DAVID RAGAN, No. 60 BuildSubmarines.com Ford Mustang Dark Horse – HOW DISAPPOINTING WAS IT TO NOT GET THE OPPORTUNITY TO RUN NASCAR’S NEW EV CONCEPT AT THE CLASH A FEW WEEKS AGO? “Yeah, it was disappointing because we put a lot of hard work, a lot of effort, some guys from Europe were over, really doing their thing, and it was going to be cool. They really had some neat stuff to play during the halftime break, and the car has a lot of cool features and a lot of neat things. The time will come where we can show everyone and I don’t know that that timing but I’m grateful they asked me to be a part of it and that was a fun project to get to make some laps and see all the hard work that’s gone into it.”

JUST FROM TESTING IT, EXACTLY HOW DOES IT COMPARE TO A CURRENT CUP CAR AND DID YOU NOTICE ANYTHING REALLY SIMILAR OR REALLY DIFFERENT WITH THAT PLATFORM? “I don’t know how much they want me to talk about or not talk about, but in general the car has some similarities. You know, from the balance and handling, it does have a lot of the same components that this next gen car has. From the braking and the regeneration of the electric motors and the torque that the all-wheel drive has, it’s pretty incredible the performance that it has. I was surprised that really the couple of tests that we did went so well. When you design a new car from the ground up and you outsource parts from all around the world, that’s a challenge and for everything to go off really smooth and not have any hiccups, we just scratched the surface on the capabilities of that car and everyone is still learning. So yes, that’s probably a couple big takeaways. There are some similarities, but there’s a lot of power, a lot of cool things that makes the car fun to drive, and I was really surprised at just how smooth the testing went.”

WHAT’S IT LIKE FOR YOU TO COME INTO DAYTONA BACK IN A CAR THAT JACK (ROUSH), IS A PART OF, KIND OF BRINGING THIS FULL CIRCLE TO WHERE YOU STARTED YOUR CAREER? “I feel like it has been a flash of the eyes from when I was here 16, 17 years ago, you know, as a 20-year-old. Jack Roush took a chance on me as a kid to put in his premier car. I remember that first Daytona 500. I had no idea what I was getting involved in. Somehow we crossed the start-finish line in fifth that race. I kind of walked away from that first one. I thought, man, this is easy. I finished fifth in my first one. I’ll probably win next year. Here I am 16 years down the road still trying to get that win, but it’s awesome to come back and drive a car that Jack Roush and Doug Yates have an engine in, and to see what Brad Keselowski and Chris Buescher have done for RFK to bring that team back to the championship caliber team that it has been. That’s a testament to their character, to their skill as race car drivers, but also their leaders as a race team. So it’s fun to see a lot of familiar faces that were there during the glory days that put in all the hard work when they were kind of at their low point four or five years ago and to see them smiling, walking around the race shop knowing they’ve got some cars that can go win races.”

WHEN DID THIS PROCESS START AS FAR AS THE CONVERSATIONS FOR YOU BEING IN THIS CAR FOR THE FIRST TIME? “We had some early conversations toward the end of last year. I think they had buildsubmarines.com, one of their anchor partners that really wanted a full-season campaign. The Daytona 500 is a special race. It’s a big race. Millions of people from all over the world are tuning in. So the build submarines message to get out and drive some interest in the workforce behind the submarine industry here in the US. They wanted to be on a car in Daytona and they’ve got a lot of races with Brad and Chris. Toward the end of last year we had some conversations and everything came together really nice.”

WHAT KEEPS DRAWING YOU BACK TO THIS RACE? “This is just a special race, that’s a good question. I would love to go run some short tracks. I love short track racing. Atlanta Motor Speedway is my hometown track, but the Daytona 500 is a race that it’s special to be here in February. Even if I wasn’t racing, I think it’s just second nature to come to Daytona in February to be here for Speed Weeks. There’s so much good racing going on over at Volusia and New Smyrna and Citrus County, all the short tracks around, but for it to all come together at Daytona that second or third week of February is special. To have a good chance to run well, I don’t think that I would be here if it was just a mediocre effort, but to be here in a car with a team that I feel like we can compete for a win and leading laps, that gives me the confidence that I can come back and have some fun. Also don’t have that stress and responsibility that I know I’m getting ready to be gone for the next 38 weeks in a row and fighting all season long. That would be tough to sign up again for and I’ve already made a commitment to my wife and my kids that I’m gonna be home a little bit more so it’s fun to have one foot in the door and one foot out of the door.”

THE LAST COUPLE OF STARTS THAT YOU’VE MADE HAVE BEEN IN A FORD AND NOW YOU ARE BACK IN A FORD AGAIN AND THAT HAS TO BE A DRAW AS WELL BECAUSE THE FORDS HAVE BEEN REALLY DAMN GOOD AT THESE SUPERSPEEDWAY RACES: “Yes, since I’ve been in the Cup series they’ve been really good at superspeedways. I think it’s something that the Doug Yates and Jack Roush love speedway racing and I think the Fords have got just a really good mature group of drivers. When you look at the Ford driver lineup, even the young drivers are good at these speedway races. I think that makes a big difference too that they all work well together, they make good decisions, but having good race cars. The testing that I’m doing with Ford and the development kind of behind the scenes, that’s the only group I would like to be down here with.”

I KNOW THE CARS AND THE ENGINES HAVE TO BE GOOD, BUT YOU’VE PROVEN THAT YOU ARE A VERY CAPABLE COMPETITOR ON THE SUPERSPEEDWAY TOO, OBVIOUSLY, YOU GOT THE WINS BOTH HERE AND IN TALLADEGA. WHAT MAKES YOU A GOOD SUPER SPEEDWAY RACER? “What makes any driver a good superspeedway racer? “It’s kind of like the question, what comes first, the chicken or the egg? I mean, you’ve got to have a good car. You gotta have a good engine. And I think a driver absolutely plays into it. I think some guys will say, oh, it just comes down to luck, being in the right place at the right time, and that certainly is an element, but I don’t believe that to be 100% true. I think drivers that put the effort and that really study the races and find the analytics that show the trends, I think they can make better decisions during the race. I think some drivers put in that hard work, and I think some drivers don’t put in that hard work, and they just take it for whatever might happen. I think they’re the ones that are getting caught up in the wrecks or not making the right decisions at the right time. Early in my career, I think it set the tone. I had Jimmy Fennig as a crew chief my first couple of years, Donnie Wingo as a crew chief, Jay Guy at Front Row Motorsports, who loved speedway racing. I think I fed off of them, I really enjoy speedway racing, and that kind of made me put the extra work into it.”

DO YOU EVER LOOK BACK AT OLD RACES HERE FOR THE 500 IN PARTICULAR, RATHER THAN JUST THE 400, AND LOOK AT OLD FILMS AND SAY, I WISH I HAD DONE IT THIS WAY? AND IS THERE ANYTHING YOU CAN TAKE AWAY FROM THE TIMES YOU ALMOST WON THE 500? “Oh, absolutely. I go back to races all the time and look. You always go back to the last couple of years. Obviously, with this Next-Gen car, the cars race a little different. The style is a little different with these cars. I think going back 10 years ago probably doesn’t make a lot of difference. But the last two Daytona 500s I’ve looked at, I’ve thought about. Two years ago, I was part of that group coming to the checkered flag. I think we finished fifth or sixth, and we all wrecked crossing the start-finish line. But it’s really a survival to the end. And I often think about working the race backwards like you do road courses. You want to have your shortest and your best pit stop the very last stop of the race. And you want to have the best track position at the end. You want to feel out your car and build some relationships the first 140, 150 laps and then from there on out you’ve got to be in position to make the right moves and you never know when the wreck is going to happen. It could happen running first and second or it could happen running eighth or ninth. You’ve got to be in that top five to top ten if you think you’re going to win the race those final ten laps.”

WHAT DO YOU ANTICIPATE THE DUELS LOOKING LIKE TOMORROW NIGHT BECAUSE OBVIOUSLY THE FORD’S HAVE TO FIGURE OUT HOW THIS CAR DRIVES IN THE DRAFT. TOYOTA’S IS THE SAME. CHEVROLET HAS TO FIGURE OUT HOW TO DRAFT FOR YOU GUYS TOO. HOW WILL THAT IMPACT WHETHER WE SEE AN AGGRESSIVE, CONSERVATIVE, OR STANDARD SORT OF DUEL? “The trends make you believe that you generally have one duel that kind of goes green flag and everything’s smooth, and then you have another one that they generally start pushing a little bit more and have a couple of cautions. And the Duels are just the best opportunity for practice. You generally don’t have that many cars all together even in the two practice sessions on Friday and Saturday. So the Duel is your chance as a driver, as a spotter, and even as a crew chief to see how your car is going to handle, what kind of speed you have, how you can push, and to start building some relationships with other drivers and building some confidence that, hey, I can be pushed or I can push you and still be under control. Generally you see that first one roll off a little smoother. I don’t know if it’s the later in the night or if the drivers get a little more confident and some mistakes are made that second one. So I hope I’m in the first duel.”

IF YOU’RE IN THE MIX IN THE 500, WHICH IS SAY 10 TO GO, IS THERE TIME TO THINK ABOUT WHAT YOU MIGHT TRY TO DO OVER THE LAST 10 LAPS OR DOES IT JUST KIND OF COME NATURALLY AS THINGS DEVELOP? “I think that it’s going to come naturally and I think the planning is done last week and this week. I have looked over the scenarios, I’ve looked over past races on who chose where, what they did on restarts, where the winner came from, where the guy that was leading on the white finished and the mistakes that he made. I feel like having all that in your memory bank will allow you to make a better decision when the time comes. If you’re trying to process all of those scenarios under a yellow flag or a green flag scenario, you can’t effectively do it. You end up making a bad decision or no decision at all and that’s the worst that you can do. You’ve got to have your game plan kind of set and it’s got to be reaction. I know that if I’m running first, second, third, fourth I kind of know what I want to do on a restart. I know that if I have a teammate nearby, I know what I’m going to do if it’s any different. I think all the prep is done the last couple of days leading into the weekend and then it’s just all reaction once you get to Sunday.”

Ford Performance PR