David Ragan, driver of the No. 6 UPS Ford Fusion for Roush Fenway Racing, has just one word for racing under the lights at Bristol. To Ragan, it is just “thrilling”.
“Bristol is a thrilling place,” Ragan said. “It keeps the drivers on the edge and the fans on the edge of their seats.”
While his thoughts are on Bristol this weekend, Ragan is also still riding the wave of this past weekend’s successful race in the Irish hills of Michigan. Ragan finished 11th, earning him a phone call from team owner Jack Roush, just back at the track and still recovering from his wicked plane crash.
“Michigan is a good track for our team,” Ragan said. “We’ve had some top-5 and top-10 finishes there the last few years. So, we’re always going to Michigan with high expectations.”
“You know, to finish 11th is certainly not what we go there to do,” Ragan continued. “But to lead a few laps and be in contention for a top-10 finish at the end of the race was all we can ask.”
“Our car was a little too loose toward the end of the race,” Ragan said. “We just didn’t make quite the right adjustments to get a top-5 out of it.”
Ragan admitted that both he and crew chief Donnie Wingo are continuing to work on their communication, chemistry, and relationship. This is the first year of the partnership together on the UPS Ford race team.
“We’re still spending time together and learning each other more and more throughout the season,” Ragan said. “The more time we can spend time at the race track and away from the race track, the more we trust each other and feel comfortable with each other.”
While most drivers focus on their relationships with their crew chiefs, Ragan advises that there is a third element to success, a good relationship and communication with the engineer.
“The third part of that triangle is our team engineer,” Ragan said. “I think that’s important too. You need the crew chief, driver and engineer to gel and that’s what’s going to get us to that next level.”
Ragan also admitted that it was great to have team owner Jack Roush back at the track for the Michigan race. All four of the Roush Fenway race teams performed well in honor of their team owner’s return, with Ragan in 11th and teammates Carl Edwards, Greg Biffle and Matt Kenseth coming in third, fourth and fifth respectively.
“It was good to have Jack around the race track this weekend,” Ragan said. “Jack’s a tough old guy but it just shows you what kind of determination he has to be back at the race track. Everyone’s encouraged when they see their boss man walking around.”
Ragan expects that Roush will continue to be back at the track with his teams, including the race this weekend at Bristol. Ragan is looking forward to the short track racing under the lights, going into the event with a top ten finish there under his belt, as well as a Nationwide win at Bristol in 2009.
“Bristol has been a good track for us,” Ragan said. “But Bristol is also a crazy track. Anything can happen there.”
Crew chief Donnie Wingo agrees with his driver’s analysis of the Bristol Motor Speedway.
“Track position is so important at a place like Bristol,” Wingo said. “With so many cars on a half-mile surface it can be all too easy to go a lap down or get caught up in a wreck. We’ve got a fast UPS Ford and we should be good this weekend.”
“We’ll just have to have a little bit of luck on our side,” Ragan said. He is also aware that the racing will be intense at the short track, especially after watching the Truck Series race on Wednesday evening.
“I watched bits and pieces of it,” Ragan said about the Truck race. “It looked pretty rough.”
The good news for Ragan coming into the Bristol race weekend is that he does not have axes to grind with other drivers. On the flip side, Ragan also feels that there is no one seeking revenge for any of his past wrongdoings either.
“I don’t really have a hit list this weekend,” Ragan said with a chuckle. “And I’m not on anyone’s hit list. But that may change very quickly once we get there and get going.”
One thing that Ragan is certain of is that there will be lots of action at this upcoming race weekend in Thunder Valley.
“Everything happens very fast there,” Ragan continued. “I think it’s one of the great places to go and watch a NASCAR race.”
Ragan and his fellow drivers will take to the short track of Bristol Motor Speedway for the Irwin Tools Night Race on Saturday, August 21st. The race will be broadcast at 7:30 PM ET on ABC.