RAGAN TO CORNER STEWART: With last week's on-track run-in with Tony Stewart still fresh in his mind, David Ragan came to Atlanta with reconciliation on his mind. Knowing that it might be hard to get Stewart alone, Ragan bid $5,750 at Thursday night's Speedway Children's Charities auction to buy the pre-race ride around the track with Stewart.

"I've never spoken to Tony before; I'm kind of happy he knows my name actually, but not for these reasons," Ragan said. "This will give us a chance to talk a little bit."

Ragan, the son of former NASCAR driver Ken Ragan, triggered a three-car wreck last weekend in Martinsville, taking out Ken Schrader and Tony Stewart, angering both veterans. Stewart had a few choice words for the young driver after the accident, and Ragan knows that he can't start his career in NEXTEL Cup making enemies.

"Tony, he criticized me a lot after last week, and when a champion does that, it's good to go talk to him," Ragan said. "I think I'll ask him his thoughts, what I should have done different, just introduce myself so that if I step out of line in the future he'll come and talk to me about it."

Ragan was expected to attempt to qualify for both Saturday's Easy Care Vehicle Service Contracts 200 Craftsman Truck race and Sunday's Bass Pro Shops 500 NEXTEL Cup race, but NASCAR did not approve him to compete in the upper level event. He is still hopeful that he will be approved before next weekend's race in Texas.

"I was disappointed, but at least I'll be running the truck race here," Ragan said. "I'm happy; I'm just 20 years old, and I'm here in the truck series."


JEFF SEABERG WINS PILOT TRUCK DRIVER CHALLENGE: Evernham Motorsports hauler driver Jeff Seaberg, who steers the No. 10 Valvoline/Stanley Tools Dodge to the track each week, was named the 2006 Pilot Truck Driver Challenge winner Friday at AMS. Seaberg claimed his $50,000 check and large trophy in front of a room full of his peers and a smattering of media members.

"I was just an owner/operator six years ago, and a big race fan," Seaberg said. "I never in a million years thought I would be sitting here."

Seaberg claimed the title by acing a comprehensive test of driving ability, alertness and dedication to his profession. The competition included safety checks, spot quizzes and navigating through driving courses.

"All you guys pull a lot of hours that none of us do," said Scott Riggs, driver of the No. 10 machine that Seaberg gets to the track safely each week. "You're the first to get there and the last to leave. A lot of the time that goes unnoticed. It's good to see you getting some recognition for all you do."

Joe Gibbs Racing's Peter Jellen finished second and picked up $5,000, and Penske Racing's Bill Lewis was third, earning $2,500.

Pilot Travel Centers also announced plans for increased purse money for next season's challenge, upping second- and third-place prizes to $10,000 and $5,000 respectively.

-credit: ams