David Ragan, driver of the No. 6 AAA Ford Fusion, is 12th in the NASCAR Sprint Cup standings going into this weekend's Coca-Cola 600. He held a Q&A session Friday morning to discuss the challenges Lowe's Motor Speedway presents in the...
David Ragan, driver of the No. 6 AAA Ford Fusion, is 12th in the NASCAR Sprint Cup standings going into this weekend's Coca-Cola 600. He held a Q&A session Friday morning to discuss the challenges Lowe's Motor Speedway presents in the longest race of the season.
DAVID RAGAN -- No. 6 AAA Ford Fusion
WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ON THE STRATEGY FOR SUNDAY? "Obviously starting during the day and ending at night, you're probably gonna see some cars dominate early and not be so good late, and then some cars that are pretty average the first part be really good toward the end, so you'll see some different people up front, I think. Hopefully, we'll be able to pass a little better than we did last week. I think we're constantly working on our race cars and trying to get them to handle better and this is always a fun weekend, getting to do a lot of activities around the Charlotte area that go with the Coca-Cola 600 is a lot of fun -- so 600 miles is a long race. We'll have to be patient in the beginning and, hopefully, be around at the end. I think we'll have a good enough car that we can contend for another top-10, top-5 finish and that's all we can ask for, and then hopefully try to win one of these things pretty soon."
HOW DO YOU APPROACH THIS RACE AS FAR AS CAR SETUP AND AS A DRIVER? "Setting up the car, you put a little bit of adjustment availability into the setup of the car for later on in the race, where normally we would know what direction we're gonna have to go in a 400-mile race or a 300-lap race -- something like that. Here, the track is gonna change a lot. The track is gonna rubber up a lot and you're probably gonna see some guys running on the top, in the middle and on the bottom throughout the 600 miles, so we'll build some adjustability into the race car where we can make some big adjustments throughout the night. If we're a 20th-place car the first part of the race, we might be a car that can win the last part, so you just never give up. If something does go wrong, if you get a lap down, you're gonna have some cautions to get that lap back, so you're just a little bit more patient and there's probably a little more give-and-take the first half of the race. I don't want to say you're taking it easy because you have to run hard, but probably just more give-and-take."
WOULD IT MEAN MORE TO WIN THIS RACE BEING IN CHARLOTTE? "Oh, definitely. This is one of the toughest tracks to get a hold of. It's so temperature sensitive and with the new pavement a few years ago, we've got the new car and always a pretty difficult tire to get a handle on, so when you can come to a track like Charlotte, setups are real critical, pretty high speeds, 600 miles is the longest race and a lot of factors play in like your pit crew and your decisions all night really mean a lot. So it would mean a lot to win this race, not only being here in Charlotte but just at Lowe's Motor Speedway. You look at the history of this race and you see a lot of champions and great competitors that have won this race, so it would be great for our team, it would be great for AAA and it would be awesome as a driver to win this race."
HOW DIFFICULT WAS IT TO REPLACE MARK MARTIN? "Going into the 6 car, I never really took the attitude of, 'Hey, here I am trying to replace Mark Martin.' Some of the best in the business couldn't have stepped into the 6 car and totally replaced him. I've just tried to do the best job that I can and keep the sponsors happy and try to keep the fans excited about the No. 6 car. Mark is still a big part of my career. We talk as often as we can and I know we're on kind of different paths now, but he'll always be known as the driver of the 6 car and he'll always be related to the No. 6, so I've just tried to do what I could with it and certainly encourage everybody to remember Mark in the 6. I don't want to totally write that off and that is a lot of why I'm here -- from what Mark and guys like Jimmy Fennig and Pat Tryson and certainly Jack Roush have done for the 6 car the last 15 or 20 years."
HOW MUCH MORE COMFORTABLE ARE YOU THIS YEAR COMPARED TO LAST? "Anything your second time around is a lot easier. Anything you can do twice you should learn from your first time and do a little better job, and the bottom line is everything is easier. We're making less mistakes and we can get there quicker. A year ago, we would eventually be fast and I would be comfortable and I would run good lap times, but it was probably 100 miles to go in the race and it was a little bit too late. So this year we can unload and we're a little faster. We've been qualifying a lot better, so we've had better track position, better pit stall selection, so everything has seemed to happen a little easier and a little smoother. I know what's around the next corner. I know how to prepare for it and ultimately making better decisions and less mistakes."
WERE YOU ABLE TO FIGURE OUT HOW TO MAKE YOUR CAR HANDLE BETTER AFTER LAST WEEK? "Time will tell after we get through some different practices and, yes, we have made a few changes. That's not the car we tested out here several weeks ago, so hopefully we're bringing back the car we tested and we've got a pretty good notebook on how the car reacted from the five, six o'clock hour to the eight or nine o'clock hour at the test. So we're going off some good notes and hopefully that will help, and then I'm just gonna have to try some different lines and find some clean air. But I think the bottom line is we're just gonna have to stand it pretty free at the beginning of the run to have anything. I think we saw last week with the 9 that track position means a lot. It's really tough to pass. I think some of the fastest guys on the track were just kind of stuck where they were running, so I think we've got to keep an eye on that and maybe have some pit strategy. Certainly clean air means a lot, so hopefully we'll be able to make some good decisions and get us a good qualifying start tonight."
ARE GUYS GIVING YOU MORE SPACE OR RESPECT ON THE TRACK? "I think it shows a little bit as we go. Certainly nothing happens overnight and I think, not only running better, but just wrecking less and being around more. They know your face and who you are and hanging out with them more in the garage and also running the Nationwide Series helps a lot. Anytime you can get experience racing with your fellow competitors and they kind of get a feeling on how you're gonna race them, and then I get a feeling on how other people are gonna race me. So we treat each other a little different, it certainly goes both ways, but I do get a little more respect out there. I've certainly got a long ways to go, but we're on the right track and we've just got to keep doing the right things and eventually we'll be where we need to be."
-credit: ford racing