Daytona 500: Ragan, Roush, Fenning - Ford interview

David Ragan, driver of the No. 6 AAA Ford Fusion, has been forced to a backup car after begin involved in a single-car accident during Thursday's first Gatorade Duel. As a result, Ragan will start in the back of the field for Sunday's Daytona 500.

David Ragan, driver of the No. 6 AAA Ford Fusion, has been forced to a backup car after begin involved in a single-car accident during Thursday's first Gatorade Duel. As a result, Ragan will start in the back of the field for Sunday's Daytona 500. Ragan, along with crew chief Jimmy Fennig and car owner Jack Roush, spoke about their situation on Friday.

DAVID RAGAN -- No. 6 AAA Ford Fusion

JIMMY FENNIG SAYS HE GAVE YOU SOME GOOD ADVICE ON WHAT DO SUNDAY STARTING FROM THE BACK. CAN YOU EXPLAIN? "Starting in the back you can have a gameplan to hang out back there and maybe possibly be behind the big wreck, or try to make the smart moves to make your way up towards the front. Certainly we'd rather be up in the front racing than back in the back cruising around. We've got the 42 of Montoya, Gordon, Kevin Harvick -- there are some pretty good cars that are gonna be back there -- so our plans right now is obviously to get our AAA Ford Fusion driving well, where I can make the right moves to hang in there with those guys. Secondly, we just need to play it smart. Certainly it's a 500-mile event and try not to bring any bad situations upon ourselves. It's so easy to get caught up in someone else's bad situation there's no need to bring anything bad among ourselves."

HOW IS THE TRANSITION FROM BUSCH TO CUP? "Learning is the big thing that we're here to do this year. Certainly it takes years of preparations for the cars and for the team and for the driver combinations to win championships, and we know we're capable of running up front and contending for wins, but it's something that separates the contenders for championships and just race winners -- how you deal with the bad situation. Yesterday, having two flat tires within five laps, I've got to learn how to deal with that situation a little better than I did yesterday, bringing home a wrecked race car. Sometimes you can't control what happens, but we're here to make the right decisions and try to stay out of creating trouble for our own selves. That's something we've talked about and experience will help that and just being a smart race car driver will help that also."

THE YELLOW STRIPE IS OBVIOUS. HOW HAVE GUYS WORKED WITH YOU IN THE DRAFT? "It's been alright so far. I think running some of the truck races last year helped some. Also having a good race car is probably one of the biggest things that helps. I think the guys will tend to go with you if they know you've got a good race car. If you're a rookie and have a bad race car, I think that's a double negative towards you, but the AAA Ford is pretty good. It drives well. It's got some good speed, so I think they'll hang with me a little bit, but, still, the first opportunity to leave me hung out and dry, I'm probably gonna get that."

FANS MAY NOT UNDERSTAND HOW HARD THIS IS. "I put it in comparison to the NFL players or Major League Baseball players. There are like over 1,000 NFL players and it's tough to become a pro player on a top team, and there are 43 top NASCAR drivers. To be in that top 50 or 55 is an extreme accomplishment for myself or for anyone, but at the same time, the competition is so great because you've got the best 50 race car drivers in the United States out here and they're all smart. We've all got great sponsors. We've all got good crew chiefs, so the competition level is really high, so that makes it tough but it also makes us better."

HOW LONG WILL IT BE BEFORE YOU LOSE THAT ROOKIE-TYPE FEELING? "A half season. You're constantly learning. If I go back to Lowe's Motor Speedway and race a Legend car, I'll learn something or maybe refresh my memory that I learned five years ago, but I give myself about a six month time period. We'll go to a couple downforce tracks, a road course, short track and then by the time we come back to Daytona in July, I should have experienced a lot of what there is to experience in a full Nextel Cup season. And by running the Busch Series this year, we hope when we come back to Daytona that will be like having a full season under our belt. That's how I'm gonna look at it."

HOW IS IT HAVING THE ATTENTION OF BEING IN THE 6 CAR? "It's something you can take either way, you can take it either bad or good, but I've just learned to make it up in my mind to take it for good attention. When you pull in the garage and you've got guys like Jimmy Fennig and Bobby Bakeeff, our car chief standing there, you know that it's great equipment and great people and it's just a matter of working with them. They've got to learn my style and I've got to learn their style, so we can use our advantages at the top level. It's gonna take a little bit of time. This is the first race I've been with Jimmy Fennig. We haven't really even gotten through a race and I've learned so much already, so by California, by Vegas, going to Atlanta, Martinsville and then back here in Daytona in July, I should have it all planned out in my head. It's just a matter of if I can get it from my head to the race track."


JIMMY FENNIG, Crew Chief -- No. 6 AAA Ford Fusion

HOW MUCH DOES THURSDAY'S ACCIDENT SET YOU BACK FROM THE STANDPOINT YOU DON'T HAVE YOUR PRIMARY CAR FOR THE DAYTONA 500? "I don't know if it sets you back as much as if you've lost your primary car, you've lost your best thing. That's why it's a primary versus a secondary. We tested both cars down here so it really didn't set us back, I just feel like we lost the better of the two cars, that's all."

HAVE BEEN ABLE TO FIGURE OUT WHAT HAPPENED WITH HAVING TWO TIRE ISSUES SO CLOSE TOGETHER? "I don't know what happened with the right-front, but I think we ran over something. And then when we left pit road I'd have to say we probably ran over something again because the apron is pretty dirty around this place. We cut them both. We cut the right-rear for sure, but I'm still looking about the right-front, but I believe we cut both tires."

BEING A ROOKIE, HOW WOULD YOU SAY DAVID HAS HANDLED THIS SITUATION? "That's what it is, now he's been in another situation that he can learn from. He did a good job drafting yesterday. I was pretty proud of the way he was drafting and how the car was running, so it's just unfortunate we had those two flat tires."

FROM HIS STANDPOINT HE DIDN'T DO ANYTHING WRONG OR MAKE A MISTAKE, SO HE DOESN'T FEEL HE'S PUT HIS TEAM IN A BIND DOES HE? "No, you can't do anything about cut tires. That's part of racing and all we can do is go forward from here."

YOU'VE WORKED WITH YOUNG DRIVERS BEFORE IN KURT BUSCH AND HAD ALL THOSE YEARS WITH MARK MARTIN. HOW WOULD YOU SAY DAVID IS PROGRESSING? "David is doing an awesome job as far as being a rookie. Like any rookie he's going to go through his bumps, but he's a very talented race car driver. He learns very fast from his mistakes and remembers everything he learns out there. Hopefully what he learned yesterday will be applied on Sunday."

TODD PARROTT TOLD DAVID GILLILAND THE OTHER NIGHT IN THE SHOOTOUT THAT IF HE GOT BEHIND THE 48, 24, 8 OR 20 TO JUST STAY THERE. HAVE YOU TOLD YOUR DRIVER ANYTHING LIKE THAT FOR SUNDAY? "We just got done talking about it. We talked about the 24 being back there with us and the 42 and we told him to try and latch onto the 24. I think people know that we have fast race cars, so people will help us get to the front if need be because of the speed we have in our race cars. I told David that, too. Hopefully, we can work with the 24 and get to the front and try to stay there all day."


JACK ROUSH, Car Owner -- No. 6 AAA Ford Fusion

HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT THE 6 CAR HAVING TO GO TO A BACKUP? "David has not had the experience that the 28 and 30 year olds have because he just had his 21st birthday. There are a lot of things that he's trying to understand and to figure out the rules for and the wisdom of that are beyond his experience. Jimmy is talking to him. I'm talking to him. His mother and father and uncle are talking to him. He's getting a lot of input from the people outside saying, 'If you just do this, it will be a good result, and if you don't do this, it will be a bad result.' But it's awful hard to assimilate all of that and to figure out how to apply it. He did a great job in the ARCA race. Everybody was thrilled with the way that worked out. He took what I'd say was probably a fifth or sixth place car and he finished fourth with it. He didn't make a mistake all day and took advantage of every opportunity on the race track in a very conservative way that the circumstance gave him. He didn't do as well in the twin 150, obviously. He had a front tire, which may have been caused by debris on the track or may have been caused with contact by another car. Certainly there was some contact in that area because the fender was bent, but he did react to that well. He got it on pit road, they changed the tire and then NASCAR allowed him to make his lap up because he was the person entitled to that. As he was chasing to catch the field, he runs over a piece of debris that undoubtedly was on the race track and it put a hole in the rear tire. He recognized that was a problem and Jimmy talked to him about being careful. The spotter had confirmation that the tire was going down and then he used judgment that wasn't great in trying to get to the pits and wound up wrecking the car. You go along and things work really well and then something happens that's avoidable and it's clear that you aren't where you'd like to be with regard to experience and the judgment process."

HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT THE 6 CAR FOR SUNDAY? "I think the car Jimmy has taken off the truck will be marginally better than the car that they wrecked. It's a higher downforce car with more drag. It should be better in traffic when the tires get worn and when they lose some of their adhesion, so the result on the race track in the 500 for David, if he misses the wreck as he works his way forward -- through attrition and through pit stops and through passing a few cars on the race track -- as he works his way forward, if he can miss the wreck, I think he'll have a great result. But I think this will give him pause and will make him be cognizant of some things that he may have been more cavalier about if he hadn't had that problem in the twin 150."

THOUGHTS ON THE ROUSH CARS -- "My assessment of the cars in the race the other day is that David was obviously doing OK. He was trying to be careful even though he got caught up in his problem. Greg Biffle was determined to protect his car for the 500. He has tested the backup car. It was the same car he had for the shootout. He had three cars available and decided to use his shootout car as a spare and it's not as good a car from a handling point of view as he had for the twin 150. So Greg was determined to keep that car well and not suffer a problem with it. As a result, he wasn't very exciting in the race. He just hung out. Matt Kenseth was similarly conservative, but, based on the way things worked for him, was able to get up front and stay up front more than Greg did. I looked at the cars and the way they were able to move on the race track, it looked to me like Matt -- from what he showed -- was as good as anybody out there, including the 24 that won the race. The team made the decision not to put tires on and leave him on the race track, and that really left him disadvantaged for the people that did have tires as it developed there. If Robbie had been here, that might have been a different decision or it might not, I'm not sure. But if you're in a commanding position, which Matt was one of the cars in a commanding position, you don't want to beat yourself so you don't want to take some strategy or do something coming off the race track that could be worse for you than if you just left it alone. By the same token, if you're not in a position to go take it, then you want the better tires and you do want to take a chance and try to make a jump ball out of it and try to make something happen. That's what the 24 did and a number of people did as they got two tires and were able to go to the front.

"So Matt's real good. Greg's real good. Jamie's real good. Carl's real good. Carl's car was a little loose. We think it's gonna be warmer for the race, we expect, and the handling will be more of an issue with twice as many cars out there and we think that Carl has a car that has more downforce than most, and we think he'll be in good shape with that. I'm guardedly optimistic. If you say, 'Jack, what do you think your chances are to win this race?' Well, given the fact that we've never won a Daytona 500 in 19 years, you'd say it's not very good, but I think our chances of winning here with any of our cars -- our Busch cars, our Cup cars or our Trucks -- are at least as good, if not better than they were at Homestead and, of course, we prevailed at Homestead and won all three."

WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ON THE THINGS THAT HAVE HAPPENED HERE AT SPEEDWEEKS AND THE CRACKING DOWN NASCAR IS DOING ABOUT THE INSPECTION PROCESS? "NASCAR works, I think, knowingly and sometimes unknowingly, making excitement for the fans and the competitors. They make things happen and they make things that people want to talk about and debate in terms of the wisdom or timeliness of decisions -- in favor of or in deference to particular teams. NASCAR is making an attempt to take the technical inspection part and the compliance to the next level, where it's never been, and they've been admittedly inconsistent in what they've done and unpredictable. If you said what is a predictable part of NASCAR and what could you predict? I can predict unpredictability (laughing). They've penalized, in some cases I think, more than precedent would dictate and common sense would allow, and on other things they've given free passes to people that were clearly outside the box and the culpability and the intent that was involved, by comparison, would have dictated a more stronger and more stringent penalty."

-credit: ford racing

Write a comment
Show comments
About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Matt Kenseth , Greg Biffle , Jack Roush , David Ragan