"A perfect situation" is how...
"A perfect situation" is how Ragan described his opportunity to take over the controls of the AAA Ford. Photo by Nigel Kinrade
Birthdate: December 24, 1985
Hometown: Unadilla, GA
Residence: Kannapolis, NC
Marital Status: Single
Hobbies: Mountain biking, boxing, restoring old cars
David Ragan began his career behind the wheel of a Bandolero at age 11. Little did he know that a decade later he would begin his rookie campaign in the Nextel Cup Series, filling the shoes of one of the sport's foremost drivers, Mark Martin. Under the watchful eye of his father, Ken, David was patiently groomed and placed in the right hands to help mold his fledgling career.
Ragan raced Bandoleros, Legends, and Late Models, and by the age of 18 he had competed in the ARCA RE/MAX Series, Craftsman Trucks, and the Busch Series.
At the conclusion of the '06 season, Ragan's dreams of racing in the Nextel Cup Series came to fruition after Jack Roush named him as the new driver of the No. 6 AAA car, replacing Martin.
For the first time in over...
For the first time in over a decade, the No. 6 car is rolling onto the track without Mark Martin as its driver. Photo by Nigel Kinrade
With a rare break in the Nextel Cup schedule, SCR caught up with Ragan and discussed a variety of topics, including replacing Martin, his dad's contributions to his career, and his current race with Juan Pablo Montoya for Rookie of the Year.
SCR: What's it been like to step in and fill the shoes of one of the sport's greatest drivers?
RAGAN: It's always been a dream of mine to be a Nextel Cup driver, but to be in the No. 6 car, that's kind of a step above. You know that's something that years down the road I'll look back on and really appreciate the opportunity that Jack Roush and everyone at Roush Fenway has given me. It's a great race team to be a part of and a great sponsor in AAA. It's really a perfect situation. It's probably a little better situation than I deserve. To be in the No. 6 car that Mark Martin has made legendary over the past 15-plus years, there's no way to step into his shoes and replace him. He's someone who's almost irreplaceable. So I'm just trying to do the best I can to step up to the plate and keep the car rolling and try to please all of the sponsors and all of the fans out there of the No. 6 car. I think so far we're on the right track, but we've still got a lot of hard work ahead of us.
Ragan's early opinion of the...
Ragan's early opinion of the Car of Tomorrow: He likes it. Photo by Sam Sharpe
SCR: Martin leaving Roush was a big shock to a lot of the Nextel Cup community. Was it just as big a shock to you?
RAGAN: It was. Mark is someone who you always saw right beside Jack Roush, and I don't think their relationship has changed. They're still the best of friends and can call each other at any time. He's still a teammate, just in a little bit less of a role, but still someone who I feel comfortable calling if I ever have any questions. I feel like he would be there for me. It's tough not having him on my team. For one reason, I'm having to race him most every week, so that's also a challenge. It was tough seeing him leave, but nothing stays the same forever and we all go our own ways and do the best with what we've got to work with.
SCR: With Martin's association as the veteran driver of the No. 6 team for so long, were you apprehensive about coming on board?
RAGAN: Well, there's a little bit of pressure just being a Cup driver at Roush Fenway Racing, and being in the No. 6 car adds a little bit. But you can look at it in a positive way and say you're stepping into a car that has won some races in the past and been a contender week in and week out. So it should make my job easier if I concentrate and do what I'm supposed to do and work with my crew chief on making our Ford Fusions go fast and making our Car of Tomorrow turn and work well. It's going to be easier on me stepping into a team that's been here year in and year out. So there are some pros to being on a team that's got a great past record, but there's also a lot of added pressure in stepping into a situation like the No. 6 AAA car, where you say, 'I've got to go out here and run good.' There's pros and cons, but there's definitely a lot more pluses.
"We know there's going to...
"We know there's going to be mistakes," says Ragan of his rookie season. "We're going to try to prepare for that kind of stuff by being, not conservative, but just trying to do what we know is right and not taking a lot of chances that aren't necessary." Photo by John Pyle
SCR: Do you feel like the team is headed in the right direction?
RAGAN: Yeah, we're definitely headed in the right direction. I think we're just about where we want to be. We've had good race cars. We've just been off a little bit at the start of some races. A few small mistakes on my part really cost us several spots at Las Vegas. A couple of racing incidents at Bristol cost us six or seven spots in the last 10 laps. I feel like if there were a couple of things I could take back, we could've been in the Top 20 in Atlanta, we could've been 18th at Bristol, and I had a 15th-Place run at Martinsville, but we're on path to where we want to be. Certainly, we know there's going to be mistakes, we're going to have some part failures, we're going to play gas mileage the wrong way at times, but we're going to try to prepare for that kind of stuff by being, not conservative, but just trying to do what we know is right and not taking a lot of chances that aren't necessary.
SCR: How did it feel leaving Martinsville this year with a solid run, in comparison to last year's race when Tony Stewart compared you to a dart without feathers?
RAGAN: Well, last year, I think I was just in the mindset of racing a NASCAR Late Model at Caraway Speedway or something. I was going hard every lap and I really wasn't racing the racetrack. I was really just racing my car in my own race. You've got to put a lot of other things in perspective when there are 42 other cars on a half-mile racetrack and you've got 500 laps. I feel like I'm a smarter race car driver than I was a year ago. I think another year from now I'll be that much smarter. I think experience is the biggest thing that has helped me and also being with a team that is running week in and week out versus last year with Frankie Stoddard just running a few hit-and-miss races. It definitely helps to have the same group of guys every week. That really helps a lot on pit road, and I've got a spotter that's been with me for about six months now, so a lot of the stuff that we've put into place over the off-season is kind of paying off.