AVONDALE, Ariz. (April 12, 2008) – David Ragan had a strong No. 6 AAA Ford Fusion at the start of the Subway Fresh Fit 500, but as the sun set over the track, the handling went away from Ragan’s Ford. Ragan started 23rd and spent the majority of the race in the top 15 until about mid-way when the sun went down and the car got extremely loose. The loose handling condition caused Ragan to spin on lap 201, bringing out the caution flag. Ragan pitted to repair the flat tire from the spin and sheet metal damage from contact with the wall, all of which put him a lap down to the leaders. Ragan spent the remaining laps trying to get back onto the lead lap and reclaim the top-10 finish they should have had, but never was able to make up the track position and ultimately finished 27th, two laps down to race winner Jimmie Johnson.
In two out of three practice sessions prior to the race Ragan was in the top 10 on the speed charts. Everyone knows when the sun is out the track is slick and as it sets the track cools and makes for faster lap times. Unfortunately for Ragan he went out early in qualifying while the sun was still out and was at a disadvantage to the competitors who got a later draw. Ragan did the best he could going out ninth for qualifying, setting himself up to start the 312-lap event from the 23rd position.
From the drop of the green flag Ragan wasted no time making his move towards the front of the field. He reported back to his team that the car was “pretty neutral” and he began to pick of competitors one-by-one. Ragan broke into the top 15 by lap 37 and was in 13th when the second caution of the day came out. His car was now loose off the corners so crew chief Jimmy Fennig called Ragan down pit road under caution for four tires, fuel and an air pressure adjustment. His over-the-wall team maintained his track position, setting Ragan up 14th for the green flag restart on lap 41.
The changes seemed to be just what Ragan needed. He worked his way up to 10th on lap 74 and held steady in 10th position as green flag stops began. Ragan was about to make his green flag stop on lap 112 when his spotter, Tony Hirschman, yelled over the radio “stay out, stay out, there’s going to be a caution.” Hirschman was right and his quick thinking kept the No. 6 on the lead lap, while those that had pitted prior to the caution were now a lap down. Ragan pitted under caution for four tires, fuel and an air pressure adjustment. Hirschman apologized for yelling at Ragan over the radio, but Ragan said “go head and yell at me anytime if it’s going to keep us from going a lap down.”
Ragan stayed in the top 10 until around lap 167 when the car started to get very loose. Ragan radioed to his team that he needed more forward bite, but an opportunity to pit did not come in time. The loose handling car got away from Ragan on the backstretch, causing him to spin out and make slight contact with the wall and to get a flat tire. Ragan could have limped around the track to stay on the lead lap, but opted to pit instead to change the tire so the rubber didn’t come loose and tear apart his right rear fender. The team changed right side tires, then Ragan came back around for left side tires and so the team could fix the sheet metal damage.
When green flag racing commenced on lap 204, Ragan was scored in 31st position one lap down to the leaders. From there handling and track position were an uphill battle for the No. 6 crew. As the race came down to the final laps the entire field had to either pit for tires or just for fuel. Ragan pitted six-laps shy of the finish for a splash of fuel only and went out to complete the race and earn a 27th-place finish.
“It seemed like when the sun went down, we went downhill,” said Ragan “We struggled on restarts and after about the 100-lap mark, just no forward bite, really loose all night, just struggled. I felt like the first 100 laps or so, we had a top-10 car, but just failed to bring it home where we needed to be.”
WHAT HAPPENED ON LAP 201 THAT ENDED UP WITH YOU IN THE WALL? “I don’t know. It was just really, really loose and continued to get freer and freer and I just spun it out. You know, I hated to tear the right-front fender off the thing. We decided to pit and we lost a lap. We struggled back in traffic all night. The car was pretty free, and we made some gains on it, but just not enough. I’m pretty disappointed. We should’ve been up there in the top-10 or top-12 and ended up [27th].”
2.66-miles Talladega Supserpeedway
Sunday, April 27, 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.