NASCAR Preseason Fan Festival
January 17, 2009
DAYTONA BEACH, FLORIDA
RAMSEY POSTON: We're now joined by the driver of the No. 6 UPS Ford David Ragan. David, tell us a little about your off-season and your outlook for 2009.
DAVID RAGAN: Well, the off-season for David Ragan has been a little slow. It's been nice to go back home to Georgia for a couple of weeks and hang out with the family. Christmas was good, New Year's was great, and we're ready to get back racing.
In January the last couple of years has been the busiest month it seemed like for me testing the Nationwide car and the Cup car, traveling from the east coast to the west coast has been busy.
So now pretty slow January, and it's got everyone really looking forward to showing up to Daytona and that first practice on Friday should be interesting, everyone sitting at home all off-season not driving anything.
Q. Can you envision your career to the point where someday somebody might pay to ride in the back of the truck with you to get advice?
DAVID RAGAN: They can always -- whether they get advice on what to do or maybe what not to do, that's something that I don't really think about maybe one day it'll happen. Who knows, but I'm very fortunate to be with a good team and a good sponsor that we've got a great outlook for the next five or six years, and as long as I can continue to be a smart driver and try to progress what I know and to do on and off the racetrack, we look forward to being around for a long time. But certainly if anybody wants any advice, I can probably tell you more what not to do now than what to do. Maybe in a few years that will change.
But yeah, very fortunate to have what we have and look forward to being around for a long time.
Q. Did you buy anything off of eBay in the off-season, any new toys, and second, was there a point last year where things just all of a sudden seemed to make sense? I mean, you went literally in the course of a year from being a dart without feathers to a guy that Tony Stewart says was probably the best driver out there. Was there a point that it all clicked and made sense to you?
DAVID RAGAN: Well, I think last year's off-season was a great time to reflect on everything. My rookie season everything happened so fast. I was driving a limited part-time Craftsman truck schedule, and they called me to drive the No. 6 car for the next season, a full season. I think the last year I had raced a full season anything was a Legends car in 2003, and then I go to racing a full-time Cup and Nationwide schedule in '07. Everything happened so fast, and I was trying to drive as hard as I could and made a lot of mistakes and learned a lot, but that off-season just gave me time to sit back and reflect on what it happened and what was going to change in '08, and certainly having Jack Roush and Jimmy Fenning having a lot of support behind the No. 6 Ford Fusion team was great. So we really unloaded in 2008 very confident. We learned from a lot of our mistakes, and we just seemed to pick up where we should have been at the end of '07.
So the off-season was a great time last year to reflect, and I think this off-season has been the same way. We can make our team stronger, reflect on our weak points and not forget about the good runs we had last year, and I predict to be just as strong, if not stronger, in 2009 with our UPS Ford Fusion team.
Not too many big things on eBay. I did acquire a new little 1938 UPS delivery package car that's a pretty neat piece to a car collection. UPS is something special to our hearts now and our family, so maybe one day we'll have some pictures or show everybody it, but it's a pretty neat little piece.
Q. You were around Mark Martin some before he left, right?
DAVID RAGAN: Yes.
Q. What are some of the things that you learned from him, and does it surprise you that he's still as competitive as he is at this point in his career?
DAVID RAGAN: No, it doesn't surprise me. Mark really taught me a lot that first year in the truck, and basically Mark is a lot more than a driver. He understands his racing from the chassis standpoint to the team standpoint of how things work, strategy on race day, and he's really just -- he's a know-it-all. He's very familiar with everything and the way things work.
Mark, he's a very smart guy that he can come into a situation -- I think that's why he's been so successful with some new teams and new ventures the last couple teams because he can look at your team, your pit crews, your race cars, your setups and give great advice on what to do to go fast and then he's a great wheelman sitting in the race car. Learning from Mark that other than just driving the race car you have to really understand all aspects of the team and the organization and the way things happen to be kind of the total package. Mark was just very involved with everything that was going on, and it's great to see a guy like that that's been around for so many years that still has that high level of intensity about his job, and I think that's why he's so successful, and I'm sure as long as he wants to do it and is capable to do it, he'll be fast and he'll be a successful driver.
Q. How would you size up your chances to win the Daytona 500?
DAVID RAGAN: I've told a lot of people that we can win some races next year, and the Daytona 500 is the first one that we've got a great shot to win. Out of the last four restrictor plate races we had four of the top five, and if it wasn't for a mistake on my behalf at last year's Daytona 500 we would have had a chance to win. Jimmy Fennig built some of the greatest restrictor plate cars and Roush Yates engines has some great horsepower, so it's a great combination, and hopefully some of the respect that we gained last year as a team will have some help at this year's running of the Daytona 500. I think we've got as good a shot to win the Daytona 500 as we do Atlanta or Charlotte or Richmond or any racetrack that we go to, so that's an even bigger reason to get excited about coming back here in February.
Q. To fans, race car drivers probably appear fearless. Do you think it's experience overcoming that fear? Do you think that good racers actually have less fear than other people?
DAVID RAGAN: They probably have a little less fear. Some of them are probably just crazier than average people, and we overlook that fear. But obviously the more experience you have, the better decisions you can make, and you don't have the fear after you make a bad decision and something crazy happens.
You know, yeah, experience is what this sport is all about, not only from just a driving standpoint but from the crews, the sponsors, the owners, everyone involved. The more experience you have, just the better decisions you can make. Sometimes when you make those good decisions, the outcome, it won't scare you as much as not making a good one.
Q. Over the last couple years you've had some teammates who have been pretty competitive for the championship. Could you comment on how you view Greg Biffle's prospects for the coming year?
DAVID RAGAN: I think Greg's team was a championship contender by far last year, winning some races, and certainly Jimmie and the 48 team had an outstanding run for the championship and the Chase. I think he's absolutely going to be in the Chase, and it's just a matter of having a little bit of luck and ten great races the last ten races of the year, and certainly looking forward to the '09 season, he's got his same guys coming back. He really had a big change from last -- from '07 to '08, so having the same crew chief and having the same guys come back, same sponsor, a lot of the same stuff, he should be very comfortable, and certainly Greg is a guy that has been around the sport for a long time and has won some championships in other series. So he knows how to be consistent and competitive, it's just about having the perfect ten-race stretch there in the Chase.
Q. What has Jack laid out as far his expectations for you in 2009, and what do you believe you need to do personally and what your team needs to do to get you over the hump and into the playoff?
DAVID RAGAN: We really haven't set down on a piece of paper expectations. We're all racers and we all know what's expected, and that's just progress. I think progress is something that from the first day you have to show progress in anything that you do, and I think that we've shown that since day one. Every race team is going to make mistakes, every driver is going to make mistakes, and I'm sure we're going to have some things on our race cars fail next year. But as long as we make progress and we try to do the right things and learn from our mistakes, I think that he'll be happy. And so by looking at last year's performance, I'll be devastated if we don't win a race in '09, and I'll be very disappointed if we don't make the Chase. Our expectations, and I'm sure Jack will agree to this, is to win some races, be in the Chase. We know we've still got some work to do to be a championship contender. We're not at that level that the 48 team and Carl and some of those guys are, but we know that we can run in the Top 10 week in and week out, and as long as we do what we're supposed to do and progress as a race team, we're going to be right there. And who knows, we may hit a hot streak and feel like we're a championship contender halfway through the year.
But as of right now, we're a race winner and being in the Chase.
Q. There's a line of thinking out there that the no testing thing is going to mean the teams that were fast last year, that were great last year, are going to be the same teams that are great this year. Do you think that the fact that you can't get out there and get on the tracks and do some work with that, is that going to hamper you guys, or do you feel like you have enough information or have you been testing enough at other places that you think it's going to be okay?
DAVID RAGAN: The No. 6 car, the UPS team, hasn't tested one lap since the last lap we ran was Homestead, and I don't see us running anything until we show up in Daytona. I think that at the end of the day, the big teams are going to be successful, the financially stable teams are going to be successful, and it doesn't matter what rule changes you do or what happens. The big teams and the teams with the most money are going to be the best teams on Sunday, and that's how it's been since I can remember and from all the stories that I hear my dad tell from the '60s and '70s and '80s, the big teams have always been the best teams, and I think that'll always continue to be the way things go.
No matter what you do, the teams like Roush and Hendrick and Gibbs and Childress that have sponsorship and that have four-car teams are going to be the best. I feel like Roush-Fenway is right there. We have a great group of engineers at the race shop that we're developing things even though we're not at the racetrack every week. We've got great new parts and pieces for our race car and are developing things that we're doing all back at the race shop. We're still developing stuff even though we're not at the racetrack, and we're going to be just as strong if not stronger. But it will be difficult for the smaller teams not to test, but it's been like that from day one.
RAMSEY POSTON: David, thank you. Look forward to seeing you come racing.
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