DAYTONA, Fla. (February 14, 2008) – Qualifying for the Daytona 500 is like no other event. To start, every competitor must run two timed qualifying laps just like a normal race weekend. This sets the front row for the 500 and the field for “The Duels.” There are two duels consisting of 60 laps in which competitors must race their way into the Daytona 500. In qualifying on Sunday, David Ragan led the way for Roush Fenway Racing qualifying 13th, while Jimmie Johnson and Michael Waltrip claimed the front row for the Daytona 500. Ragan’s 13th place qualifying effort put him starting ninth in the second duel race. Daytona International Speedway is a restrictor-plate track and the race depends heavily on who you can draft with; not having drafting help will leave you hung out to dry and you will quickly fall to the back of the pack. Ragan survived three cautions, two red flags and partnered with the right people to shuffle his way up to a sixth-place finish.
Ragan’s first Daytona 500 experience came last year in which he survived a large wreck at the checkered flag and earned a fifth-place finish. This year Ragan has hopes of repeating the success from his rookie year. Ragan’s No. 6 AAA Ford Fusion handled well in practice and excelled in qualifying. Ragan went out early and qualified 13th, just ahead of Roush Fenway teammate Matt Kenseth. His 13th place qualifying effort placed Ragan in the second duel in the ninth starting position.
From the drop of the green flag Ragan paired up with the right people and was all the way up to the third position by the third lap. As he jockeyed for position, Ragan shuffled around inside the top 10 for the first part of the race until he report to his crew that his Ford was starting to get tight and the nose was sliding.
The first caution of the 60-lap race came out on lap 15 when the No. 27 hit the wall. Ragan came down pit road under caution for fuel, four tires and air pressure adjustment and a track bar adjustment. Ragan’s over-the-wall crew quickly made the adjustments crew chief Jimmy Fennig had requested. Ragan came to pit road in 10th, but with the help of his crew he gained valuable track position and was sitting sixth for the green flag restart on lap 22.
In just two laps, Ragan was shuffled back to the 13th position when the second caution flag came out. This time around NASCAR threw the red flag, stopping the field while they cleaned up debris. As soon as the track was cleaned up, the field returned back to racing. Ragan continued jockeying for position, remaining in the top 15 until the third caution came out on lap 57. This time, the No. 10 car made contact with the wall which resulted in another red flag while NASCAR cleaned up the debris.
The late-race caution set the field up for a green-white-checkered finish. Crew chief Jimmy Fennig knew they were close on fuel, but decided to stay out on the track instead of pitting like a few other competitors did. The call proved to be the right one. Ragan restarted eighth and crossed the finish line in the sixth position.
“That was a lot of fun,” said Ragan. “Just to have one stop and we had a full fuel run on the last set of tires. That was a true testament to how well the balance was on the AAA Ford Fusion. I don’t think we had any tire trouble all day, so it was a fun race. I can only imagine what 500 miles driving that hard is going to be like, but we had a lot of teammates in that race and got a lot of help from the 17 and 16 at different times. It was just a lot of fun. We’ll try to make our race car just a little bit better and go from there.”
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 and Joey Clanton; and one in the ARCA RE/MAX Series with Ricky Stenhouse Jr.