NASCAR Sprint Cup Series post race press conference Daytona International Speedway
An Interview With David Ragan, Jack Roush and Drew Blickensderfer
THE MODERATOR: Let's roll into our race winner for tonight's Coke Zero 400 powered by Coca-Cola. The race winner winning his first NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race is David Ragan. He drives the No. 6 UPS Ford for Roush Fenway Racing. By doing so tonight, David, not only did you win here at Daytona, but you become eligible for the 2012 NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race in May. So congratulations on that.
DAVID RAGAN: That's pretty cool.
Q. Talk about winning here tonight. You came back so close in February, talk about winning here tonight with the Coke Zero 400.
DAVID RAGAN: Yeah, it was a tough one in February, and coming back here, we knew we didn't have a shot to win. I think there are 30 guys that can win this race. Just we felt good all weekend walking around. Went through practice, felt good about our race car, qualified great, the team did a nice job with our car when we qualified.
That's probably the first time that I felt we've got a car that's fast enough that we can win this thing if we make the right decision throughout the race. So we made a pact with our teammate Matt Kenseth that we're going to work together through thick or thin. I was a little worried about that too. Sometimes falling to the back and to the front, you get jammed up throughout the race.
So I didn't know if that was the right decision or not, but bottom line, our car was fast. That's what wins these races. You've got to have luck, you've got to have pit stops and all that stuff goes into effect. But you've got to have a fast car, and our UPS Ford was fast. The engine ran flawless, and that's what won the race for us. I had Matt right behind us. I knew we had a good pusher. I knew we had the car to do it and not try to make any mistakes, and try to put ourselves in good position.
And we wound up actually being in the lead on the last restart, and that was a winning moment for us to be able to start on the front row.
THE MODERATOR: Also tonight with that win, you're 17th in points and you become a player for the Chase. Congratulations on that. Maybe your thoughts on that too.
DAVID RAGAN: Yeah, we feel like we've been a player for the Chase all year. Kind of disappoints me being 17th. We should be 13th in points. So we've got a lot of work to make up. We've got good tracks coming up. So I'm happy about the win. We should be higher in points than that.
THE MODERATOR: Crew chief Drew Blickensderfer has joined us as well. Drew, congratulations on the win. Talk about some of the things that you had to do to the car or some of the things on pit road that helped with this victory?
DREW BLICKENSDERFER: You know, when you do this two-by-two thing, you've got a partner that you come into pit road with especially in a green-flag stop. So you get together with those guys and you figure out what they want to do. Luckily we got a great teammate in Matt Kenseth and Jimmy Fennig. Jimmy and I were on the radio together deciding what we want to do, two, four, gas only and things like that. It was real easy when you've got someone with the experience of Jimmy talking you through it. I tell him what I wanted to do, and he said that's good. Let's do it. We stayed together all night. That was a great opportunity for us to work with two veteran guys and have that leadership with us.
THE MODERATOR: Team owner Jack Roush. Jack, congratulations on this win here tonight. Came so close with the 6 car, with the Daytona 500, and the win here tonight. That's got to feel very, very good.
JACK ROUSH: Happy to be here tonight with Drew and David. And they worked really hard, and Drew's a great coach, and David is a great recipient of the coaching and they've been working hard all year. They've had several occasions when they could have won a race.
The Daytona 500 was a big disappointment the way it worked out, but it worked out for David. You know, the FR9 engine has done a great job. The Ford support behind the program has never been better than we have this year. You know, the engineers have all done a great job. You know, we've brought cars down here that we expected to have a chance to win with. And David was confident of that, and they used it well. They didn't waste the opportunity.
Q. David, I don't want to harp on the Daytona 500, but you said after the race, the day of the race you said it will take us a long time to forget this one. The sooner we can win one, the sooner we can forget it. Did it take you until today to forget it?
DAVID RAGAN: Yeah, because all you guys want to talk about it on a regular basis. I was hoping to win one a little earlier than the July 4th race here, but it's a good feeling to come back here and kind of we got one back at Daytona. It would have been tough to lose another one.
I thought about that actually under that last caution. I said, man, if we don't win this thing, I said I'm not going to talk to anyone afterwards. So we were able to win. That does ease the pain from February. It's still nice to think about that Daytona 500 ring, but it's awesome. This is a great race. Coca-Cola being a partner of ours, a lot of the of Ford guys are down here. This is a race that it's a total team effort, because the engine department has to do their job, the race car has to be good, and teammates helped us win. So it does ease the pain.
To answer your question, we'll think about this one a lot more than we'll think about the Daytona 500.
Q. What makes you so good on this track, and this tandem racing?
DAVID RAGAN: When we first came down here my first year we finished fifth in the 500, and I thought, man, this is pretty easy. We can do this every time. We came back and we haven't been able to do that since. We've had Top 10s and Top 5s. But I think the biggest part, we've had good race cars. We were very fortunate to drive the Ford engines. Doug Yates, Robert, Jack have all done a nice job with our engine package where we've been able to run it to the limit and be aggressive. A little more so aggressive than others.
I just don't know. Sometimes it fits someone's driving style. I hated this place the first time I came down here because I didn't like that you could just hold it to the floor and ride around. But once I learned there is a strategy behind the racing, it's actually some of the most fun racing you'll take part in.
So I had a blast tonight. The race cars are good that I drive. I've been fortunate to have good spotters that have coached me well. Jimmy Fennig was a great crew chief at the speedways and he helped us out a lot. And Drew's done a good job of fine tuning and fluffing and buffing on the cars to get that extra little bit, and that's why we qualified so well, the details and Drew takes care of that. So I've been lucky to drive some good race cars here.
Q. On that final restart, did you have anybody in on your radio tell you stay in your lane?
DAVID RAGAN: Actually, I was on Matt Kenseth's radio that last restart and his spotter mentioned it. I said you don't have to tell me, so don't even say it. It kind of lightened the mood. Everyone's so tense there at the end. You don't know what to do. You don't know what's going to happen. If we're going to have another green and white checkered. I thought we were close on fuel.
Yeah, that's one thing that I did not have to be reminded of. When you're on the bottom, you don't have to worry about that. I wasn't going to run through the grass.
Q. Is that you picked the bottom?
DAVID RAGAN: I picked the bottom because Matt was behind me. That Ford engine was fast. I knew he would push me to the end, and I wasn't going to take my left side tires off the yellow line.
Q. One last question, how will you celebrate this? Have you had your eye on eBay, something bizarre to buy?
DAVID RAGAN: If Jack will rent me space at the shop. I've run out of room. I don't have anything.
No, I guess I'll go back home and hang out tomorrow. I was planning on cutting some grass and cleaning up around the house tomorrow. I got an appearance in Atlanta on Monday, so we've got to work Monday. So I guess I'll hang out, maybe, I don't know. Go over and see Drew or go have some dinner somewhere. Hang out. See what happens.
I might not leave Daytona. I might just stay down here for a few days.
Q. Jack, what is the status of the relationship with UPS? Are you in negotiations with them to bring them back beyond this season? What does a night like this do for the team after you've had kind of a rough week with sponsor news with the Crown Royal announcement?
JACK ROUSH: Certainly we're hopeful that UPS will carry on in a meaningful regard with the sponsorship of the 6 car. Now that we are in negotiation, we don't have assurance that that's going to be the case. But David has arrived at the upper echelon. He's a winner now. And he's given a win to UPS, and hopefully they'll consider that as they think about the value of the program and what it means to all their employees and what it means to their customers to have this association.
It certainly means a lot to us. But to finally have David in the winners column is a really big thing for us. He's had several poles this year and been close a number of times.
We've been snake bitten with this last five laps where the caution comes out. You take two tires, no tires, gas only, stay on the racetrack, and all of our programs have not done as well as some of the others in making that judgement. We let several of them get away, but happily we've got this one landed and it's something that UPS will think about when they make their determination on what they'll do next year.
Q. Right before the final restart you talked about finding a partner, and you found it ironic that after running that many laps with Matt you might split up. There seemed to be a common theme among a lot of guys on the radio out there. Is it just because how you might lineup or what was going through your mind at that point?
DREW BLICKENSDERFER: I heard that on the radio, and I immediately went to Matt to hear if Matt was talking about that, and he wasn't. I think that was idle chit-chat on the spotter's stand or something. I don't think it had any indication with not coming and helping us.
We made a commitment a week ago or two weeks ago when Jimmy Fennig came to my office that we were going to stick together through thick and thin if we could. And we showed it at the beginning of the race. We were willing to drop back and pick up Matt from our qualifying spot and ride in the back if we had to or whatever it took.
Matt's a great teammate. And in no way I thought after listening to him, it wasn't going through his mind. I think that was a what-if scenario.
Q. Can you talk about your father, your grandfather, and the family ties you have here in Daytona in racing?
DAVID RAGAN: Yeah, my grandfather, I never met him. He owned a car, never drove any, but he owned a car in the '40s, and '50 and ran here on the beach course. Jack Smith drove some races for him. That's ultimately how my father and his brother kind of was around the racetrack at a young age, so they started racing some.
He owned a bumper-to-bumper automotive repair shot, so they did a lot of the work for the local racers. They were able to run Nationwide and Cup races and made some good friends along the way. That's ultimately what sparked my interest.
Obviously Daytona is a special place for any racer. You know, this is better than Indy. This is better than Sebring or any of those other big races that they have. So Daytona means a lot.
Coming down here as a kid, going to the beach, going to the racetrack it just kind of went hand in hand. The Daytona 500 is our biggest race of the year. Coming back here in July, the middle point of the year, the July FireCracker 400 is a big race.
But coming back here to get that win here at Daytona is that extra little bit that I wanted.
To come back down here and win the Coke Zero edition, and finally get into Victory Lane here at Daytona is a special place. That is kind of the birth place of NASCAR. It's neat to win here, even though this race does pay the same amount of points as winning Kentucky or New Hampshire or Pocono or any others, but it is a special race. Very fortunate to get our first win here.
Q. Jack, can you explain a little about what happened to Carl's car tonight and the carbon monoxide situation? Is there any thought of requiring -- I know he doesn't like using the air box or anything like that -- but with the carbon monoxide combined with the heat situation at this time of the year, do you think having a scrubber of some sort in a car as a precaution is thoughts in the future?
JACK ROUSH: We certainly will think about that. We'll look at what happened in the car and think about what we can do to make him more comfortable.
They knocked the crush panels out of the tub, the sheet metal that separates the car, the exhaust, and the things that are happening on the right side of the car from the passenger compartment or from the driver's cockpit. And that seal was broken by the contact he had with the right quarter panel. Until they got that fixed, there was serious contamination inside the cockpit.
When it got to be to the point of real serious discomfort for Carl, the crew chief, Bob Osborne, was monitoring it, and they agreed together he'd come down pit road and they'd take however long to fix it.
But whether there is something that can be used to clean the air better for him, I'm not sure. We'll look into that. We'll take that situation apart the same as we do everything bad that happens at the a race track for a race car. We'll take it apart next week, and come up with the determination if there's something we can do to make it safer for the driver. If there is, we'll do it.
Q. You're an engineer. The verdict is out among a lot of the fans about this two-car drafting sort of thing. From an engineering standpoint is there something that can be done to the cars so they are not two car drafts out there. Or do you like the two car draft from an engineering standpoint, what do you think about that?
JACK ROUSH: You fix the front and the back of the car so if they have contact, there is an inclined angle that would drive the rear wheels off the ground to stop it. It's easy to stop it if NASCAR really wants to stop it.
They organized the front and the rear plane, vertical planes of the cars so they could be conducive to push one another, and they wouldn't have that problem that they had before.
I thought in Daytona, I thought in February that we'd be happier having these cars paired up two at a time, and the drivers would be more in control of their circumstances and less likely to be involved in a wreck that wasn't their own problem. I think that it's about the same.
I think when you come to these restricted tracks, there is such a premium for keeping your foot on the gas and to maintain your momentum that you're inclined to not use reason, sometimes, and get out of the gas and separate yourself from the risk that would be there for you.
But it's exciting racing. Daytona and Talladega both have been known for the fast speeds and for all of the excitement that is unique to those two racetracks. And we've got something now that I think is no less exciting than it's been, and it's no more hazardous or less hazardous than when we had the 30-car drafts. I think that's what we'll have to deal with when it comes to Daytona or Talladega.
We're going to take the fuel injected engine as a group to Kentucky to test it next week...
Q. David, first of all, you seem to be like your throats -- were you hollering and screaming or were you crying? What was your reaction?
DAVID RAGAN: Yeah, I don't know. I don't know if I've got some water in my ear or champagne or something in my ear to knock me over a little bit. It's like I hear myself echo. Maybe it's talking on the radio so much. We typically don't talk during the race, but I haven't heard myself talk this much. It will get better soon, don't worry about it.
Q. I know we've beaten the whole redemption thing to death. But how deep is the sense of redemption for you?
DAVID RAGAN: To get that win would have felt great. If we would have won at Martinsville this year, I would have said, man, we've moved on past that Daytona race. But coming back here to get that win here at Daytona is that extra little bit that I wanted. Kind of like to show the Daytona racetrack, here's what we've got. So that makes it a little more special.
I think a win anywhere on the circuit would have been great, and we would have moved on and talked about it, probably. But coming back here to Daytona, being able to run the same type of race we ran in February, and you know learning from our mistake, not making a mistake. We had a couple opportunities to do it on the last few restarts, and I didn't do it. So that's gratifying that we were able to come back to Daytona and kind of prove to the racetrack that we're better than that and we can take you and it feels good.
Q. You've had a young guy, Trevor, win the 500, David wins tonight. You have to feel good about that next level of drivers coming up for you and for Ford, I would assume.
JACK ROUSH: Yeah, we're really excited about the way Ricky Stenhouse has won, and of course Trevor has run this year, and of course David finally winning a race. But David has been in position to win a number of race this is year. It hasn't been for lack of performance or lack of sound judgment on the way the car's been prepared. So it was just a matter of time for that.
But as far as the group of new drivers that are coming along, I think Ford is in very good shape for having a good quadray of young talent coming. If we can find sponsorship for them and keep the programs going, we'll be able to really have a harvest in years to come.
Q. You talked about David's redemption. Do you feel any redemption? It's been a few years since you've won a Cup race as well?
DREW BLICKENSDERFER: Of course. You want to be a winner. I was real fortunate right of the get-go to win a couple of races. I probably had 34, 35 races in a row --
DAVID RAGAN: Who's counting? 34, 35? Are you counting (laughing)?
DREW BLICKENSDERFER: Yeah, I felt like I failed quite a bit. Yeah, I counted every one of them. And to come back and get a second opportunity, it's something that Jack told me from day one that I'd be up here when the time was right again. It's been really nice.
Coming over here, ten races to go in the season last year, I felt like we gained some momentum. Then working this year with David and the guys, I think our mindset's gotten better throughout the year. We felt like we were a top 20 team to start the year, and a top 15, and 10, and now we sit here as the winner. I think that momentum keeps building. Definitely feel a little redemption.
Q. David, I was listening to the radio, and they were pretty much telling you that Matt was going to stay behind you and stay on the yellow line -- or stay right there on the inside. Did you have any question in your mind at all that Matt wouldn't pull out and try to win the thing?
DAVID RAGAN: I had a little question. Matt's kind of sneaky sometimes. But after I was just kind of watching the replay on ESPN as Drew was talking, and it just worked out to where those guys jumped up on the outside, and then another group jumped up on the outside and we were three-wide.
Our plan was if we can see the front, we're going to stay there as long as we don't get too far back.
We talked about it earlier. We start moving around, trying to block a run that's coming and that leaves the bottom open. It kills your momentum. We only had two laps, and I think we were just satisfied with staying on the bottom and whatever was going to happen is going to happen.
When we came off turn four, I didn't know where the other cars were at, how close they were. And Matt came on the radio, and said I'm going to stay with you, so I assume that he had someone on his outside.
It's not like Matt to push and push and push and run second. But I think this is the first speedway race that Matt's finished this year. So he did tell me before the race he wanted a first finish. So I'm glad he was able to come across the line in second.
That's cool for Ford to sweep the front finishing order here at Daytona here in July and in February, and really says a lot for our team. It shows the team work does win these races, and we proved it tonight.
Q. David, I know that you're maybe more of a laid back type of guy or easier going guy. But you just did win your first Cup race. Normally a lot of other guys seem to be a little more excited. You seem to be more calm or composed.
DAVID RAGAN: Yeah, I guess that's just my character. A lot of people when we won a Nationwide race a year or two ago, they said, man, you don't seem that happy. It's going to feel so good. I probably won't go to sleep tonight. I'm going to get back and watch some of the race, and try to, you know, just stare at that trophy maybe for a little while.
I don't get up and jump up-and-down and act crazy and foolish. I'm kind of already thinking about Kentucky a little bit, that's an important race for us.
Now that we've got this win, it lets a lot of pressure off in some sense. We finally got our first win at a points race here at Daytona. We've got a chance to make the Chase. But now there is even more pressure to go out and stay in that top 20 in points, to perform well at these upcoming races.
I'll enjoy it. Maybe catch up with me tomorrow afternoon, and we'll be hanging on out having a good time. But it's still sinking in that we've done it. When we get that trophy back and go see all my guys, I'm sure they're tearing the car down in tech now, that will be pretty special.
Q. Want to follow up on the question about the engine. Next time we come back here instead of being carbureted, we're going to be fuel injected. Do you think that's going to have any impact on the way we're going to be racing next year? Have you had a chance to think that far ahead that are we going to have restrictor plates on these? Is that going to affect the new format of the engine? More for Jack than anybody else.
JACK ROUSH: We're going to take the fuel injected engine as a group to Kentucky to test it next week and I'll know more -- I'll have a greater impression of what we've got really to work with after that test and we see how it works.
Really excited about the McLaren decision that NASCAR made for the ECU, for the computer program, and I think Bosch is coming along to be the injector supplier. I hope that's true. The wiring harnesses are pretty much figured out, so most of the hardware is determined.
The calibrations will be somewhat left to the teams to figure out what the air to fuel ratios are. You're still going to have an opportunity to burn the engines up if you want to, which makes me happy, because I need to have that amount of risk in my life for decision making to know how bad that's going to feel when that happens.
Now that we've got this win, it lets a lot of pressure off in some sense.
But when we came back here, the base plate, the throttle plate is pretty much like a carburetor. It is bolted in the same pattern as a carburetor. And I haven't heard specifically, but my expectation is that we'll have a throttle plate that is large, like the one we use unrestricted for a carburetor, and they'll put a restrictor plate under it like we use for Daytona and Talladega.
The indication is that the engines make about the same power with the same amount of air restriction through the throttle plates, ask they make a bit less torque thinking that they maybe don't cool the air quite as much, the fuel being injected halfway down the airstream rather than the carburetor and following the air all the way down.
We don't expect a performance difference. I'm sure NASCAR will achieve the same kind of parody they've got with the carburetors. I think it will not be a non-issue. All the owners will be a little lighter on their step because of what all this stuff is going to cost. But, except for that, they'll be pretty much the same we've seen.
Q. I've watched three of these two-car draft races now, Daytona twice and Talladega. For the life of me -- I can understand the last 30 laps or last 20 laps?
JACK ROUSH: How many races was that?
Q. I think it was just three, right but I don't understand the strategy and tactics as you start the races. You guys just go out there and go up to the front and go to the back and go to the front, or do you try to lay in the back? I don't understand this.
DAVID RAGAN: We don't either. I don't think we understand it either.
DREW BLICKENSDERFER: Certain people want to go to the back. I think you see that. The Hendrick cars want to run up front for a while. When the first pit stop came, they went to the back. The 42, and the 1 does that. There are some drivers that like that.
David and our partner and I, Matt, both like to be towards the front. They feel if they're in the front and the wrecks happen, they're in front of them. I think they're just as big of risk being in the back and not being able to get to the front.
Also, if you haven't raced around the lead pack and raced for the lead and understand that, I think sometimes you can learn at lap 20 going for the lead something that might help you towards the end. Our plan was if we can see the front, we're going to stay there as long as we don't get too far back.
There was one time tonight we got shuffled with seven or eight groups in front of us, all two wide and felt that's a little hairy, so we fell back a little bit. But it didn't take long for the two Fords when they were wanting to go, they were right up in the front.
I think it's a strategy among the drivers whether they want to stay in the back and try to stay away from the wreck or go to the front and try to race it out.