David Ragan readies for Indy


David Ragan, driver of the No. 6 AAA Insurance Ford Fusion, is in 15th place in the NASCAR Sprint Cup standings heading into this weekend’s Allstate 400 at the Brickyard. He is 98 points out of the top 12. This will mark Ragan’s second career start at the famed Indianapolis Motor Speedway; he finished 16th in last year’s race.

DAVID RAGAN – No. 6 AAA Insurance Ford Fusion –

 DO YOU CONSIDER YOURSELF A STUDENT OF THE HISTORY OF THIS SPORT, AND IF SO, WHAT DOES COMPETING AT INDIANAPOLIS MOTOR SPEEDWAY MEAN TO YOU? “Certainly. I love the history of NASCAR, I love the history of racing, and being at Indianapolis is something big – not only for me, but for my family and my friends. I grew up where Daytona, Charlotte, Darlington – places like that – meant just as much to me as Indy, but the older I’ve gotten and the more that I’ve learned, not only about NASCAR but about this sport, a lot of it starts back here at Indy. It’s cool to be here. It’s cool just to see the fans. The atmosphere feels just a little different than any other race throughout the year. Just walk through the garage and look at everything – I’ve never been up here for a 500, but it’s pretty special to be up here and race. It’s nice to have my father and some family up here to enjoy the nice weekend.”

YOU MENTIONED WALKING THROUGH THE GARAGE; DO YOU EVER WALK OUT ON THE TRACK HERE TO TAKE A CLOSER LOOK AT SOME OF THE THINGS YOU’VE PROBABLY SEEN COUNTLESS TIMES ON TV? “Oh, yeah. I’ll walk down pit road and take a look at getting into turn one and just seeing the amounts of people here and the cars lined up on pit road, and on the front straightaway for the 500, and even growing up watching the Brickyard, and just walking around and looking and enjoying everything. And that’s certainly petty neat, pretty special to be able to do.”

WHAT’S THE FEELING WHEN YOU DRIVE DOWN THE FRONTSTRETCH, WITH STANDS ON BOTH SIDES OF THE TRACK? “The first few times you do it, it really, really feels weird, and I’m sure it’ll be a little different and something special the first few times, the first few laps of practice. And certainly the race is exciting; you’ve got the cars all around you, and just a lot of stuff going on. But, the more you get used to it, the more comfortable you get, and then what’s really weird is you go the following week to Pocono and it’s completely different again. So, about the time you get used to it, you have to switch it all up again.”

WITH SEVEN RACES TO GO BEFORE THE CUTOFF TO THE CHASE, YOU ARE IN 15TH PLACE, LESS THAN 100 POINTS FROM THE TOP 12. ARE YOU PROUD OF THE SEASON YOU’RE HAVING, SO FAR? “We’re proud of where we’re at, but certainly we think that we could be a little better. A few mistakes throughout the year and we would be in the top 10 comfortable, but we’ve learned a lot this year, and we’re really excited about the last 15 or 18 races. Certainly, making the Chase is our number-one priority right now – top-five, top-10 finishes, that’s what’s going to get us there. We can’t depend on the other teams struggling, we can’t depend on the other teams having mechanical failure or something like that, we’ve just got to go out and do what we know is right as a team and try to do what we’ve been doing all year without making mistakes. I felt like our AAA Fords have been real fast all year, and it’d just a matter of showing a little bit of patience and making some good moves on the race track and on pit road. So, I feel like we’ve had a good year, it hasn’t been perfect, it’s certainly an improvement from last year, but we’ve got to constantly show improvement and get to where we want to be at.”

DOES YOUR STRATEGY CHANGE FOR THIS WEEKEND IN TERMS OF TRYING WIN VERSUS GAINING POINTS? “My strategy is not going to change at all. You can’t really go out and force the issue on trying to win races, you just have to put yourself in position and anything can happen that last fuel run or the last 50 miles. For us, it’s just about getting consistent laps throughout the race, get good pit-strategy calls and just trying to put ourselves in position. If we’re in position with 50 laps to go or the last fuel run, we’re certainly going to take some chances and try to win the race. But from the drop of the green flag to two-thirds through the race, we’re just going to do what we know what’s right, try not to make any mistakes, try not to hurt ourselves and try to be around at the end.”

JACK ROUSH TALKED ABOUT THE FUTURE OF THE ORGANIZATION TODAY AND MENTIONED FOUR DRIVERS, NOT FIVE; HE DIDN’T MENTION JAMIE McMURRAY. IS THERE A SHIFT GOING ON IN THE ORGANIZATION TOWARD JUST FOUR CARS? “I don’t see that. I think next year we’re still going to have the five cars, and I really hadn’t thought about that much at all. I think that’s something that Jack Roush and Robbie Reiser and Geoff Smith, some of those guys are going to concentrate on, and the only thing that I need to concentrate on is our 6 car and our Nationwide program and our Cup program, trying to find Victory Lane and be consistent. Jimmy Fennig and I, we just work on that sole project of having fast race cars and trying to win races, and we’ll let Geoff Smith and Jack and all those guys handle the details on the race teams.”

SPEAKING OF THE NATIONWIDE SERIES, HOW MUCH OF AN ADVANTAGE TO YOU FEEL YOU KNOW HAVE WITH THE NEW RULES ADJUSTMENTS, WHICH ESSENTIALLY TAKES AWAY 15-20 HORSEPOWER FROM TOYOTA? “Well, it’s going to help a little bit. Toyota coming in, spending unlimited amounts of money being able to design their engine for racing right up front, and we’ve had to work with basically the same engine package as long as I’ve been around – we haven’t had anything fresh and new. So, we just need to keep working hard. Certainly, we don’t want anything given to us, but we just want a fair, equal shot, and I feel like that’s a good start. We’ve still got to continue to work hard. That’s not going to be any easier. All of the Toyota teams are strong teams and they all have quality drivers, you don’t see them making many mistakes, and they’re still going to be tough to beat. But, hopefully, it will give the fans in the grandstands a little more competition on the races.”

THERE IS AN ARGUMENT OUT THERE THAT’S JUST BEEN JOE GIBBS RACING DOMINATING FOR TOYOTA, AND THE OTHER TEAMS FOR THE MANUFACTURE ARE GOING TO BE AT A DISADVANTAGE BECAUSE THEY HAVEN’T BEEN WINNING. IS IT REALLY A LEVEL PLAYING FIELD FOR THOSE TEAMS? “I think so. I think they have the same stuff to work with as Joe Gibbs Racing does. You see those Toyotas running strong and I think they’re fast. They have speed. But they just make more mistakes than the guys at Joe Gibbs make. They don’t make mistakes, and that’s why you see them in Victory Lane a lot more than everybody else. They have fast cars, I think, equally as the guys at Gibbs. They’re basically running the same engine package and they have the same notes and the same stuff to go off of from the manufacturer that all the other teams do, and I think that the bottom line is that the guys at Gibbs don’t make the mistakes the other teams do. Maybe they can look at it on the bright side and maybe it’ll make them work a little harder and not to make many mistakes, and they’ll be a better race team because of it.”

ON THE NATIONWIDE SIDE, WHAT TYPE OF GRADE YOU WOULD GIVE YOUR TEAM? “A ‘B.’ We’re sitting fifth in points, we’ve already beat our top-fives and our top-10s from last year at this point. We always expect and want a little bit more. I’m happy on where we’re at, but we’ve got to get a little more consistent. We’ve been just average on a few races and that’s just not going to cut it. We’ve got to get a little bit better. Our Discount Tire pit crew, they’ve been working hard, pretty young group of guys. Everything just takes a little bit of time. But, we’ve been strong, we’ve had some chances to win races, but we’ve still got to get better. And I think we’ve been just as strong, if not a little stronger on the Cup side this year.”

YOU’VE SEEN FOOTAGE OF TEAMS WINNING HERE AND KISSING THE BRICKS. HAVE YOU ALLOWED YOURSELF TO DREAM ABOUT WHAT THAT WOULD BE LIKE? “Oh, yeah. I think about winning every weekend we go to. Ultimately, like I said before, you can’t go out and force the issue of winning upon yourself and your team or you’ll go out and make mistakes. You’ve just got to go out and put yourself in position toward the end of the race and anything can happen, and I think that’s where we’re at now. We can’t afford to make mistakes the first two-thirds of the race in trying to push the issue, and it’s not going to mean anything once you’re sitting in the garage with a torn-up race car, so you just have to be around at the end and the last fuel run or the last 50 laps you go out and put it all on the line. If you’re in a position to win the race, you make some pit-strategy calls or you drive a little extra harder, take chances that you normally wouldn’t take. Certainly a win here is something that’s cool and important, but you have to be around at the end to see it.”

YOUR CREW CHIEF, JIMMY FENNIG, REMAINS MATTER-OF-FACT ABOUT THE SUCCESSES OF THE 6 TEAM AND YOUR DEVELOPMENT AS A DRIVER. HAS THAT BEEN THE MINDSET OF THIS TEAM THIS YEAR? “Yeah. We look at the bottom line every weekend. We look and see who’s fast, who’s slow, what we have to work on, what our weaknesses are, and that’s what we go and work on. I feel like the road courses this year have been our weaknesses and that’s what we’ve been practicing on and testing, going to two road courses next week to test at two different tracks. So, I think that’s the way you get things done. If you overlook things and something’s not that pretty but you want to take the easy road out and just kind of get by, I think that’s the difference between running 10th and running 25th. Some Mondays are easier than others, but the bottom line is we’re here to do a good job for AAA and for Jack Roush and for Ford Motor Company. You have to look at the bottom line and look at the facts and look at the things that need correcting, and those are the things that we go to work on.”

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