This Week in Ford Racing Heading into Richmond, David Ragan, driver of the No. 6 AAA Insurance Ford, is in 13th place in the NASCAR Sprint Cup standings, just 17 points out of the final transfer spot with just one race remaining before the start...
This Week in Ford Racing
Heading into Richmond, David Ragan, driver of the No. 6 AAA Insurance Ford, is in 13th place in the NASCAR Sprint Cup standings, just 17 points out of the final transfer spot with just one race remaining before the start of the Chase. Ragan was a guest on NASCAR's national teleconference today, and he talked about this Saturday night's race at Richmond. Here are excerpts from that teleconference.
WHAT'S YOUR MINDSET HEADING INTO SATURDAY NIGHT'S RACE? "We definitely are excited to have an opportunity to get into the Chase. The bottom line is we've got to go out and beat these guys. There's no other way around it. We can't count the other teams have problems or issues throughout the race. We've got to make sure that we're on our toes, that we don't have any mechanical failures, we don't have any screw-ups in the pits and also on the race track, and also Richmond's been a good race track for us in the past, we've had some success there. I wish we could've run a little better in California, but we were pretty much able to maintain the same differential getting into the final 12. So, the bottom line is we've just got to go to Richmond, run as hard as we can, and when the checkered flag falls, hopefully, we're in front of the 07 and 9 car."
ASSUMING THAT YOU MAKE THE CHASE, HOW COMPETITIVE DO YOU THINK YOU CAN BE OVER THE LAST 10 RACES, BASED ON HOW WELL YOU'VE RUN DURING THE LATTER PART OF THE SEASON? "Well, I think we definitely have to continue to step our program up a little bit. One good thing about the Chase, the final 10 races, there's not one track on there where we haven't run well in the past, so I feel like the 10 races in the Chase are all good chances to race and to run well. But, in the past, in order to be the champion, you have to win a lot of races and be very consistent. Certainly, we'll think about that once we make it in, but I feel like we'll have to lean on some of our teammates who have experience in the Chase in the past few years, and we'll have to continue to step our program up. I think we're a Chase a team, but we're not quite a championship team, yet."
CAN YOU EXPECT TO CONTEND WITHOUT THE BENEFIT OF THE BONUS POINTS THAT THE LEADERS WILL HAVE? "No, you can't contend for the overall championship without winning some races. I think winning a race is a must. Certainly with Carl [Edwards] and Kyle [Busch] and now Jimmie [Johnson], you're going to have to win some races and get those bonus points. You can contend for a good points finish. There's some great guys in the Chase now, they're locked in, that haven't won a race yet this year, and I still think that they'll be able to contend for a good finish. Certainly, Carl and Kyle are definitely in the driver's seat."
TONY STEWART RECENTLY SAID AT AN APPEARANCE AT TEXAS MOTOR SPEEDWAY THAT ONE DAY YOU JUST GOT IT AND TURNED IT ON. DO YOU FEEL THAT WAY? WHEN DO YOU FEEL LIKE YOU "GOT IT" AND COULD REALLY START COMPETING? "Certainly the start of this season has been a lot easier than the start of last year. Like I tell everyone, everything the second time around is easier. I can't point out a particular weekend where things just clicked. But, the start of this year, the Daytona 500, going through that same process as we went through our rookie season, everything is easier the second time around, you know what's around the next corner, you can make better decisions, your crew chief and yourself and your engineers have worked together to make better calls on and off the race track. So, I've just felt like we've learned from our mistakes, we've improved the things that were good last year, and we've been working extremely hard on our pit crew and building better race cars, and I've been doing equally as much work inside the race car, trying to be a smarter race car driver for my team and my sponsor. And I think it started to show off sometime throughout the year."
HOW MUCH HAS JIMMY FENNIG BEEN ABLE TO HELP YOU? IS HE AS MUCH A COACH FOR YOU AS A CREW CHIEF? "Oh, definitely, 100 percent. Jimmy is a guy that can sit on top of the pit box and see a lot more than just lap times on a computer. He understands the way the race flows; he understands the long races to the shorter races, going from the afternoon to the night. He's just got a lot of racing knowledge. He doesn't overlook the small details. So, he's a guy that you can go to and talk to about anything, and certainly we have come to have a great understanding in what I want in a race car, what he thinks we need. Pretty good team together."
DO YOU FEEL LIKE YOU'RE AHEAD OF SCHEDULE, OR DID YOU SEE YOURSELF HERE IN THIS POSITION? "We're where we need to be. Certainly, we're not where we want to be by any means. We want to be up there with Carl and Kyle, leading laps and winning races. But, we're on schedule. We've shown a lot of improvement, we've worked on a lot of things. I still feel like we've got some more improving to do before we're at a championship-caliber team week- in and week-out. But, going into the year, we knew that if we had a solid year and didn't have many mechanical failures or didn't have any unfortunate things happen on the race track, we would have a shot at the Chase. We knew it would be tough to be competitively locked into the Chase going into this last race; it could've happened. All in all, we knew that we just wanted to have a shot at making the Chase, and that is in the top 15, and we find ourselves in 13th, just a few points out, and we just wanted to say we had a shot at the Chase, and certainly this season is not going to be dependent on just this one race at Richmond and whether we're in the Chase or not. We've still got loads of racing to do, a lot of opportunities to lead laps and win some races, and certainly improve. We're already looking at next year."
HOW VALUABLE HAS IT BEEN TO HAVE CARL EDWARDS AS A TEAMMATE? "He's certainly kept us working extremely hard trying to keep up with the fast pace of that team's been on this year. Carl's got a lot of good experience. He's an excellent race-car driver, and him and Bob Osborne obviously have clicked and have worked extremely well together. But having Carl has a teammate, I'm glad he's on our team."
WITH THIS BEING YOUR FIRST EXPERIENCE LIKE THIS, THE CHASE, IS THERE ANYTHING IN YOUR CAREER THAT RELATES TO THIS? HAVE YOU EVER GONE THROUGH ANYTHING LIKE THIS IN ANY WAY? "Not really. I've been in some one-race, take-all, like a big-money race or race that was maybe a last-chance race or something and you had to finish in a certain spot in order to advance to the big race. But as far as the amount of people watching and the expectations and the race to the chase for the championship at Richmond, nothing quite that big. Not being in the points championship or running the Truck series or the ARCA-Re/MAX series leading up to last year to the Sprint Cup series, I really didn't have that good of a feel for what a good, tight points race is like. This is the first opportunity I've gotten to really points race all year and think about the points. I've really learned a lot from being in this situation. I'm sure we'll be better, like I talked about earlier, the second time around in another situation like this. But, to answer your question, I don't think I've ever been in a position to be in such a highly watched, one-race, kind of your make-or- break to get into the next level."
OBVIOUSLY, YOU KNOW HOW BIG OF A DEAL THIS IS. BUT, NOT HAVING YET GONE THROUGH SOMETHING LIKE THIS, DO HAVE A SENSE OF THE PRESSURE SINCE THIS IS THE FIRST GO-AROUND FOR YOU? "I probably don't realize how big this race is, but after the year is over we'll have time to sit back and think about it, but I'm trying not to go about it like that. If I put this much effort and concentration into one race, a make-or-break race, I think that would be a little too much. Certainly, we're all excited about the race, to where we're thinking about it, but we've just got to go out and run our race, and whether we make the Chase or not is not going to depend on just the one race at Richmond. I can go back all the way to the Daytona 500 and talk about things that I would've done different and would've gotten us different results. So, I'm taking it very seriously, and looking forward to a good weekend, and we're going to make sure our AAA Ford drives as good and is as fast as we can make it. And I'll go out and drive as fast as I can and whatever happens is going to happen."
AT SOME POINT, WILL YOU ANTICIPATE TALKING WITH YOUR ROUSH FENWAY RACING TEAMMATES ABOUT WHAT THEY CAN DO SATURDAY NIGHT TO HELP YOUR POINTS SITUATION? "I think that's going to be up to my crew chief and Jack Roush during the race. We can all have a game plan for the race - 'If we get here, try to let me by,' or, if you're running second, 'I'd like to lead a lap.' We can have a great plan of attack, but once they drop the green flag, usually everybody's plan goes out the window. We're just going to go out and race hard. We can't count on them to help us out, and I don't know that they will be in a position. They're trying to battle for points and get bonus points at the same time, but certainly I think they're going to race extremely hard and we might be in an opportunity to have somebody cut us some slack, or possibly if one of the guys has trouble, help us out a little bit. So, time will tell, but I feel like Jimmy Fennig will have a good eye on top of the pit box and be in constant communication with the other crew chiefs, and we'll have to play the 400 laps kind of by ear. A lot can change between the drop of the green and the last 50 laps or something. So, I think when the time comes, we'll have to plan together."
WHAT TYPE OF ADJUSTMENTS DO YOU THINK YOU'LL NEED TO MAKE TO IMPROVE ON THE LAST TIME YOU RACED AT RICHMOND? "We were going over some notes earlier from the spring race, and I think we've just got to have a better car for the long runs. We were pretty good on the short runs there in the spring. And, you know, we finished third in this race last year, so I think we'll go off some good notes. We've got to make sure we unload good because of the time between practice and qualifying being an impound race, so we've got to make sure we're good right off the truck, make some good adjustments, and hopefully we can take care of it for 350 laps and go racing at the end."
-credit: ford racing