NASCAR Sprint Cup Series: Aaron's 499
Topics: Aaron's 499
May 5, 2013
KERRY THARP: David Ragan, let's hear from our race winner. He drove the No.34 Farm Rich Ford for Front Row Motorsports in a one‑two finish today. Congratulations to owner Bob Jenkins, crew chief Jay Guy. This is David's second win in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, his first win at Talladega in the Sprint Cup Series, and David, just take us through that last green‑white‑checkered. Kind of like the Kentucky Derby yesterday; that horse just came out of nowhere. That 34 car got through there and won this race. Tell us how you did it.
DAVID RAGAN: I wouldn't want to line up and have to do it again. When we took the green we were running 10th, and the outside lane today had been a little bit better all day long. Got a good restart. I don't know what happened on that first lap, but coming around, and when we took the white I was pushing the 43, and he jumped to the outside of the 20 getting into Turn 1, and I didn't want to be on the top lane going down the back straightaway, the top lane hadn't served well enough down the back straightaway today. The 20 car had been the class of the field all day long. I saw him right in front of me, and so I decided to stick with him.
I thought that maybe we could get a good run and race for the win coming out of Turn 4, but I didn't know at the time the 38, David Gilliland, was hooked to my rear bumper, and so that gave me a little extra confidence coming out of Turn 2, we were probably running 4th or 5th at the time that I could make the right moves and I knew that he was going to stick with me. So the 99 was leading. I think he tried to block the 17, which allowed me a clean hole on the bottom, so I went low, Carl, I guess, didn't see me come quick enough or we had such a fast run, I was able to get position on him, and I don't know still today how the 38 had such a good run, and he was just pushing me unbelievably through 3 and 4.
I knew once I came out of Turn 4 we had enough steam that I could have made my car wide enough that we were going to make it back around to the start‑finish line. It's a huge, huge deal for us to be sitting here right now, and it makes it even more special to get a one‑two finish. Can you believe that?
KERRY THARP: Crew chief Jay Guy is with us. Jay, take us through today's race. Certainly was a marathon out there. You had to battle the elements, do some things on pit road. Talk about the significance of today's win?
JAY GUY: Well, it's a huge win for Front Row Motorsports and our owner Bob Jenkins and David and everybody on the team and all the guys back at the shop. Today is a long day. It's a long weekend. You're here at the racetrack early in the morning and you're out late at night, and with the ray delay and everything like that everybody had to keep focused and keep to our game plan. We approached today with a game plan and we executed it, and it worked out well for us today, obviously. We didn't end up wrecked or anything like that, so it's just a proud day for everybody, and it's a great finish for Front Row with David Gilliland in second and us with a win.
KERRY THARP: Owner Bob Jenkins, congratulations on a big day today at Talladega. Talk about the significance of David winning the race and also going one‑two today at Talladega.
BOB JENKINS: What makes it special is just the time and effort that these guys put into these cars, and there's a lot of owners out there that they get the best available driver they can get, and they're like a hired gun. But the thing that I think makes our team different than some of the rest is we're so close, and more than anything we're friends, and I know I've got drivers that are capable of winning races. I've got guys at the shop that have the heart to win races. We just haven't always had the resources.
So the challenge for me is as we build cars to make them better every week and put ourselves in a position to win a race, and that's what happened today. If it hadn't been for David Ragan and David Gilliland working together at the end, we wouldn't have it. Most of August it's so satisfying that over the last nine years every year we've gotten a little bit better and I felt the progress and I knew it was just a matter of time before we'd win one of these things.
Q. I hate to be the spoil sport right off the bat, but there's a controversy raging that I don't know if you're aware of. Brad Keselowski claims, I don't know if you either lined up wrong on the final restart or you changed lanes before the restart. Are you familiar with this? Do you know what he's alleging?
DAVID RAGAN: Yes. We were running 8th when I guess the one to go around the caution time, and NASCAR, I guess it's standard procedure, they always go back through the running order and adjust any cars that need to be adjusted, I guess with film maybe when the caution came out in that back straightaway wreck, and I knew that we were probably a little higher than what we should be because we were running 20th or so when that wreck happened and we made it through, so they adjusted the lineup. Who were the other car that‑‑
Q. The 95.
DAVID RAGAN: The 95, the 2, and then the 34. So NASCAR says that on the radio. They tell the spotters, tell the crew chief, and so the 95 pulls up. Well, obviously Brad wanted to start on the outside, because he knew the same thing that I knew, that the outside lane had an advantage on the restart but he just didn't want to listen to NASCAR. So NASCAR makes the call on where we line up at, and I listen to what NASCAR has to say. My spotter told me that's what they radioed on the NASCAR channel, the crew chief said the same thing, and Brad was just trying to snooker us and get the preferred lane, and eventually he decided he should do the right thing and he restarted ninth and I restarted 10th, so there's no controversy. But I'm glad you got that out because I had that already prepared. I was ready to talk about it. I was mad going down the back straightaway and I was screaming at my spotter and at Jay, somebody please get NASCAR, maybe the 2's radio wasn't working and Brad didn't know. Sometimes you don't get that message relayed. It's been wet, sometimes the radios have issues when it rains. I thought maybe the 2 didn't know, but I'm sure he knew and he was trying to play it smooth.
Q. He still‑‑
DAVID RAGAN: Well, NASCAR will set him straight eventually. He maybe won't admit it, but he knows that he lined up in the right spot and I lined up in the right spot.
Q. Bob, you're not in here very often. We don't know a lot about you. Can you tell us about yourself and your background and the joys and frustrations about competing with nickels and dimes against teams that are doing it with bigger budgets?
BOB JENKINS: I wouldn't say it's nickels and dimes, but I will say this, in the racing graveyard, my epitaph won't be I won the most races or championships, but I want to be know as a team that did the most with the least. Every year we try to get better. We work within ourselves. The chassis we run we build, so we're not able to go out and buy products from other teams, and that's a disadvantage, but on a day like today it really makes you feel good because you know the equipment that you won the race with was what you built in your own shop.
That's what makes it so gratifying is to see these guys‑‑ they make less than what a top‑tier team would make, but they're still at the shop doing the same thing every day, and it paid off for them today. For me I'd much rather do it this way than to go out and write a check for top‑tier equipment.
Q. Both you and David Gilliland immediately thanked God or a higher power. Both of you mentioned David versus Goliath. Does that make it even better when you invoke that imagery or something like what happened today?
DAVID RAGAN: Absolutely. It's funny, we certainly have a lot to be thankful for, and we owe what we're doing here today to God and the Lord, and some of the drivers, myself, David, Trevor Bayne, Josh Wise, Michael McDowell, Sam Hornish, Jr., we get together on a weekly basis and have a little Bible study and try to incorporate the good word amongst the commotion that we often have on race weekends.
But we're just here going through the motions and just trying to do the best we can with what we have to work with. Not only was someone watching over us on those last couple laps, but just the whole day today, the fans that stuck it out, the NASCAR officials, the corner workers, the Air Titan and jet dryer drivers, just everybody that made this day possible. It probably wasn't meant to be, but everyone had their hearts set on completing 500 miles here at Talladega. So it was special to do that, and we were in a position to give God the glory, and I'm thankful for that.
You can't do this without friends and teammates and people on your team, and I couldn't have won today's race without David. I know he wishes that he was sitting in my shoes right now, and I kind of wish that he would have had a chance to win the race, too. But man, it was a great finish, and I'm glad that he's thankful for finishing second. It makes it so much sweeter to get a one‑two finish.
Q. A lot of veteran drivers when they win, they talk about how much they cherish the victory because they don't know whether they'll ever have a another one again. Do you feel that way?
DAVID RAGAN: Yeah, you cherish them a lot. You know, I won my first Nationwide race here four or five years ago, and I'm like man, I'm glad to get a NASCAR win. You don't want to be that guy that runs NASCAR, competes in NASCAR for a number of years and you don't win a race. I was like, man, I don't want to be that guy that runs a long time and never wins a Cup race. We finally get that one win in Cup and then you think to yourself, man, I don't want to be that guy that just wins one Cup race, I want to win two. So you're always thinking about that. Yeah, these wins are few and far between. I hear some of the older guys talk about it like a Bobby Labonte who made his 700th career start, Michael Waltrip, they say that kind of stuff. Right now I've already thought about Darlington and what we're going to do next Friday when we get to Darlington and unload, and the challenge that we're going to have there in the All‑Star Race and stuff like that.
We're going to enjoy this, we're going to celebrate it, but I guarantee we're going to be at Front Row early in the morning. I know Jay is going to be there at 6:30 in the morning when we have our meeting, and we're going to be worried about Darlington. When I'm an old man and sitting around talking about these races, it'll mean a lot more then than it does today.
KERRY THARP: Speaking of the All‑Star Race, I was remiss in not saying, that with this win today, you do qualify for the 2013 NASCAR Sprint Cup All‑Star Race at Charlotte Motor Speedway, so congratulations to that as well.
DAVID RAGAN: Thank you. That's a big deal for our team, for our sponsors. We try to sell Front Row Motorsports, and it's tough to sell a team that we run 15th or 20th or 25th, we're not battling for a championship. So it's tough to do that, and that means a lot to be in our all‑star event in our sport, which I think is the best all‑star event in any of the major league sports. I feel truly blessed to be there.
Q. David, can you and Jay both talk about the Gen‑6 car and despite how strong you've been on restrictor plate tracks in the past, is the Generation 6 car a bit of an equalizer among the teams?
DAVID RAGAN: It has been a little equalizer, absolutely, because it forced teams like us that generally don't go through our complete inventory over the off‑season, it forces us to really go through, and Bob and our team made an investment this off‑season to go through our chassis, upgrade some of our suspension components, stuff that other teams do on a weekly basis we got to do at the end of the year, and I look at some of our qualifying stats, some of our running positions at some of the non‑restrictor plate tracks this season, and we're a few spots better and more competitive this year than we were last. Absolutely, the Gen‑6 car has not only provided for some outstanding races, but it has helped the Front Row Motorsports, the Tommy Baldwin Racings, the smaller teams of Sprint Cup racing be more competitive.
JAY GUY: I agree. The new Gen‑6 car, everybody's starting in the same playing field right now, and it's a great equalizer. It's a great car. It looks great. So far the results on the racetrack have been to me a little bit surprising, but NASCAR did a great job with the Gen‑6 car, and we've made our cars a little bit better, and we're certainly not contending for wins on a weekly basis or even top 10s, but it's enabled us to be a little bit better than what we were in years past, and we look forward to going to Darlington.
Q. David, I saw your tweet yesterday about clarifying for fans that you weren't Regan Smith. Have you checked your Twitter account today to see if they're congratulating the real winner of this race, and do you think this might raise your profile?
DAVID RAGAN: Regan and I joke about that a lot. We're similar age and we're friends, but we couldn't be from the farthest part of the country. He's from upstate New York and I'm from south Georgia, and there is nothing similar about those two parts of the United States, so we joke about that, and I was happy for Regan yesterday winning the race. I haven't had a chance to look at my Sprint phone yet, I'm not like these other guys that carry my phone around in my pocket and in the race car, so it's back in the motor home, the battery is probably dead and it's probably got a lot of voicemail, so I'll look at it here in a little bit, but it might help a little bit, so I'll look forward to seeing it, hopefully in a good way.
Q. You and I both are the exact same age, grew up idolizing Chipper Jones, and I know your love of NASCAR trumps anything to do with the Braves right now, but what's it like winning in front of somebody you grew up rooting for?
DAVID RAGAN: Yeah, the only year I loved baseball more than NASCAR was 1995 when Atlanta won the World Series. I talked to Chipper a little bit in the drivers' meeting and he obviously meets a lot of people and he probably kind of knows me but probably don't remember and I had to remind him, I'm a big fan and I've enjoyed your career and I watched him in AAA. He played for the Macon Braves, which aren't even in existence anymore, and we used to go up there when I was five, six, seven years old and watch a lot of those guys that were superstars for the Braves in the mid‑90s play in Macon. That's pretty cool. I haven't seen him. I hope he watched the race. It was a long day, but I'll definitely look him up soon, but it was cool to see Chipper here, and sometimes I felt like this off‑season I was going to miss him playing third base for the Braves, but they've been doing pretty good without him. It's good to see him here. He's a big race fan. He's a huge supporter of NASCAR, so it was good to see Chipper here today.
Q. Since Bob said that he knew this day would come, I'll ask David and Jay if they thought this day would ever come.
DAVID RAGAN: Absolutely we thought it would come one day, and we actually talked about it on the grid before the race and even at the halfway point. We missed that first wreck, and we all had decent speed, good handling cars, no damage, and we kind of talked about, hey, this is a perfect recipe for success. We've got to keep fighting and keep being smart.
You always believe that it can happen, but I don't know that I ever really practiced my victory lane speech in my head or anything. I didn't think about it that much. But absolutely, you believe in yourself, your team, and we're kind of leaders of our team, and we need to set a good example for our teammates and for our shop employees, so yeah, we've had the right attitude. We've felt that we could win at one of these speedway races or a road course or something like that, and I'm glad that we came through.
JAY GUY: We've worked really hard at Front Row on our speedway program because it's a great equalizer racing at Daytona and Talladega. This is our chance to shine, so we always put a little extra effort into these races. Did I think when I woke up this morning that we were going to be sitting here today? No. I thought we had a good shot at being in the top 10 solidly. Last year we finished 7th and 4th, but that's last year. You can't live off what you did yesterday.
But I thought our pit crew has taken a big step forward, and our team has gotten stronger as a whole. I thought we had a chance, but to be up here today, I'd be lying if I said, yeah, I expected to be here.
Q. This is for Bob Jenkins: You all have talked about the emotional win, what it does emotionally for you all to get a victory like this. How does it help you financially when you look at those numbers? That's a pretty good purse.
BOB JENKINS: Well, it always helps, but it's not‑‑ it's not why we race.
DAVID RAGAN: It'll be gone in a week and a half.
BOB JENKINS: Trust me, these guys know how to spend it. But it'll help our program, there's no doubt about that. The thing we've done is although it's an expensive sport, we just reinvest what we make back into the sport. That's the only way we're going to get better. My philosophy from the beginning is, in this sport, you have to make your own place at the table. Nobody is going to give it to you. I've always felt like if we can go out and perform and put out a good product, then sponsorship will come, respect will come, and hopefully wins will come, so that's kind of been our attitude all along.
KERRY THARP: Speaking of Chipper Jones, he just congratulated you on Twitter.
DAVID RAGAN: Thank you, Chipper.
Q. For David and Bob, can you talk about what this win means as far as the future of your organization? You're going to have to go race next week. Does this matter?
DAVID RAGAN: Oh, absolutely. It matters for our partners, our sponsors. It's tough to sell sponsorship for a team that's going to be 15th to 25th on average. We have higher goals, and we expect to improve, but it doesn't happen overnight, and it doesn't happen in one or two seasons.
All of our sponsors, Peanut Patch, one of our bigger sponsors that's going to be on the car next week, CSX that was on the car last week, Love's Travel Stops on David's car this weekend, it goes so far. I'm sure that Bob, our general manager Jerry Freeze can touch on that a little bit more. But it gives them the confidence that we haven't been telling them a story or we're lying to them. We know we're getting better, that we're working hard. They've took a chance on us, and we've worked hard and we've done what we said we're going to do. But it does help a lot in confidence. It goes a long way for our guys that work six days a week that don't get to enjoy the racetrack perks of traveling every weekend, they have to stay at the shop and work 50, 60 hours a week building these cars. It gives them some confidence and hope, and it's a big thing. Absolutely, it's a big thing.
BOB JENKINS: One thing I'd like to say, too, is so much credit goes to David. He was driving for a top‑tier team, had UPS as a sponsor, and when he left, he bought into what we were trying to do at Front Row, and the thing that makes him so different from a lot of other drivers is his expectations of himself and his team never changed, and he brought that to Front Row. He didn't look at it as if, hey, I'm taking a step down here. I realize I'm going to be a back marker or whatever. He continues to expect a lot out of himself and a lot out of his team, and I think what happened is people bought into that and they followed behind him and we've seen results from it. I don't know of too many drivers that would do that, but that's what makes this so special is because he believes in what we're doing. It's more than just he works for me, we work together. And it's the same way with David Gilliland and Josh Wise. The chemistry in this group is so strong that I didn't know when it would come, I just knew something special was going to come from this group of drivers.
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