David Ragan has room to grow

by Monte Dutton

Second-generation NASCAR driver David Ragan may have to break out of his laid-back style for a successful season in 2010. (John Clark/NASCAR This Week photo)

If driving styles matched personalities, David Ragan couldn’t possibly be erratic.

The second-generation driver — father Ken drove in major NASCAR races during the 1980s — fell from 13th in 2008 Sprint Cup points to 27th in 2009. The driver some predicted might make the Chase if he could move up just one position, instead fell 14 spots.

Ragan, still just 24 years old, can’t understand it either. No one in NASCAR seems more calm and unflappable by Monte Dutton than Ragan, who is from Unadilla, Ga.

“I spent a lot of nights wondering what’s going on,” he said. “I guess it’s just that Southern man, or Southern guy, in me. Maybe it’s my granddad rubbing off on me.

“A quick story: I was with him one day and we ran out of gas. I asked, ‘What are we going to do? Are we going to get some gas?’ It was 15 years ago. We didn’t have a cell phone then.

“He said, ‘Nah, I’m going to take a nap. Somebody will come by in a little while.’ He never worried about much.”

In one sense, though, the laidback style is just a front.

“There were times when I was sick at my stomach, so much that I couldn’t eat supper,” Ragan said. “We just couldn’t run

any better than 25 th , and I remember when we’d come to the race track in 2008, and I’d make more mistakes than

I should have, and we’d run 12 th . It was frustrating, but I’m a man, and I can admit it when I do things wrong. [Owner] Jack Roush is a man, and he can admit it when things are not right on the performance side, and by being honest, we can work together and fix it.”

Ragan knows he has to regain his form this year. “It’s pretty simple,” he said.

“We’ve got to win races in 2010.

“We’ve got to be competitive, from the short tracks to the mile-and-a-half tracks to the [restrictor-plate] tracks, so I’m pretty excited about going to Daytona. We’re ready to go.”

Monte Dutton has covered motorsports for The Gaston (NC) Gazette since 1993. He was named writer of the year by the National Motorsports Press Association in 2008. His blog NASCAR This Week ( features all of his reporting on racing, roots music and life on the road. E-mail Monte at (c) 2010 King Features Syndicate