FONTANA, Calif. (August 31, 2008) – David Ragan went into Sunday nights race at Auto Club Speedway with hopes of taking over 12th place in the Chase standings, or at least narrowing the margin between his 13th-place ranking and 12th position, but came up a little short. Ragan had a fast AAA Ford in practice, qualified 22nd, but struggled with handling issues when the green flag dropped. Crew chief Jimmy Fennig threw all he had into Ragan’s No. 6, making multiple stops for air pressure adjustments, wedge, and track bar adjustments and by the end of the race the car seemed to be improving. Since overall speed seemed to be lacking throughout the adjustments, Fennig made the call to stay out under caution while the rest of the field pitted to gain a valuable five extra bonus points. The call helped keep Ragan in the hunt for the Chase. Ragan crossed the finish line 13th and held on to this 13th place position in the standings. Ragan is just 17 points out of 12th heading into Richmond where the field for the Chase will be set.
In a total of three practice sessions throughout the Auto Club race weekend David Ragan had a fast AAA Ford. When it came time to qualify Ragan made his way around the two-mile track in 40.648 seconds to qualify 22nd. The qualifying effort wasn’t exactly what Ragan hoped it would be, but final practice times inside the top 10 left everyone feeling confident for race time. Unfortunately the confidence was short lived due to handling issues that surfaced at the start of the race.
Ragan picked up a few spots in the opening laps of the 250-lap event, but informed his team he was lacking rear grip. Ragan worked his way up to 17th by the time the second caution came out. The caution gave Ragan a chance to pit for four tires, fuel and an air pressure adjustment. The field returned to green flag racing on lap 25 and Ragan gained a few positions before dropping back.
The third caution came out just 43 laps into the event and Ragan had dropped back to 20th. He told Fennig his AAA Ford started off ok, but just kept getting “freer and freer” throughout the run. Fennig called Ragan down pit road for four tires, fuel, an air pressure adjustment and a track bar adjustment. Ragan’s over-the-wall team gained him three spots, setting him up 17th for the restart on lap 47.
Ragan once again seemed to pick up a spot or two before slipping back. He reported back to his team that the AAA Fusion was “still getting to free”. Throughout the next 100 laps Ragan pitted a total of three more times for similar adjustments. Each change seemed to result in the same lap times on the track.
A key strategy move by Fennig under caution on lap 146 looked to give Ragan and the team the much needed boost they were looking for. The entire field decided to pit under caution, but Fennig kept Ragan on the track to lead and lap and pick up five bonus points. Ragan pitted after leading his lap for four tires, fuel and an air pressure adjustment. Ragan was running 16th at the time of the caution and was only set back two positions in the strategy call.
With the security of the bonus points Ragan began to make up some track position. Slowly he made his way forward and dealt with lapped traffic, all the while battling a AAA Ford that was lacking grip. As the race went on and more adjustments were made the handling of the No. 6 seemed to improve, but not enough to be competitive at the end. Ragan ultimately finished 13th and maintained his ground in the point standings. Jimmie Johnson went on to win at Auto Club Speedway.
“We dug ourselves a bigger hole, but we just didn’t have the speed all night and battled poor track position,” said Ragan. “We got it decent there at the end. If it would have been a 600-mile race, maybe we could have picked up a few more spots, but we were just adjusting it seemed like every run and just didn’t have the speed. I guess we’re in the same position at Richmond as we were in now, we’ve just got to outrun everybody else.” Jimmy made an excellent call to stay out for points, so now we’re 17 points out. That’s better than 20 or 25, but not as good as 10 or 5, so we’ve just got to go and do what we’ve been doing. We’ve got to have more speed. We didn’t have the fastest car on the race track today. Our AAA team never gave up. We kept working on it, but the bottom line is we’ve got to qualify good, race good, and not have any trouble next week to make the chase.”
Chevy Rock & Roll 400
0.750-mile Richmond International Raceway
Saturday, September 6, 2008