LONG POND, Penn. (August 3, 2008) – A great pit strategy call by crew chief Jimmy Fennig catapulted Ragan to a top-five finish in Pocono. In just his second year of full time Cup racing Ragan has only visited the 2.5-mile tri-oval that makes up Pocono Raceway three times and has struggled to find the right set up for the track. This time he found what he was looking for, Ragan qualified 16th, overcame some bad luck on pit road and survived the red flag rain delay to be just where he needed to be at the end. With rain on the radar and the field under yellow Fennig called Ragan down pit road for two-tires and fuel. The move dropped Ragan back in the field, but proved to be key in a race that came down to fuel mileage. The stop set Ragan up to only make one additional stop before the checkered flag, while others had to make two. The pit strategy, paired with a fast AAA Ford, resulted in a fifth-place finish for Ragan. The finish was Ragan’s second top five and third top 10 in just the past four races.
Pocono Raceway is not a track Ragan has mastered, but this being his fourth time there he has definitely improved. Ragan had a strong car in practice on Friday and was able to qualify 16th for the 200-lap event. Rain on Saturday forced NASCAR to cancel the final practice sessions and left all the teams to base their race setups on Friday’s notes. With a green track ahead of them the field took the green flag with rain clouds lingering in the distance.
From the start of the race Ragan had a fast Ford and had moved up three spots to 13th when the first caution came out on just the first lap. It was to early in the race to pit since there wasn’t enough green-flag track time to see what handling changes would be needed. Plus all the teams knew that NASCAR would throw a “competition caution” on lap 20 due to rain washing out final practice.
Ragan held strong until the competition caution and worked his way up to the 12th position. He reported back to his team that the car was neutral getting into the turns, but tight late exit. Fennig called Ragan down pit road for four tires, fuel and an air pressure adjustment. Ragan lost a few spots on pit road to others who took only two tires, which set him up 18th for the restart.
He quickly made up the lost ground and kept hovering just outside the top 10 until green flag stops began. Ragan had cycled up with fourth on lap 54 when he made his way down pit road for four tires, fuel and an air pressure adjustment. Unfortunately a lugnut got stuck on the right-front brake hat so the tire carrier could not hang the tire. His talented crew resolved the issue as fast as they could, but they still lost valuable track position under green flag conditions.
Ragan’s AAA Ford was fast and he made up the lost track position in no time. The caution flag was once again displayed for debris on lap 66 while Ragan was running 14th. Ragan still needed help late exit, so under caution he pitted for two-tires, fuel and an air pressure adjustment. The call for two tires bumped him up inside the top 10.
From here the battle with rear grip continued until the caution came out on lap 127 for rain on the track. Ragan was sitting 14th, but Fennig called him in for two-tires and fuel. Ragan returned to the track in the 28th position just to have to park his AAA Ford on pit road the next time around for a rain delay.
The red-flag rain delay lasted 41 minutes which gave Fennig and Ragan a chance to discuss the race. Racing once again resumed on lap 135 and Ragan advanced six spots before the No. 78 and No. 15 got together bringing out the next caution. Everyone stayed out and made laps under caution since every time NASCAR was ready to go back to green flag racing Mother Nature decided to unleash some more rain.
Finally the rain stopped and the field was able to resume racing on lap 146. With 54 laps remaining no one expected the race to stay under green until the end, but it did. Ragan made his final stop on lap 168 just after leading a lap for five bonus points and took four tires, fuel and an air pressure adjustment. Ragan kept turning out fast laps which advanced him through the field and put him in the perfect position as many competitors had to pit in the closing laps for fuel. Ragan was set to make it to the end and ultimately crossed the finish line fifth; while teammate Carl Edwards went on to win the Pennsylvania 500. The finish kept Ragan 14th in the point standings, but closed the margin to just 46 points between him and 12th place.
“It was just a nice solid day – a good points day,” said Ragan. “The guys we’re racing in the points were right in front of us and behind us, so it’s exciting. We’ve got some good tracks coming up. I’m just happy to be here and have a shot. I think all we can do is just go out and do what we’ve been doing – try to get top-fives and top-10s, try not to make many mistakes that hurt us and it’s gonna happen where whatever happens is gonna happen. But if we continue to do what we’ve been doing we’re gonna win some races and make the chase and everything is gonna be great. Congratulations to Carl, certainly he had a fast car today and so did the 17 and the 16. It’s a group effort from everyone back in Charlotte and Michigan and everyone at Ford Racing. We’ve just got to keep working hard. It was a great strategy today. We knew that was going to be a brief rain shower and we knew we’d get back racing. That was the perfect call. Looking at the radar they made the right call. Things worked out. We went green the rest of the way and our AAA Ford was handling pretty well. It wasn’t perfect, but it was pretty close and we were able to hold a few of them off.”
Centurion Boats at the Glen
2.45-mile Watkins Glen International
Watkins Glen, N.Y.
Sunday, August 10, 2008
About Roush Fenway Racing
Roush Fenway Racing is NASCAR’s largest team operating 13 motorsports teams. Five in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series with drivers Matt Kenseth, Jamie McMurray, Greg Biffle, Carl Edwards and David Ragan; four in the Nationwide Series with Kenseth, Biffle, Edwards, McMurray, Ragan, Erik Darnell and Colin Braun; and three in the Craftsman Truck Series with Darnell, Braun, Kvapil, John Wes Townley and Bobby East; and one in the ARCA RE/MAX Series with Ricky Stenhouse Jr.