David Ragan: Fully Charged
Coming off his first top-five finish of the season two weekends ago at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway, coupled with some rest this past weekend during a rare NASCAR Sprint Cup Series off weekend, safe to say David Ragan is fully charged for Saturday night’s Duck Commander 500 at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth.
Ragan, interim driver of the No. 18 Interstate Batteries Toyota for Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR), heads to Texas with some welcome momentum this weekend as he subs for the injured Kyle Busch for the sixth time. It also seems the chemistry between Ragan and crew chief Adam Stevens is developing nicely. And, what better place for a strong run than in the backyard of JGR’s founding sponsor Interstate Batteries?
Interstate Batteries and JGR enjoy a partnership that dates back more than 23 years to 1992, the team’s first full NASCAR season, and it’s an association that long ago evolved past the typical sponsor-race team connection. If asked, owner Joe Gibbs would refer to Norm Miller, Chairman of Interstate Batteries, as family. After finally reaching victory lane together in April of 2013 with Busch at the wheel, Miller and Interstate Batteries would like nothing more than to add a second hometown victory to their mantle.
Ragan and Stevens have had some strong practice and qualifying sessions already this season, and they were finally able to put together a full race at Martinsville. With the top-five finish there, they’re hoping the newfound momentum is the perfect ingredient for some Texas home cooking this weekend.
So as the Sprint Cup Series heads to the Lone Star State this weekend, Ragan hopes to keep fully charged with another solid run, this time in the backyard of hometown sponsor Interstate Batteries.
DAVID RAGAN, Driver of the No. 18 Interstate Batteries Toyota Camry for Joe Gibbs Racing:
What are your thoughts heading into Texas this weekend?
“Texas is a worn-out surface that has added a lot of character over the years. I think you can group Texas with Fontana, Atlanta, Chicagoland – these surfaces they haven’t paved in a while. It’s a great track. I think the drivers would agree, you can still go really fast there, but the tires fall off and that provides good racing. Texas is another favorite track of mine. I got my first-ever pole there in an Xfinity Series car my rookie season and have always enjoyed going to Texas. It’s one of the biggest crowds that we will have at a race throughout the entire year. Everybody in Texas really loves their NASCAR racing. The track has multiple grooves that you have to get around and it’s a fun track to drive, but it’s also fun to go fast while also having 100,000 people in the stands watching.”
What does a top-five finish at Martinsville do for your and the team’s confidence heading to Texas this weekend?
“It did a lot for my confidence just knowing that we could put an entire weekend together. We’ve been able to qualify and practice well, and we’ve even had some moments of brilliance on Sundays but, for a lot of reasons, haven’t been able to put together an entire weekend –just to get a good finish, to have a clean day on pit road, for me to have a good race behind the wheel and not making any mistakes. We just had a good day, and that’s encouraging for me and the team and for everybody knowing that we can do it. It gives us a lot more confidence heading into this weekend with our Interstate Batteries Toyota. If we do our job Friday and Saturday night, this team is capable of being in victory lane. But, in order to do that, we’ll have to outrun our teammates who have been running very well.”
Texas is the hometown race for Interstate Batteries. What would it mean to get a good run for your sponsor this weekend?
“Interstate Batteries has been around this sport for a long time and it’s been fun to get to know the Interstate Batteries group over the last several weeks. You recognize some of their trucks on the road and the dealer and distributor network when you’re riding around town, and you see a lot of Interstate Batteries presence certainly where I live in the Charlotte area. So it’s cool to go their hometown track and get in that green car that has to have a good run in front of the hometown crowd. I think, after learning some things about our program at Atlanta, Vegas, and at California, I expect that to be a very good track and I know everyone at Toyota and JGR has been working really hard on their mile-and-a-half program, so we should be able to rock and roll this weekend.”
What’s your favorite part about going to Texas, whether at the track or away from it?
“I enjoy going to Texas and just seeing the crowd. It’s so much fun to see the local community really embrace their NASCAR stop on the schedule. I wish I could eat more of the fun food they have to offer locally, but I have to be a bit restricted on how much barbeque and Tex-Mex I eat. I usually grab some barbeque or some good Texas cooking on Thursday night before the race, but Friday and Saturday I have to keep it lean for 500 miles on Saturday night. Texas is just a lot of fun to see the huge grandstands, the condos, the huge number of suites. It’s really a great stadium that we go to.”
— Joe Gibbs Racing (@JoeGibbsRacing) April 6, 2015