Ford Performance NASCAR: Atlanta (David Ragan Media Availability)

Ford PR

Ford Performance Notes and Quotes

Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series (MENCS)

Friday, February 22, 2019


EVENT: MENCS Driver Availability (David Ragan)


DAVID RAGAN, No. 38 FireAde Ford Mustang — THE LOCAL FAVORITE. WHAT IS IT LIKE TO BE HOME? “I thought you were going to ask how many speeding tickets I got down here. I love coming home to Georgia. It is still home to me. To be here is a great feeling. I love the race track. If you would pick this place up and move it in the middle of the country I would still enjoy racing here. I have so many memories racing my Bandalero Legends car there on the quarter-mile track with a lot of guys that are racing this weekend. I have a lot of friends and family. Unadilla, Georgia is about 60 miles south of here. My parents and family members and friends will be scattered around. It is great to be here and to look in the other series’ and see guys like Austin Hill and other young guys from the Georgia area representing strong. I am excited to be here. We have FireAde on our car, which is a local Georgia based company. I am glad the weather forecast looks great for Sunday and I look forward to a fun weekend.”


WHAT IS IT LIKE HAVING A THIRD, FULL TIME TEAMMATE THIS YEAR? “When we were able to add our third team, the timing was right and we were prepared. Sometimes when you add another car, if you do it at the wrong time or late in the game it can really bring the whole organization down some. I feel like Bob Jenkins and Jerry Freeze had that plan in place toward the end of last year and we were able to recruit some good employees with some of the larger teams downsizing in November and December. We attracted good guys working on the team but also building and preparing our race cars back in North Carolina. We have over 90 employees now at Front Row Motorsports. Body hanger and chassis guys and suspension guys, really talented employees that are working there. It is just another small step that Bob Jenkins and our entire Front Row Motorsports team have taken to gradually get a little better. We still have a long ways to go to catch Team Penske and RCR and Hendrick and some of those teams, but to be in our ninth full time season and to have three pretty good teams that work together that have good employees and be able to strengthen our employees back at the race shop, I think is a great thing. We won’t even realize some of the things it has done for our team until later in the season. We have had a lot of work changing our Fords over to Mustangs. We have been extremely busy. It all happened at the right time. It is fun to go over and talk to the guys after practice and coordinate what our plans are and what is good and what is bad.”


ANY EXTRA PRESSURE COMING TO YOUR HOME TRACK? “I definitely embrace it. We have a lot of friends and family and partners at a lot of tracks throughout the year and we put a lot of pressure on ourselves every weekend to perform at the best of our ability. Being in Atlanta keeps me busy but I embrace it and enjoy it. I love walking around the garage and seeing guys I have raced with some or driving through the infield and knowing people that are camping out here. I was busy all day yesterday at the Speedway Children’s Charity clay shoot and then went to visit a long time sponsor in North Georgia so I was on the roads and around town. I had dinner with a close friend last night and it is fun to come back here. THe icing on the cake is 500 miles here at a cool race track.”

WHAT IS IT LIKE TO COME BACK HERE AS A CUP SERIES DRIVER, KNOWING THIS IS LITERALLY WHERE IT ALL STARTED FOR YOU? “To put it in perspective, I remember here, I guess it was almost 20 years ago in 1997-98-99, racing my Bandolero car and just trying to sneak into the garage or trying to hang on by the fence and watch Bobby Labonte or Dale Jarrett or any of those guys drive by. I would think, ‘Man, that is really a Cup Series driver in that car.’ And seeing them go 200 mph into the corner was unbelievable. Then my first Truck Series race here in 2006 and then being able to run in Xfinity and Cup the following year. That was a neat highlight of my career. You always have other goals. You want to win races and sit on poles. I would love to be in victory lane here, in any of the top three series here, That would be a neat thing. Any of the guys that grew up around here, like Chase Elliott, I am sure would love to be at victory lane at a track you have a lot of history at. It is something that is rewarding and a good feeling to know that I was finally able to get there and now you have some other goals in front of you. To be able to make some laps here in a real race car was certainly a thrill back many years ago.”


HOW CAN YOU EXPLAIN TO THE AVERAGE FAN WHAT THE DIFFERENCE IN SPEED FEELS LIKE? DO YOU FEEL YOU WILL BE ABLE TO MAKE MORE BOLDER, AGGRESSIVE MOVES DUE TO THE LACK OF SPEED? “I was really shocked to see that the pole speed last year was just less than a second faster than what we ran today. It is really remarkable to think that when NASCAR makes these rule changes, the teams are so smart and able to adapt at such a fast rate where we can tune on our race cars. Doug Yates and the Ford Performance team tune on the engines. You are always getting more and getting faster and faster. That is why NASCAR adjusts the rules from year to year, because we are always improving the product. I feel a high rate of speed and sensation through the corners like I normally would here but you get there a little slower and exit the corner a little slower. I think handling will still be important. The guys that can get over the bumps and manage their tires and have a good handling car are going to be able to get through the most important part of the race track which are the middle of the corners on both ends. The will get through easier, better and more efficient than the other guys. You can tell down the straightaway that tyou don’t quite have that extra horsepower pulling you down the straightaway but once you get into the corner you better hold onto the steering wheel because your car still bounces around and is still loose and still tight.”


ARE YOU SAYING IT IS THE SAME OLD, SAME OLD? “It is similar. I think you will see about 50-percent of the realized potential that we will see with this new package here this weekend at Atlanta. The track surface is worn out and the tire combination Goodyear brings here puts down a lot of rubber and loses grip through a run at a faster rate than any track we go to and we don’t have the aero ducts in. Those are factors that will keep the cars racing in a little tighter packs on restarts but you will eventually get spread out and it will look like a traditional Atlanta race. If you just woke up from a 12-month sleep from last year, you really wouldn’t notice a difference I don’t think. We will see that at Las Vegas though because we will have the aero ducts in and the track surface and tire combination is different.”


I WAS PICTURING TEAM DRAFTING AT EVERY INTERMEDIATE TRACK, INCLUDING HERE, BUT HARVICK AND HAMLIN SAID THEIR TEAMS HAVEN’T EVEN TALKED ABOUT THAT. ARE THEY HOLDING THEIR CARDS CLOSE TO THEIR CHEST OR WILL CARS NOT BE DRAFTING TOGETHER IN QUALIFYING? “I think they are lying. They have definitely talked about it. Can you do it or not? I don’t think you can do it because of the handling characteristics and we have the cars trimmed out to go as fast as we can by yourself and they generally don’t handle as well when you straighten the rear end up a little bit and try to make them go as fast as they can. I think at Las Vegas you will see multiple cars. I drove one of the cars at the Vegas test a few weeks ago and there is no question that when you pulled out behind a car you could run a few tenths faster but it was easier to hold it wide open. Here, at points on both ends, if you look at the driver traces during practice, a lot of guys were lifting. When you are racing the maximum potential that tires have, you have to lift a little bit. Having that dirty air in the corners almost makes that worse., What you gain by having drafting ability down the straightaway you lose in the corner. In the perfect scenario if you could draft someone down the straightaway but break away in the corner a little bit, but that isn’t practical either. I guarantee you will see a change on Friday afternoon next week at Las Vegas and the other extreme will be Texas and Michigan where it will be a lot bigger tracks. The worn out tracks like Chicago and here in Atlanta, you are oversaturating the tires to where you can’t do that in the corners. But they have talked about it. We have talked about it, so I know they have.”


Greg Engle