DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — David Ragan knew he let the Daytona 500 get away from him in February when he jumped a late-race restart and was penalized. He’s had to talk about it ever since.
Saturday night at Daytona Int’l Speedway, Ragan was in a near-identical situation while leading during the closing laps of the Coke Zero 400. This time Ragan delivered his first NASCAR Sprint Cup victory to Roush Fenway Racing.
“We got one back at Daytona,” Ragan said. “It would have been tough to lose another one. I thought about that under that last caution. I said, ‘Man, if we don’t win this thing, I’m not gonna want to talk to anyone afterwards.’ We were able to win. That does ease the pain from February. It’s still nice to think about that Daytona 500 ring, but it’s awesome. This is a great race. Coca-Cola being a partner of ours, a lot of the Ford guys are down here.
“This is a race that is a total team effort because the engine department has to do their job, the race car has to be good, and teammates helped us win, so it does ease the pain to answer your question. We’ll think about this one a lot more than we’ll think about the Daytona 500.”
Team owner Jack Roush has stood with Ragan through some difficult times as the 25-year-old driver learned the ropes in NASCAR racing.
“I’m really happy to be here with Drew (Blickensderfer, crew chief) and David,” Roush said. “They’ve worked really hard and they’re a great team. Drew is a great coach and David is a great recipient of the coaching and they’ve been working hard all year and they’ve had several occasions when they could have won a race – certainly the Daytona 500 was a big disappointment the way it worked out for David, but the FR9 engine has done a great job, the Ford support behind the program has never been better than we’ve had this year, and the engineers have all done a great job. We brought cars down here that we expected to have a chance to win with and David was confident of that and they used it well tonight. They didn’t waste the opportunity.”
The victory may have come at the right time as Roush Fenway Racing is negotiating with sponsor UPS for its return in 2012.
“Certainly we were hopeful that UPS will carry on in a meaningful regard with the sponsorship of the 6 car, but right now we are in negotiation,” said Roush. “We don’t have an assurance that’s gonna be the case, but David has arrived at the upper echelon. He’s a winner now and he’s given a win to UPS and hopefully they’ll consider that as they think about the value of the program and what it means to all of their employees and what it means to their customers to have this association. It certainly means a lot to us, but to finally have David in the win column is a really big thing for us.”
Ragan didn’t deny that he felt redemption winning at Daytona.
“To get that win would have felt great. If we would have won at Martinsville this year, I would have said, ‘Man, we’ve moved on past that Daytona race.’ But coming back here and to get that win here at Daytona is that extra little bit that I wanted, kind of to show the Daytona race track – ‘Here’s what we’ve got.’ So that makes it a little bit more special,” he said. “I think a win anywhere on the circuit would have been great and we would have moved on and talked about it probably, but coming back here to Daytona, being able to run the same type of race we ran in February and learning from our mistake, not making a mistake.
“We had a couple of opportunities to do it on those last few restarts and I didn’t do it, so that’s gratifying that we were able to come back to Daytona and kind of prove to the race track that we’re better than that — that we can take you and we beat ’em and it feels good.”
Ragan became the eighth different driver to win a Sprint Cup race for Roush Fenway Racing.