For Ragan, desire to win looms large

by Monte Dutton

David Ragan needs a solid year. His job is likely riding on the outcome of the 2011 season.

The Unadilla, Ga. native is only 25 years old. A year ago, he finished 24th in the Sprint Cup point standings. The problem is that his No. 6 UPS Ford is a part of the Roush Fenway Racing stable, and his teammates — Carl Edwards, Matt Kenseth and Greg Biffle — all finished sixth or better.

“We have a lot of expectations for this year,” said Ragan. “The last couple years we have been real inconsistent, with a few runs here and there, but we could never get in a rhythm where we knocked off Top 5 and Top 10 finishes. That is what gets you in the Chase and gets the most points.

“We have got to run a lot of mistake-free races. The biggest thing is that we have our race cars really fast at Roush Fenway racing. I think the engine department is really prepared more so today than they have been in a couple of years. Our race cars are very nice and lightweight and seem to be very fast. That gives us a lot of confidence going into the year, and that is a good thing.”

David’s father, Ken Ragan, competed in 50 major NASCAR races in a career that spanned from 1983 through 1990.

“We all put pressure on ourselves because this is an important year for us and for our team,” said David. “We want to get Ford back into victory lane and get UPS into victory lane. I want to win a Cup race very badly.”

To date, the highlight of the junior Ragan’s career was two Nationwide Series victories in 2009, both occurring at iconic tracks. He won at Talladega, Ala. and Bristol, Tenn.

Ragan gave the off-season paving project, which cost Daytona International Speedway more than $20 million, a rave review.

“In years past here at Daytona, you would get everyone really tight together for a few laps, and then, once the tires started to wear out, the cars would bounce around…. Now all the cars are going to handle so well that everyone is going to be three by three, on top of each other, all day long. It will be a different Daytona 500 than you have seen in the past, and the last 20 or 30 laps will be totally insane,” he said.

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 ‘© 2011 King Features Syndicate

At 25, Roush Fenway driver David Ragan has two Nationwide Series race wins, but no Sprint Cup victories. (John Clark/NASCAR This Week photo)