|Photo courtesy of Breaking Limits Communications|
Just one year ago David Ragan felt the excitement of his first NASCAR Sprint Cup Series win during the Coke Zero 400. As the series heads back to Daytona International Speedway, Ragan has the unfamiliar title of "defending race winner" added to his name. In that year a lot has changed for the 26-year old driver from Unadilla, Georgia. Leaving Roush Fenway Racing at the conclusion of the 2011 season, Ragan now calls Front Row Motorsports home, piloting the No. 34 Ford. Returning to Daytona seems to come with added pressure and expectations, but judging from Ragan's response it is motivation.
“Really, it feels great to go back as the defending race winner," Ragan said in an email interview with Skirts and Scuffs, talking on heading back to Daytona. "I think it give not only me more confidence, but our team as well. A lot has changed from last year to this year, not the least, the change of teams. Being with Front Row Motorsports, we’re this up-and-coming team right now, and there are tracks that it’s a bit more difficult for us to race in the top-10. But, Daytona is a place where this organization has proved they can win. We have sponsorship from MHP and 8-Hour Alert this weekend. So, in a lot of ways, I’m in the same situation I was last year. We have just as good of a chance than anyone."
Racing at a restrictor place track like Daytona can be a bit of a crap shoot, Ragan went from his July 2011 win to a wreck early in the 2012 Daytona 500, but knows that is just a part of the racing.
“You know, it’s like I said, we can win this race. So, I’m confident," Ragan said when asked how confident he is heading back to Daytona. "This year’s Daytona 500 was really disappointing, but wrecks like that happen here. There just isn’t anything we can do to prevent an accident like that here. It can happen again to us Saturday night too. I’m still confident, but everyone knows there is a part of this race where the dice have to roll your way."
That all being said, the question remains whether we will see tandem racing like Ragan won with in 2011 or pack racing like in the 500.
"Yeah, I like it," Ragan said when asked about the return to pack style racing. "I have always enjoyed the pack racing. Obviously it can lead to a short race, like it did for ours during the 500, but I just seem to like it."
Chiming in on what we will see this weekend, Ragan added, "We’ll probably be in packs again. That seems to be where we’re heading back to."
And since the talk of the garage have been Ragan's former teammate Matt Kenseth leaving Roush Fenway, I asked Ragan to weigh in on the situation.
“I think Matt’s a great driver and a champion. He’s a great guy to learn from. He’s been with Roush for a long time, but that’s a part of the sport. I don’t know if anything can shock you any more, but I think both sides have a lot of respect for each other.”