One year ago, David Ragan was called upon as a rookie to fill the enormous shoes of NASCAR legend Mark Martin in the No. 6 car at Roush Fenway Racing. Despite falling to Juan Pablo Montoya in the Rookie of the Year battle, Ragan enjoyed a respectable rookie season, recording two top fives and three top 10s en route to a 23rd-place finish in Sprint Cup points.
This year, things are different, and Ragan has his sights set on bringing the No. 6 back to Victory Lane. Preparing for his second Daytona 500, the 22-year-old hopes to build upon his fifth-place run in the 2007 edition of the Great American Race. While in Daytona, Ragan took the time out to sit down with Frontstretch‘s Mike Lovecchio at NASCAR Media Day to discuss what the impact Robby Gordon leaving Ford for Dodge will have on the Roush program and what he has done in the offseason to have a more successful 2008.
Mike Lovecchio, Frontstretch: Rookies obviously feel a lot of pressure in this sport in the first place; but looking back, was there added pressure joining a team like Roush Fenway Racing and taking over the historic No. 6 car of Mark Martin?
David Ragan: Definitely. There’s pressure in this sport whether you’re a rookie, a veteran, or someone just being a crew chief. I think that being with a team like Roush Fenway and taking over the No. 6 added some extra pressure; but at the same time it gave a bit of confidence knowing that I might belong here and that I should use the guys Jack Roush put on my team to my benefit, to go out and make sure I use them to help me with situations that I might not be familiar with. There’s was a lot of pressure joining the the No. 6 team, but at the same time, the experience around me helped a lot.
Lovecchio: Going into your second year now, do you feel it’s a situation where more comfort may equal more success?
Ragan: Yeah. The more comfortable you are, the better you can make decisions and the more you can think about what you’re going to do next; you don’t have quite as many mistakes and you know how to work the system. Going into your second year, you have to expect better and bigger things.
Lovecchio: Prior to Speedweeks, Robby Gordon made some noise by switching from Ford to Dodge, leaving Roush and Yates as the two major teams remaining with Ford (along with the Wood Brothers). Does this cause concern within the organization, does it help, or not really matter at all?
Ragan: It doesn’t really matter; but obviously, we’d like to have some more Fords out there. I think Robby Gordon [Motorsports] was a solid team that represented the Ford banner, but he didn’t help us out any and we didn’t help him out any. It’s not going to affect our performance, but I would definitely like to see some more Fords out on the racetrack.
Lovecchio: You came up though the sport and became good friends with another Roush developmental driver in Danny O’Quinn. How has Danny been, and what are his plans for ’08?
Ragan: He’s running the Nationwide race here at Daytona and he’s got a few other Nationwide races lined up. I think he’s an excellent driver, he just got a couple of bad deals and didn’t have any sponsorship money. In this day and age you have to have a lot of sponsors to take care of what’s going on. We all got thrown into this deal pretty quick out of late model racing and ARCA racing and I know that he’ll be fine and keep digging. We still talk a lot and I know he’ll do a great job in the Nationwide car this year.
Lovecchio: What have you done personally in the offseason to become a better driver this year?
Ragan: I’m on a stricter diet than I was last year; not necessarily a diet as in losing weight, but a diet in eating more, eating more of the right things, putting on a few more pounds and working out more. I’m dedicating a couple of hours every day to a workout program. Last year, I was so busy and so rushed all the time that I didn’t really have a lot of time to just sit back and think, so this year I’m taking a little more time out of the beginning of every day or the end of every day to compile everything that went on and make some mental notes to be better prepared and be a better driver.