HOMESTEAD, Fla.(November 16, 2008) – Being locked into 13th place and with nothing to lose Ragan gave it his all in an effort to take home his first victory, but came up short right at the end in a race that came down to fuel mileage. Ragan tried to end his season on a high note in his last race with AAA, but fell short of the goal. Ragan qualified his AAA Ford sixth, was fast in practice, but a mishap on pit road and not enough fuel cost him at the end. Ragan tried to stretch the fuel in his AAA Ford, but with a few laps to go the engine started to sputter and Ragan had to come down pit road on the final lap. The late stop left Ragan with a 24th-place finish while teammate Carl Edwards went on to win the Ford 400 and Jimmie Johnson won his third consecutive NASCAR Sprint Cup Championship.
If you don’t make the exclusive 12 car field for the Chase then 13th place is the next best thing and David Ragan and his AAA team had that position locked up before they ever took the track in Homestead. With nothing to lose and everything to gain Ragan gave all he had. The AAA Ford was fast in practice and Ragan was able to qualify sixth for the 267-lap Ford 400.
As the field made their way around the track behind the pace car warming up for the Ford 400 crew chief Jimmy Fennig reminded Ragan and crew that they were locked into 13th and were there to win a race. Everyone was on board with the plan and from the drop of the green flag Ragan began to work his way forward and broke into the top five just ten laps into the race. Ragan reported to his team that the AAA Ford need to turn a little better in the center off of the turns, but that rear grip was great.
A long caution free run led the field to green flag pit stops. Ragan pitted on lap 51 for four tires, fuel and a track bar adjustment. Ragan cycled through pit stops into the third position and was there when the first caution of the day came out on lap 70. Ragan liked the changes from the previous stop and wanted to leave his AAA Ford how it was. Fennig called Ragan down pit road for four tires and fuel.
The balance continued to be right on for Ragan, but he needed more forward grip. Ragan was up to second for the next round of green flag stops. This time around he pitted for four tires, fuel and an air pressure adjustment. Ragan cycled back around to second just in time for pit stops to be completed and for the next caution to be displayed. With so few laps on the tires Fennig called Ragan down pit road for just right-side tires and fuel.
The two-tire call allowed Ragan to stay out on the next round of pit stops, but also perpetuated the lack of grip he had been experiencing. The next opportunity to tweak the handling of the AAA Ford came under caution on lap 169. Ragan pitted for four tires, fuel and a slight air pressure adjustment. Ragan restarted ninth due to the field experimenting with different tire combinations.
The changes helped the forward bite, but being back in traffic was affecting his handling through the turns. Ragan pitted under caution on lap 200 for four tires, fuel and an air pressure adjustment. Unfortunately a lugnut came off the right-rear tire causing the tire changer to have to return to the right side of the car to replace the lugnut before Ragan could leave his pit stall. The mishap cost Ragan valuable time on pit road and put him starting 14th for the restart on lap 204.
Ragan was on his own until the checkered flag, or at least that was the plan. In the closing laps Fennig radioed to Ragan to conserve fuel, but Ragan just couldn’t save enough. While running second on the last lap the engine sputtered causing Ragan to have to pit to get a splash of fuel to make it to the finish. In one lap Ragan went from running second to finishing 24th, but with nothing to lose they had to gamble at the end.
“We just ran out of gas coming to take the white,” said Ragan. “We had a winning car tonight. Our AAA Ford was fast. We had a little bobble on our last pit stop and lost some track position, but were able to drive back up into the top seven or eight, but it was just one of those things. We had 13th locked up and we went for it and were about a half-gallon short. We’ve made a lot of progress as a driver and a team this season. A lot of that credit for that goes to Jimmy Fennig and Jack Roush for putting together a good group of guys. We’ve had solid pit stops all year. Our race cars have been fast and nothing has fallen off of them, so it’s just been a good, solid year. We look forward to improving that much more in 2009.”
About Roush Fenway Racing
Roush Fenway Racing operates 13 full-time motorsports teams, five in NASCAR Sprint Cup 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; three in the Craftsman Truck Series with Darnell, Braun, Kvapil, Bobby East and John Wes Townley; and one in the ARCA RE/MAX Series with Ricky Stenhouse, Jr.