NASCAR Media Conference
May 5, 2008
THE MODERATOR: We'll roll right into the second half of today's press conference and also part of our national teleconference. We're pleased to be joined by David Ragan. He drives the No. 6 AAA Ford, and David is quietly having a very, very good season. He's 14th in points, inching up towards that 12th spot.
David, I know you've also done a tire test here at Lowe's Motor Speedway last year here in the new car. Your thoughts about that. And I know you've got to be looking forward to getting some more track time out there this weekend and also looking ahead to Darlington.
DAVID RAGAN: I was very impressed with the way our AAA Ford handled last year during the Goodyear tire test. You know, a year ago we had a lot of questions about the Car of Tomorrow and the mile-and-a-half tracks, and it really was fun to drive, easy to drive, and I felt like it had some pretty good speed in the last year, last fall. So I was very excited to be a part of the Goodyear test last year. I had a lot of fun, and hopefully some of the notes and some of the information we learned last year will carry over to this weekend, certainly Charlotte.
Lowe's Motor Speedway is an exciting track with a lot of speed. Since the new asphalt has been down for a few years it's aging pretty nice. Last year in the fall race you saw a lot of two-wide, three-wide racing, a lot of guys using the top groove and the bottom groove.
Looking forward to getting on the track this afternoon and looks like the weather is going to be nice for the next couple of days, and looking forward to making some laps.
Q. What are your thoughts to heading over to Darlington this Saturday night for a night race with a brand new track surface, as well?
DAVID RAGAN: Certainly a lot of anticipation from our side. My teammate Greg Biffle got to test there a few weeks ago and said the track is really, really smooth, got a lot of speed in it, and only time will tell how the asphalt and how the weather is and how the tires are that Goodyear brings next week. Obviously you guys are familiar with Charlotte, Las Vegas being paved in the last few years and the situation that we have with Goodyear bringing a real hard tire that's really tough for us to get a handle on, and we kind of struggle through the weekend sometimes.
Hopefully they've learned, and we've got a pretty aggressive tire for this weekend coming up. Hopefully it's kind of like old Darlington, where you can go really fast for a few laps and then the speeds fall off and the times fall off, and you see the good old racing and slipping and sliding.
I haven't made a lap on the new track surface. In my Nationwide car on Thursday will be the first time that I'll make a lap around the new track. Looking forward to it, but hopefully they kept some of the same characteristics that everyone knows of Darlington to be.
Q. You sort of caught some people off-guard by your performance this year, pretty high up in points. Do you think you have a chance of making the Chase?
DAVID RAGAN: Certainly, I think we have a chance. I think a lot of people have a chance of making the Chase. It's just a matter of what we do with our chance. We've got to continue to perform like we have.
I've got to keep working on not making mistakes inside the race car. I think we've got a great pit crew on Pit Road that we can depend on when I come down, Jimmy Fennig has been making a lot of the right calls. Things have just been working our way. Very easily we could be 25th in points right now if a couple of DNFs and things hadn't gone our way sometimes, and we could easily be 8th in points right now or 7th in points if I wouldn't have had the DNF at Daytona and a couple of runs.
Anyway, we've got to keep working hard, doing what we know is right. I've got to keep running all the laps, not making mistakes and not finishing races, and ultimately you can average a 15th place finish and make the Chase. You just can't have a bunch of DNFs, so that's what we're trying to do.
Q. You were down at Rockingham yesterday, did a good job in the booth, by the way. What's your opinion of the track? I know you haven't raced there, but did you like it and would you like to have a chance to get your Nationwide car out there if they can give you a date sometime in the future?
DAVID RAGAN: I would love to, one, because it's close to home and you wouldn't have to drive very far and all the friends and family could come over there and watch you. I'd trade a date on the west coast in a heartbeat to run Rockingham.
It was a lot of fun, though, to answer your question. I had a good time over there, saw a lot of familiar faces. The track looked great. I had only been there one time several years ago as just a young kid as a race fan, and I was kind of thinking in the back of my mind before we pulled up to the racetrack, you know, I've seen North Wilkesboro in the last couple years or seen some of the other tracks and I didn't know how it was going to look, but it looked great. It looked better than some of the current tracks we go to on the Cup schedule right now. The asphalt looked good, the garages were nice. I sat in the grandstands, went up to the booth for a little while, and everything was first class. The food was good up top, and I really had a good time.
Q. The first two -- I should say Atlanta and Texas, I guess, similar tracks. After the race a lot of drivers complained, just hard to drive, they were worn out, it wasn't easy. We've got to do it for 600 miles here at the end of May. What are your thoughts on that, and do you do anything to prepare for that extra 500 miles?
DAVID RAGAN: (Laughing) well, the sport, we didn't sign up for something that was easy coming into it. We knew it was going to be difficult and knew it was going to be challenging, and that's why Humpy is going to have 150,000 people here watching him, because it's going to be a lot of fun for 600 miles.
But certainly we'll probably be a little more cautious at the beginning. Obviously the same old story, starting during the day and ending at night, we'll have to adjust our cars throughout the evening, and as a driver I have to pace myself and really not wear myself out mentally or physically in the first 300 or 400 miles and just be around at the end.
But I think these cars on the mile-and-a-half tracks have been tough to drive, but that's something that will get better in the future, and obviously we all have the same rules to work with. We all have the same guidelines and the same race cars to work with, and it's just a matter of who does the best job on Sunday and they'll get the win. Guys like Kyle Busch and my teammate Carl Edwards, they've been doing a great job and they've got some wins and some good finishes.
Like I said, it's a tough sport; no need to complain about it, just go out and do the best you can.
Q. Qualifying this past week, past two weeks, you guys have been up towards the top. Has there been any one thing that's really made a difference between now and maybe a year ago from qualifying standpoint for you guys?
DAVID RAGAN: Well, definitely we have qualified a lot better, and at the end of last year that's one of the things we sat down and looked at as something that could help our race team and help our finishes. We had some good cars on occasion, but qualifying in the back, having poor track position the whole race, we were never in a position to show everyone what we had. So that's one of the things that we tried to work on harder.
I've just got a better feel for what I need to go fast for two laps. We've been doing for qualifying runs, where last year we've been locked into the top 35 in points from day one. Usually we've just done all race runs for qualifying practice, and every now and then we'd squeeze in a qualifying run toward the end and just didn't qualify well at all last year. So that's one of the things we really have tried to work on, and it's shown.
I think our average qualifying spot this year is about 14th or 15th or something like that, so that certainly helps a lot, even when you don't have a great race car. If you qualify up front and can keep good track position all day, it certainly makes 400 or 500 miles a lot easier on Sunday.
Q. Testing at Lowe's, then going over to race at Darlington, can you explain to the average fan, how do you as a driver adjust so quickly from the difference of testing at Lowe's, then five days later racing at Darlington, and of course this year all with the new car?
DAVID RAGAN: Well, it's not going to be a big adjustment racing here, and we'll probably be able to learn some things from here that we can carry over to Darlington. But you just get in the mindset, you race here, you think about last year's two races here and how they went and try to get your car to feel good and handle good. And obviously track conditions are going to be different when we come back here in a few weeks, probably going to be a little hotter, more rubber on the track. So today is just all about trying some things that we normally wouldn't have time to try on a race weekend. We've got two days to try a lot of cool stuff and different things and some stuff that engineering has planned for us.
And then going to Darlington this weekend, I'll probably get a copy of the test plan from the 16 Team from when they tested there a few weeks ago and just try to study a little bit and get my mind on Darlington on a one-mile track. But it won't be too bad to go from Darlington to Charlotte.
Q. About your good season thus far, do you think confidence follows performance, or has your confidence always been solid and the success has come from that?
DAVID RAGAN: Well, certainly I've always had a lot of confidence because of the people around me on my race team, and I knew that if we just did our jobs, and including myself, we could go out and run well. I think better runs and finishing races and higher position in points certainly does add confidence, and it's all in a circle. Running well on the Nationwide series on a Friday or Saturday night before the Cup race adds confidence, not only for myself but for the team members and everyone.
Yeah, we've always had confidence in our team. We knew we could get the job done, just a matter of taking care of the particulars and not making mistakes. We've done more of the right things this year, which has led to better runs and more confidence.
THE MODERATOR: This concludes our national teleconference today. We appreciate Casey and David Ragan participating, and we wish you guys the best of luck at the test and at Darlington.
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