BUSCH: St. Louis: Ragan - Ford Friday interview

David Ragan, driver of the No. 6 Discount Tire Ford Fusion, makes his second NASCAR Busch Series appearance at Gateway International Raceway for this weekend's Gateway 250. Ragan leads the Raybestos Rookie-of-the-Year points race and is fifth in...

David Ragan, driver of the No. 6 Discount Tire Ford Fusion, makes his second NASCAR Busch Series appearance at Gateway International Raceway for this weekend's Gateway 250. Ragan leads the Raybestos Rookie-of-the-Year points race and is fifth in overall series points.

DAVID RAGAN -- No. 6 Discount Tire Ford Fusion

SEVERAL DRIVERS HAVE TALKED ABOUT THE DIFFICULTY OF THIS TRACK. DO YOU FEEL THIS IS A CHALLENGING TRACK? "I've been here several times with the trucks and ARCA cars. I think I even ran a Busch race here a couple of years ago. It's difficult, but if you get down to it, a lot of tracks are all different in some sense of mind. It's not bad if you've got a good car with good horsepower, good brakes. It's a fun track; it's a different track. I'd much rather come here than a place like California or something. It's a unique kind of race track and kind of fun."

WITH YOUR FAMILY NEARBY, DO YOU HAVE ANY SPECIAL PLANS FOR THE WEEKEND? "I went and drove some go-karts with some of them this morning. I was planning on staying over and go up to Kenny Schrader's go-kart track and race on Sunday. But it looks like I've got to get home and do some work before I test on Tuesday in the Busch cars at Bristol. I've just been hanging out with them for the past couple of days. I also went to Anheuser-Busch on Tuesday and had a real good time seeing all that. This is always a fun weekend, plus Cup is off. It gives you a little more time in the schedule to do things. I have more time to spend with the team. I'm not back and forth between the Cup and Busch car. I think we'll have a little more time to prepare ourselves and hang out with the guys on the Discount Tire team a bit. I'm just going to enjoy the weekend. It's kind of like an off weekend to me; I'm not running around back and forth. This is a little more laid back."

BEING IN THE HOMETOWN OF ANHEUSER-BUSCH AND WITH THE BUSCH SPONSORSHIP GOING AWAY, DOES THIS RACE HAVE SENTIMENTAL VALUE? "It will years down the road. Right now it doesn't mean anything. But years down the road, when I sit back and think about it, yes, this is a cool thing to be a part of. The NASCAR Busch Series is one of the best racing series in the world. I've had a good time. Growing up as a kid, I've only known it as the one thing and that's the Busch series. It's going to be a little different next year but it's going to be a special weekend."

YOU'VE HAD A GREAT SEASON SO FAR, YOU'RE LEADING THE IN ROOKIE POINTS AND ARE IN THE TOP-10 OVERALL. HAS THE SEASON MET YOUR EXPECTATIONS? "Yes, this is about where I thought we would be. I have to say, we're fifth in overall points and leading rookie points, I was hoping for top-10 in regular points. We're higher in points, but we wish we were running a little better, a little more consistent. I feel like we've had some really strong runs and that's what's boosting us up a little bit, but I feel like if we could be a little more consistent, try to get a little better on the mile and a half tracks then that's what will help us the most leading into the last 15 races of the year."

CAN YOU EXPLAIN THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN YOUR BUSCH TEAM AND CUP TEAM? "The guys on the Cup side are usually a little more experienced; they've been around a little longer. My crew chief from the Nextel Cup side, he's a strict crew chief, not a lot of horseplay, which is great. But on this team, we're a little more laid back at times. Sometimes the guys that are working are a little more inexperienced, they're younger. At Roush, we move our crew guys up, just like we move our drivers up. They start in the Truck Series, Busch Series and gradually get promoted to the Cup Series. It's a little more laid back. The teams are made up of a different group of people."

HOW DO YOU SEE YOUR INVOLVEMENT IN THIS SERIES? IS IT TESTING? DEVELOPMENT? "It's just more experience, more racing. The cars are a little different. You're not necessarily trying to learn to drive the car, but it's more just racing situations. Restarting on the outside lane, restarting on the inside lane, making pit stops, going through the gears on restarts; just the situations that occur throughout a practice session or qualifying session. That's the biggest thing we're trying to learn."

WHAT IS YOUR TAKE ON CUP DRIVERS RACING IN THE BUSCH SERIES? "This is basically a mini Nextel Cup Series. Last week at Chicagoland, I think there were 25 or 26 Nextel Cup guys. It's just as hard to win a Busch race as it is a Cup race. It's a great learning series. It's tough for the individual teams coming here and expect to win because if you look at the top-10 tomorrow night, certainly we don't know who is going to finish in the top-10, I bet you anything that 90% of the cars will have a Cup affiliation to it. It's sad in one point, but if we didn't have the Cup influence in this series, we wouldn't be having great television, all the people in the grandstands and all the interest that we do." SO, YOU THINK IT'S A LEARNING SERIES? "Yes, it's a learning series, but at the same time, it's equally as competitive, equally as challenging to win a race as the Nextel Cup Series. If you can run good in the Busch Series, you feel like you have the confidence that you can do it on the Cup side."

IS YOUR PLAN TO RUN BOTH BUSCH AND CUP NEXT YEAR? "Yes, it's certainly on the table right now. I'm a racer. I want to race. If I could race three times a weekend and still have any sense to me, I would love to. Sometimes you have weigh your priorities. Our Cup program is our number one priority and that's the future of Roush. But until I can be comfortable showing-up at the race track every week not having to re-learn things again, I'm going to run in the Busch Series."

WILL IT BE IN THE SAME CARS? "Yes, the Discount Tire, I don't know what's official and what isn't, but these guys are ready to go again. We've got some awesome race cars at Roush Racing. Certainly, there's a lot that can happen between now and next year, but if we can make it happen and I can do what I'm supposed to do for the rest of the year, that's something we all feel will help me in the future, then certainly we'll do it."

DOES RUNNING A BUSCH CAR ON COT WEEKENDS KIND OF STRANGE? SOME DRIVERS HAVE SAID IT'S HURT THEM. "It's hurt our qualifying effort on our Cup side, just a little because the COT you have to finesse that car a little more than you do a Busch car. In New Hampshire, for instance, we practiced our Cup car, practiced our Busch car, and then qualified our Cup car. So, you get out of that rhythm for a split second and you take that second on the Nextel Cup side of things and instead of qualifying 15th, we qualify 30th. That hurts us a little bit. But that's all in what will make me a better race car driver. If I can learn how to deal with that and learn on to manage the changes between the two series, that's just going to make me better."

DOES RUNNING THE COT ALL NEXT YEAR HAVE ANY INFLUENCE ON THE BUSCH? "It's going to have a little bit, but I'm not here to learn how to drive a Busch car or how to drive a Cup car. I'm here to learn racing situations, racing the race track, coming on and off pit road, restarts, how the tire feels. If they really want to stop the Cup drivers running, they need to change the tire, or something like that. We run so we can get tire data, air pressure and stuff for Sunday. That's a big help because it's exactly the same tire. More or less, the same situations, racing with the same guys, trying to get some respect in the garage -- that's the biggest thing."

THERE'S A LOT OF YOUNG DRIVERS IN THE SERIES. IS JACK ROUSH COMMITTED MORE THAN OTHER OWNERS? "I think Jack's got the best program in NASCAR. Picking the young guys, he evaluates them, he takes them through a pretty strenuous test -- The Gong Show, testing ARCA cars and running ARCA races. He really knows not only that they know how to drive a race car but true character and what kind of values they have in life. He really knows the person before he commits to them. Roush has, in my eyes, the best program for young drivers."

-credit: ford racing

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Drivers David Ragan