HAMPTON, Ga. (March 8, 2009) – Atlanta Motor Speedway was a weekend of hometowns for David Ragan. Ragan grew up just South of the track in Unadilla, Ga. while his sponsor UPS has their headquarters located in Atlanta. Being in both his and UPS’s backyard gave Ragan added incentive to rebound from a rough outing in Vegas, but things didn’t work out as planned. The No. 6 UPS Ford wasn’t handling well in practice on Friday and was unruly in qualifying, which found Ragan starting 39th on Sunday. Saturday proved no different, while a leak in the engine caused the team to err on the side of caution and swap it out before the 500-mile race on Sunday. With the engine change, Ragan had to drop to the tail end of the field and had no where to go but forward. Despite battling a loose handling race car, Ragan worked his way around the track ultimately finishing 19th, three laps down to race winner Kurt Busch.
The No. 6 UPS Ford proved to be a challenge for not only David Ragan behind the wheel, but his team who searched to find the perfect set up. Practice on Friday left driver and team worried about qualifying, and rightfully so. Ragan posted the 39th fastest lap in Friday nights qualifying making everyone realize they had their work cut out for them in practice Saturday.
Rain Saturday morning delayed practice, but once the track was green, Ragan was on it. Throughout the session the car improved, but the team noticed some oil leaking from the engine. Not wanting to take any chances the team swapped the engine Saturday night. With the engine change, Ragan had to start the race from the back of the field, but with qualifying 39th, it wasn’t a huge loss.
Ragan had the field in his sights and no one behind him from the drop of the green flag Sunday afternoon. One-by-one Ragan made his way through the field, and was up to 36th by the second caution, just 11 laps into the race. The UPS Ford was a little loose so Ragan pitted for four tires, fuel and a track bar adjustment. Ragan’s crew gained him four spots on pit road, putting Ragan 32nd for the restart on lap 16.
The changes weren’t enough to fix the loose condition and Ragan was passed by the leader on lap 48. From here on out the goal was to get back on the lead lap and correct the loose handling condition. Green flag stops were next up for the field and Ragan came in for service on lap 65. This time he was given four tires, fuel and an air pressure adjustment. Unfortunately, two laps later the caution came out and now the No. 6 was two laps down to the leaders since some of the cars had not yet come in for service.
Being two laps down with a loose handling race car was an unexpected challenge for Ragan and crew. Ragan pitted three more times for similar adjustments to correct the handling when another problem came to the crews attention. Contact with the No. 16 on lap 197 caused Ragan to scrape the wall with the right-side of his UPS Ford. Luckily the caution came out a few laps later allowing the team to pull the fenders off the tires and return Ragan to the track.
Three more pit stops for tires and air seemed to get the UPS Ford cutting through the corners and handling much more efficiently for Ragan, but too much time had elapsed in the race and there was no more ground to gain. Ragan finished the 330-lap event 19th, three-laps down to the leaders.
“Compared to where we started, it was a good day for our UPS team,” said Ragan. “It’s not where we wanted to be, but we did the best we could. We were pretty loose all day and the crew really worked hard to get this car where it needed to be. We didn’t lose a lot of points but we didn’t really gain any either. So we’ll just have to go back and work on some things and get a little better before we head into the next race.”
Food City 500
Bristol Motor Speedway (0.533-mile speedway)
Sunday, March 22, 2009