Ford Performance NASCAR: David Ragan Phoenix Media Availability

Ford Performance Notes and Quotes
Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series (MENCS)
Friday, November 8, 2019

EVENT: Bluegreens Vacation 500, ISM Raceway (Media Availability)

DAVID RAGAN, No. 38 Mannington Commercial Ford Mustang – THOUGHTS ON THESE LAST TWO RACES. “Thanks to Mannington Commercial. It’s their second race on our Ford Mustang this year, so it’s always cool to have some new partners who are excited to be here at Phoenix this weekend. I don’t have a lot of thoughts or emotions going into my final couple of races. I’m a pretty low-key kind of guy and my wife and two girls did a really neat thing this week. They surprised me with a special helmet that they drew and painted for the weekend at Homestead and my guys at Fox on Race Hub covered that and gave me a really big surprise earlier this week, so that was pretty nice. I’m kind of a low-key kind of guy. I don’t know that I would have ever thought about doing something like that, but kudos to my wife for having that thought and for keeping it a secret because I had no idea that was going to happen. I kind of joked with her a few times that we would probably be leaving Homestead next week and I would probably say, ‘Man, I guess we should have taken a few pictures today or something.’ So at least she’s thinking a little bit ahead, but, it’s kind of business as usual. Obviously, we want to finish the year on a good note. I don’t want to have two DNFs and two bad races the final two races of the year. We want to race hard and try to get a good finish. We’re not racing for a playoff spot or Championship 4 at Homestead, but we still have some things we would like to accomplish and try to help Front Row Motorsports learn some more things that will help them over the off season in building cars for next year.”

WHAT HAS BEEN THE BIGGEST CHANGE IN THE SPORT DURING YOUR TIME? “The first thought that comes to my mind is I feel like the field is separated a little bit more. I feel like when I first came into this sport you had guys that could run in the mid-20s every week, but if they hit the right setup they had the potential in their race car to run in the top five or win a race. You saw that on occasion with some one-off winners at different tracks, and I think that’s harder than ever today because the top two or three teams with so many rule changes that we’ve had the last couple of years, they have separated themselves from the rest of the pack, but that separation is not that big. It’s only a few tenths, but that’s a very important couple a tenths of a second, so you don’t see that many surprise winners anymore, at least not from my perspective in the last few years. Obviously, a Daytona or Talladega can be a little bit of a crapshoot, but even there you don’t see that anymore, certainly at a track like Phoenix or a short track or even at a road course. I felt like there was 12, 13 years ago you could be 25th in points and just have a mediocre season going, but you hit it just right and you had the potential to get up there to the top five. I think that’s kind of gone away and I feel like the biggest reason is some of the rule changes, those top two or three teams have broken away from everyone else and also they are so smart they don’t make many mistakes like they used to. So I think a combination of those two or three things has allowed two or three teams to win all the races, and I think NASCAR has identified that and from my perspective I feel like they’re making some adjustments with this NextGen car that will hopefully address some of that because I think it would be good for the entire sport. I don’t think those top two or three teams would like to have some other guys have chances to win, but I think it’s healthy when you can have 14 to 16, 17 different winners and on some different teams throughout the season.”

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HAVE YOU TALKED TO FRONT ROW ABOUT IF THEY NEED SOMEONE NEXT SEASON TO FILL IN FOR MATT TIFFT? WOULD YOU BE INTERESTED IN THAT? “No, we haven’t talked about that. I’m open to helping out if the situation is right and if it’s right for David Ragan and if it’s right for Front Row Motorsports, but they haven’t asked me and we haven’t had any conversation. I have talked to Matt a couple of times and he seems to be in real good spirits and he’s got a real specific plan on what he’s gonna do the next few weeks, the next month or so, and I think he’s got a good plan of attack, but, no, I haven’t been asked and we haven’t had that conversation.”

IS THERE ANY REASON WHY YOU HAVE BEEN SO SUSTAINABLE IN THIS SPORT AND IS THERE ANY ADVICE YOU WOULD GIVE OTHERS? “I think a couple of things. Timing is everything in this world. Getting the right opportunity. Having the right win come at the right time. Having the right sponsorship. Having rules that play in your favor and timing was on my side a few times. There were multiple occasions at Roush, where I was probably close to getting fired, but I was able to win a couple of XFINITY races. We had a new sponsor come in and able to finally win a Cup race and so a few of those things I was able to kind of hang in there, and I think over the course of my career I just felt like I was all-in. I would do anything the sponsors asked. I tried not to burn any bridges. I tried to treat everybody with respect and my wins and championships and top fives and 10s aren’t as good as a lot of the guys I came in with and raced during the last 13 years, but I felt like I was good enough for the teams to help build Front Row Motorsports. I was good for our manufacturer. I was at a point in my career when I didn’t know exactly what my program was gonna look like at Front Row Motorsports and Kyle gets injured and I’m able to go and sub for him and transition over to MWR that season, so things have just kind of fallen to where I was very grateful. They weren’t always easy and it wasn’t always real sexy, but it allowed me to stay full-time and to keep racing. Whether it was a bad opportunity or a good opportunity I tried to take it serious and work as hard as I could on that.”

DO YOU FEEL THERE ARE OTHER WAYS YOU CAN GIVE BACK TO THIS SPORT THAT ISN’T AS A DRIVER? “I’m gonna work on some different projects next year. Ford Motor Company has been a really good partner of mine and a supporter of my career since day one, and so I’m working with those guys on how I can help the big picture from Ford Performance and how we can work on next year and the Next Generation car as it rolls out. I do still want to race some. I feel kind of weird saying I’m retiring. I’m 33 years old. It’s embarrassing to say that, so I’m not retiring I’m just not gonna race full-time anymore. I definitely want to race a few races here and there. I still have a short track car, a Legends car. I’ve looked at the ARCA schedule. I’ve looked at some Late Model races around the country that I’ve had the opportunity to run over the years and because I’ve been so committed to the Cup side I haven’t been able to do that, so I don’t want to sign up for more racing than I’ve done this year. I’m gonna try not to let that happen, but I do have a wish list that I can still go and race and work with some other young drivers and still be a part of the Ford family and help their success on the race track in the top three national series. I’ll know some more of how that’s all gonna shake out over the next six or eight weeks.”

DO YOU HOPE TO DRIVE THE NEXTGEN CAR? “Oh yeah, absolutely. I don’t know if I’ll ever race it, but I’ll get to drive it some.”

HOW MUCH SAFER IS THE SPORT NOW THAN WHEN YOU STARTED? “It’s a lot safer. I raced at tracks that didn’t have SAFER barriers. I’ve always worn a head-and-neck restraint system since day one. From that pivotal point of the late nineties and early 2000s, where we lost a few truck drivers and Adam Petty and then Dale Earnhardt in 2001, the sport and NASCAR in particular and the race tracks made a pretty big investment on driver safety, crew safety and I’m very lucky that I just came in at the right time. My father raced in the 1980s and he’s broken about every bone in his body and you talk to a lot of the guys that raced in that era of the sixties, seventies, eighties and nineties and we all should give them thanks and pick up their dinner every time we see them out eating because they paid the price to allow us to come out and race fairly safe. I know there are still opportunities to have some injuries here and there, but we race in an era today – SAFER barriers, our carbon fiber seats that we run. They know exactly the amount of energy absorbent material that we need as a seat padding. The helmets have come so far. The fueling systems are so much more efficient. You don’t have the fires like we used to, and everything is just so much better. I think that’s why we wreck so much at Daytona and Talladega – no one is really afraid to get hurt anymore because you really don’t. Like I said, there are a few freak accidents, but NASCAR does a great job of keeping us safe.”

WILL YOU CONTINUE YOUR ROLE ON THE FOX BROADCASTS? “I’d like to continue to work with Fox some and some in-studio work. I’m not a big fan of flying commercial and I don’t want to go to all of these race tracks all the time. I do want to stay home some and be home on Saturdays and Sundays, but Fox has been really good to me the last few years. They tell great stories as both of our TV partners do in NASCAR, so I’ve been very grateful to have a small role with them and being able to give my insight on what’s going on on the race track and throughout the week, so hopefully I can keep my finger tip on some of the pulse of what’s happening in the sport so I can give a little bit of opinion on a few shows here and there, so hopefully I’ll still be able to do that a little bit.”

WHY ARE YOU STEPPING AWAY FROM FULL-TIME RACING AGAIN? “The main reason, the commitment level to be the best driver I can be requires 24/7 commitment. You’ve got to mentally be committed all the time. You’ve got to be thinking about your race car, thinking about your sponsors and how you can do a better job on social media interacting with your fans, promoting your team. You’ve got to be in the simulator. You’ve got to be testing and when you put racing first in your life everything else has to come second, third and fourth. I just got to a point where I didn’t want to put racing first in my life anymore and it was a pretty easy decision that it was time to put other things that I’ve been kind of putting off the last few years with my wife and my kids and my community and things like that. I’ve had a good run for 13 years and I thought it was time to go to Plan B.”

WOULD YOU LIKE TO RUN LE MANS? “Yeah, that’s something I really haven’t put much thought into. I might call you and see if you can give me a few contacts I can call to see if I can get me a ride. I’m from a real small time in Unadilla, Georgia. I don’t even know how to spell Le Mans. I know it’s in France, but that’s about all that I know. I’m a big fan of Ford and I love their victories in the 1960s, so that’s about all that I know, but that would be cool. I’ve got a lot to learn before I would go over there and be competitive, but given the right situation absolutely, I’d love to go do something like that.”

WHAT ARE SOME OF THE THINGS YOU’VE PUT OFF THAT YOU WANT TO DO? “A lot of it is just being when I’m home being home. I’m home physically but a lot of times I’m still doing call-ins right before dinner time. I’m typing an e-mail out before the kids go to bed. I’m answering this phone call thinking about my schedule the next day. Even when I’m home we have competition meeting, pre-event planning meetings, I’m on the simulator a couple sessions a week. There’s always stuff going on and so while I physically may be present in my household, a lot of times I wasn’t really there. I didn’t have real conversations with my kids on what they were doing at school or maybe the things that my wife had an interest in. They tagged along with me some on race weekends, but a lot of times that’s a distraction. When I’m here at the race track I’m here to work and I’m here to focus on my race car and I don’t really want my family around sometimes, so I felt like I’ve been fortunate to have a supportive wife and supportive kids, and they’ve been young. When your kids or two or three years old I don’t think they realize a lot of things, but once they get to five and six years old and they’re in kindergarten and playing sports and doing things I can’t attend and I can’t be at it’s like my wife is single mom trying to raise two girls. Those are the things. They played soccer this year and I got to go to about 20 minutes on Saturday morning before Roval practice and that’s the only time I went to one of their games or practices. They do gymnastics on Monday afternoons and that’s our competition meeting, so on occasion I’ll skip a competition meeting, but that’s not fair to my team, it’s not fair to our sponsors, all the employees working. Again, you have to be committed and I think some drivers can play the fence, but I didn’t want to do that to Bob Jenkins and Ford Motor Company, so those are some of the things – just being normal — go to the grocery store, cut my own grass, do some normal things. That’s something that I look forward to doing.”

DO YOU FORESEE A ROLE WHERE YOU COULD BE A DRIVER COACH? “Yeah, absolutely. Like I said, we’ve had some discussions and tentatively I’ve got an idea of some things that I feel strongly about that I can bring to the table and ways that I can help some specific teams, some specific drivers and some new programs that are going to be getting off the ground. So, yeah, there are several ideas like that and I’m sure over the next four to six weeks we’ll have a little more clarity on what they may look like and what kind of duties I may be a part of, but I’ll still be around a little bit.”

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