Daytona 500: Top rookie post-race interview

DAVID RAGAN -- No. 6 AAA Ford Fusion (Finished 5th - Top Rookie) "We've had an up-and-down week here and certainly to come out with a top-five finish was remarkable for everyone at AAA and Roush Fenway Racing. We just too it easy the first 250...

DAVID RAGAN -- No. 6 AAA Ford Fusion (Finished 5th - Top Rookie)

"We've had an up-and-down week here and certainly to come out with a top-five finish was remarkable for everyone at AAA and Roush Fenway Racing. We just too it easy the first 250 miles, a little too easy at times because I could hear Jimmy Fennig get mad in the pits and he told us to get with it with about 40 to go and it just worked out perfect. When I was on the top line, it was moving. When I was on the bottom line, the bottom line was moving. It was nothing that I did, my crew and everyone put me in great position to go out and I just tried to hang on and with help, Mike Wallace stuck through the race with me through thick and thin. I've got to give a little credit to him and we had a great top-five finish for the AAA Ford Fusion. We're just ready to go to California."

YOU SEEMED WELL BACK AND THEN FLEW THROUGH THE FIELD.

"I was running 10th with the green-white-checkered. I would have paid money to have it over right then (laughing).

MARK MARTIN INTEJECTS -- "You and me both. (laughter)"

RAGAN CONTINUES -- "I would be happy with that. That was our game plan. We almost lost the draft through that one round of green flag pit stops. We lost a couple of cars and, like I said, I could hear Jimmy on the pit box starting to get mad. It just worked out. We got a caution the time we needed and our car was handling great the last part of the race. When I was on the top line it was moving. We had a restart there with about 20 to go and things just worked out great. I had a few guys stick with me through thick and thin and nothing that I did on purpose, but it certainly helps to have a lot of luck here."

WHAT DID IT LOOK LIKE WITH ALL THE WRECKS AND HOW DID IT CHANGE THE RACE?

"I saw a few of them start to happen. I really had a good look when the 48 got loose. I guess he just got loose in the middle of three-wide and they start chasing it up the hill down the track and things just get tight. It just worked out perfect, where the cars behind me checked up and no one ran into me. I got checked up in plenty of time where I didn't cave the nose in on our Ford Fusion, so it just worked out great. On the last lap, I saw Kyle Busch run off the apron coming off of four and I just kind of stood my ground and stayed straight and kept my eye on the start-finish line and that's where I was trying to get to."

CAN YOU TALK ABOUT JIMMY FENNIG?

"I would put him up against any crew chief in the garage. My father has always preached that it's good to have -- I don't want to call him old -- but it's good to have some veteran leadership on the team. Jimmy's got that veteran leadership. He's not afraid to get on the guys. He keeps us walking a chalk line and if you check when the garage opens at 6 a.m., the AAA team is there at 5:30. We're always early. We're here to race and nothing else and he stays on me very hard to try to do the best job I can, and, at the same time, he doesn't slack off any either. He's a great combination from the veteran leadership skills that the guys had back in the eighties and nineties and certainly now. He's smart. He knows what wind tunnel numbers we're looking for. He understands the race car and the only thing I keep preaching to him is, 'Jimmy, don't take anything for granted that I might know. Tell me everything.' There are a few things that I might know and a few things that I don't, so I tell him, 'Don't be afraid to talk.' If you've ever been around Jimmy Fennig much, he's pretty much a straightforward guy. He doesn't like to talk a lot, but I tell him, 'Tell me everything you know, Jimmy, and that will help us all."

CAN YOU TALK ABOUT THE REDEMPTION FROM THURSDAY?

"Certainly that was a big disappointment to us and something that could have been prevented by myself. We had the bad luck of getting a flat right-rear tire, which that happens a lot of times, and it's up to myself as a race car driver to be smart and get slowed down quick enough. Well, I honestly thought I could slow down 30 miles an hour and still hang on to it and I needed to slow down 70 miles an hour and I didn't get it slowed down quick enough and eventually couldn't hang on anymore. We got our back-up car, the same one we tested here in January. Again, all the hard work and effort that the guys back in Concord at the race shop and Roush-Yates Engines put into this Daytona program means so much. They're working on next year's Daytona 500 over the next month or two, so it's really tough when you wreck your primary car, but we had a great AAA Ford Fusion for our back-up. We're very fortunate we had two practice sessions between the 150s and today's race and we got it driving extremely well and with a few adjustments for today. It drove well, but it just wasn't that great of a pusher. I always needed some help. I didn't have the pure speed that it might have needed to pull out and make a pass with no help, so it was tough right there but that might have been a good thing for me because that really taught me how to stay in line and not push the issue."

HOW PROUD ARE YOU TO BE THE STANDARD BEARER FOR ROUSH FENWAY RACING IN ITS DEBUT?

"To get down to the truth, I probably don't deserve it. Certainly Greg Biffle and Matt Kenseth, they're the smart race car drivers on our team and they were running up front the whole day. I saw the scoreboard. I usually don't look at that stuff. Jimmy tells me to stay focused and we had that red flag and we looked up and the 01 was up there and the other Roush teammates and, man, that was cool. I was definitely pulling for you, Mark. I wanted our teammates to win, but you could have been the next-best thing to win and I really mean that. It was a long day for us and we came out on the top side of things, but, certainly, week-in and week-out, Greg Biffle and Matt Kenseth are gonna show you why they're the champions."

WAS THAT THE WILDEST FINISH TO A RACE YOU'VE EVER BEEN IN?

"I was just trying to stay in line and stay out of the way and try to finish this thing, but, certainly it was wild. The first part was pretty easy and a little too calm, I guess, and we had a chance to work on our cars and everybody had good handling cars there at the end and was giving it all they had."

-credit: ford racing

Be part of something big

Write a comment
Show comments
About this article
Series NASCAR Sprint Cup
Drivers Matt Kenseth , Greg Biffle , Mike Wallace , Kyle Busch