It was February, 2011 as Ragan closed in on the dream of every NASCAR driver – a win at the Great American Race, the Daytona 500. But, while under caution with only two laps to go and a mad sprint for glory moments away, he was black flagged (penalized) for changling lanes before he crossed the starting line on the subsequent green flag.
That simple error cost Ragan a chance to make history and cast a shadow over his entire 2012 season. Now, with the 2012 edition of Daytona just days away, Ragan has an opportunity to pass all of that disappointment and controversy by conquering the biggest stock car race in America.
But, he’ll have to do it without the sponsorship support of UPS which pulled their sponsorship money and forced Ragan to leave his longtime home of Roush Fenway Racing. Fortunately, last month Ragan found a ride with Front Row Motorsports to drive their number 34 Ford.
During an interview in Charlotte, Ragan talked about life in the shadow of Daytona.
Crave Online: Throughout last season and throughout media preparation for the new Sprint Cup campaign, you’re continually asked about last year’s Daytona 500. I’m not going to ask you – yet again and for the umpteenth time – how you deal with almost winning a race that would put you up with the legends. More importantly, how have you dealt with the endless questions about that race?
David Ragan: I’ve said before that Daytona would be hard to forget. And, obviously, I’m not going to forget it because I’m still being asked about it. But, of course, it wasn’t a sure thing that we were going to win after the restart, but we were fast that day. But the drama of restart means I’ll still be asked about it.
Crave Online: That race and that season is behind you now. You’re with a new and smaller race team now. How are you adapting to the new team and new sponsor?
David Ragan: We still got a pretty fast car here. It’s an adjustment moving to a smaller team, but I think we’ll be running full speed.
Crave Online: Is preparing for a race and for this new season feel different for you with a new team and sponsor around you?
David Ragan: I tend to stick close to my same routine on race days. After the driver’s meeting on race day, I just go back and eat something. We discuss adjustments we might make to the car based on the track conditions if we’re able to make adjustments on race day. But, race time is on top of you before you know it.
Crave Online: So, whether it’s Daytona or anyplace else, you stick to the same routine from last year and your original team?
David Ragan: I’ll be racing with pretty much the same people I’ve been racing with week in and week out. And, during a race, while I’m in the car, it’s easy to lose track of who’s a lap down. You just race.
Photo Credit: ASSOCIATED PRESS