our rookie season. Everything is easier the second time around, and you know what's around the next corner and you can make better decisions; and your crew chief and yourself and your engineer can all work together to make better calls on and off the racetrack.
So you know, I've just felt like we've learned from our mistakes. We've improved the things that were good last year, and we've been working extremely hard with our pit crew on building better race cars, and I've been doing equally as much work inside the race car trying to be a smarter race car driver for my team and my sponsor, and I think it just started to show off sometime throughout the year.
Q. How much has Jimmy Fenning been able to help you out? Is he as much a coach to you as a chew chief?
DAVID RAGAN: 100%. Jimmy is a guy that can sit atop the pit box and see a lot more than lap times on a computer. He understands the long races to the shorter races, a lot of great tracks where you can cheat coming on and off pit road, he's just got a lot of racing knowledge. He doesn't overlook the small details.
So he's a guy that you can go to and talk to about anything and you know, we have come to have a great understanding in what I want in the race car, what he thinks we need and certainly we are interesting in creating a pretty good team together.
Q. First of all, thanks for taking the time as always. At ORP, I had spoke to Jack Roush and he was obviously extremely complimentary of what you've been able to accomplish this year and felt like the goal should have been a Top 15 finish. At this point you're on the verge and certainly have an opportunity to make the Chase. Do you feel like you're ahead of schedule or do you see yourself here?
DAVID RAGAN: We're where we need to be. Certainly we are not where we want to be by any means. We want to be up there with Carl and Kyle leading laps and winning races.
But we are on schedule. We have shown a lot of improvement. We have worked on a lot of things but I still feel like we have some more improving to do before we are at a championship-caliber team week-in and week-out. But going into the year, we knew that if we had a solid year and didn't have many mechanical failures and didn't have any unfortunate things happening on the racetrack, we would have had a shot at the Chase.
We knew it would be tough to be competitively locked into the Chase going into this last race. It could have happened if I could return to a few races this year; I think we would be in better shape. All along we knew that we just wanted to have a shot at making the Chase and we find ourselves in 13th just a few points out.
And so we just wanted to say we had a shot at the Chase and certainly this season is not going to be dependent on just this one race at Richmond and whether we are in the Chase or not. We still have a lot of racing to do and have a lot of opportunities to lead laps and win races and certainly we are already looking at next year.
Q. How valuable has it been to have Carl Edwards as a teammate?
DAVID RAGAN: He's certainly kept us extremely hard trying to keep up with the fast pace that that team has been on this year. But Carl's got a lot of good experience. He's an excellent race car driver, and him and Bob have obviously clicked and they work extremely well together. But having Carl as a teammate, I'm glad he's on our team.
Q. Is there anything that relates to, this have you gone through anything like this anyway?
DAVID RAGAN: Not really. I've been in some one-race-take-all, like a big money race or a race that was maybe a last chance race or something, and you had to finish in a certain spot in order to advance to the big race.
But you know, as far as the amount of people watching and expectations and the glitz around the final race in the race for the Chase at Richmond -- not being in the points championship or running a full number of races in the Truck Series or the Re-Max Series leading up last year in the Sprint Cup Series, I didn't really have that good of a feel for what a good points race is like.
This is really the first opportunity I've gotten to really -- (line static) -- I've learned a lot about being in this type of situation. I'm sure we'll be better like we talked about earlier, the second time in our situation in another situation like this.
To answer your question, I don't think I've ever been in a situation to be in such a highly-watched, one-race kind of year that you're make or break to get to the next level.
Q. Obviously I'm sure you realize how big of a deal this is, but having not gone through, this and you talk about everything is easier the second time around, do you really realize how big this is? Everybody probably wants to say that you are under all this pressure, and maybe you are, but do you really feel that or do you have a sense of that since it is kind of the first go-around for you in this case?
DAVID RAGAN: Yeah, I probably don't realize how big this race is. Maybe after the year is over I will have time to sit back and think about it. But I'm trying not to go about it like that. If I put this much effort and concentration into one race, a make or break race, I think that would be a little too much, and certainly we're all excited about the race.
We're tense and we're thinking about it, and I think that you'll hear this from Clint, and also Kasey, but we've just got to go out and run our race, and whether we make the Chase or not is not going to depend on just the one race at Richmond. I could go back all the way to the Daytona 500 and talk about things that I would have done different and would have gotten us different results.
I'm taking it very seriously and looking forward to a good weekend, and we are going to make sure that the Ford is driving as fast and as good as we can make it and I'll go out and drive it as hard as I can and whatever happens is going to happen.
Q. Just wanted to check in first of all, you know, the last time we were in Richmond, Kyle Busch drove hard, got into Dale Junior and spun him out on the course and Carl Edwards and Kyle got together at Bristol just a couple weeks ago. With all three of you on the teleconference, we have Kasey Kahne, Clint Bowyer, you're right behind him and you just need to make up two positions to make the Chase; what are you going to do?
DAVID RAGAN: Well, it obviously all depends on the situation and how my car is handling. Certainly those guys at the time were racing hard and were all trying to pick up positions, and I'm sure we would all do the same thing it. We would all put the bumper on the guy in front of us and just hope like hell that we can drive in a little harder the next corner and he can't get us back.
Certainly I'm not going to go out and race -- (line static) -- in the sport but we'll have to -- we're going to drive as hard as we can, and hopefully we're in a good enough position that we can have a good race. And it's important for all three of for us of us to be racing to win and also racing for the points. But certainly we are not going to go do anything crazy to jeopardize our next ten races and certainly the respect and the thoughts that all of the other competitors have on us for the rest of our careers.
Q. Of course you don't have a sponsor, at least officially signed for next season. There's a rumor that UPS may be that sponsor. I'm sure you're not ready to announce that now but what's the latest on your sponsorship situation?
DAVID RAGAN: Certainly as a race car driver, I would love to have sponsorship lined up from now to the end of my career and not have to worry about it. But that's a fact that you have in the sport. Yeah, with the running with -- the UPS sponsorship is great, they are an Atlanta-based company; and I'm a Georgia guy, so I think we have a lot in common. I know Jeff Smith and the guys at Roush Racing are working hard with the people in Atlanta and trying to make things happen, and only time will tell.
We are pretty focused on making the Chase and winning races and ending the year on a good note for our current sponsor and our current team. So we will hopefully have some good news over the next two or three weeks, and until then, we'll just keep driving as hard as we can and giving everybody more reason to talk about it.
Q. At some point will you anticipate talking with your Roush teammates about anything they can do during the races that might help you move up during the standings?
DAVID RAGAN: Yeah I think that's going to be up to my crew chief and Jack Roush during the race. We can all have a game plan before the race, if we hit here, try to let me by or if you're running second, I'd like to lead a lap. We can have a great plan of attack but once they drop the green flag, usually everybody's plan goes out the window. We are just going to go out and race hard.
We can't count on them to help us out and don't know that they will be in a position, they are trying to battle for points and get bonus points at the time but certainly they are going to race extremely hard and they might be in an opportunity to have somebody cut us some slack or possibly one of the guys has trouble, you know, help us out a little bit.
Time will tell but I feel like Jimmy will have a good eye on top of the pit box and be in constant communication with the other crew chiefs, and we'll just have to play the 400 laps kind of by ear. A lot can change between the drop of the green and certainly the last 50 laps or something.
So I think when the time comes, we'll have a good plan together.
Q. What kind of adjustments do you feel like you have to make to have a little better success at Richmond compared to your race in May?
DAVID RAGAN: We are going to go over some notes earlier from the spring race, and I think we just have to have a better car for the long one runs. We were pretty good on the short runs there in the spring. We finished third at this race last year, so I think we'll go off some good notes.
We've got to make sure we unload good, because there's a lot of time between our practice and qualifying being an impound race. So we have to make sure we are good off the truck and make some good adjustments and hopefully take care of it for 350 laps and go racing at the end.
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