David Ragan: Destination Daytona
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – While many will be traveling to this popular destination for their annual summer vacation this weekend, NASCAR drivers and teams will have a different mindset.
Daytona Beach is the site of NASCAR’s most famous track – Daytona International Speedway. At Daytona, the racing is not only intense, it’s unpredictable. But winning at Daytona comes with plenty of satisfaction for drivers who’ve added their names to the list of those who have hoisted a trophy at the facility known as the “World Center of Racing”.
David Ragan, driver of the No. 20 Interstate Batteries Toyota for Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR) in Saturday night’s Subway Firecracker 250 NASCAR XFINITY Series race, is one of those drivers on the list. It was this very weekend in 2011 when Ragan conquered the 2.5-mile tri-oval, marking his first career NASCAR Sprint Cup Series win. The Unadilla, Georgia native outraced then-teammate Matt Kenseth in a thrilling green-white-checkered finish.
Ragan will be pulling double duty at Daytona this weekend, competing in the XFINITY Series for JGR in addition to his Sprint Cup ride in the No. 55 Toyota for Michael Waltrip Racing. He’ll have JGR founding sponsor Interstate Batteries on his No. 20 Toyota Camry – a sponsor he’s familiar with from his time in the No. 18 Sprint Cup Camry earlier this year while he substituted for the injured Kyle Busch.
— Joe Gibbs Racing (@JoeGibbsRacing) July 1, 2015
Ragan has a total of 105 starts in his nine-year XFINITY career highlighted by two wins, two poles, 17 top-fives and 48 top-10s. One of those two wins came at Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway – another restrictor-plate track on the NASCAR circuit known for ultra-high-speed drafting much like Daytona.
Though Ragan has not yet seen quite the success in the XFINITY Series at Daytona like he has in his Sprint Cup career, he has earned four top-10s in his eight XFINITY starts at the 2.5-mile superspeedway. This weekend will be Ragan’s first XFINITY appearance this season, and he’ll be in good hands with the No. 20 Toyota team for JGR.
With first-year crew chief Mike Wheeler calling the shots atop the pit box, JGR’s No. 20 Toyota team has earned two wins already this season with drivers Erik Jones and Denny Hamlin. Ragan hopes the team’s momentum, combined with his success at restrictor-plate tracks, will produce not only a solid finish this weekend at Daytona, but perhaps a return trip for Ragan to victory lane.
David Ragan, Driver of the No. 20 Interstate Batteries NASCAR XFINITY Series Toyota Camry for Joe Gibbs Racing:
What are your thoughts on coming back and teaming up with Interstate Batteries and Joe Gibbs Racing again, this time in the XFINITY Series race Saturday night at Daytona?
“I’m ecstatic to come over and run the XFINITY Series race for Joe Gibbs Racing, and to have Interstate Batteries on our Toyota again is going to be a lot fun. I had a great experience working with all of those guys at Interstate Batteries for a couple of races when I was subbing for Kyle. Obviously, the XFINITY program over at JGR is as solid as their Sprint Cup program. For me, it’s a racetrack that I really enjoy running at. The No. 20 team has done a very nice job this year of being really competitive at a lot of different races. Excited about the chance to go down there and try to get a win on the XFINTY side. ”
What is it about Daytona that makes you so comfortable there?
“Daytona is just a lot of fun. The track races a lot differently than Talladega because handling does come into play a little bit more. It’s a bit difficult to pass, so you are forced to race a little bit harder earlier in the race just because the racetrack isn’t as wide and, certainly in the XFINTY race, you don’t have a lot of time to fall to the back or to play different strategies to recover from a mistake. It will be important to qualify well. Any racetrack that you’ve been to that you’ve been able to run well and had some success, you just have more confidence coming in. Anything can happen at Daytona and you know that going in. It’s just the risk that speedway racing presents. But I also know that, if we do our job and things fall the right way for us, we could be walking out of there with the trophy.”
With the record the No. 20 Interstate Batteries team has thus far this year, does that give you even more confidence about your chances Saturday night?
“Anytime you go to the XFINITY Series, or even when you run some Camping World Truck Series races, you want to get in equipment you can win with. For me, our Sunday jobs are the top priority and it’s tough because you have a lot of competition but, whenever you go to the XFINITY Series and have some fun, you go there for one reason only and that’s to win. Points don’t really matter and winning the pole doesn’t matter, although it makes it easier to start up front. It’s really all about taking home that checkered flag. It’s an honor to work with the JGR XFINITY team. They’ve done a nice job with all three cars this year. Hopefully, we’ll have some fun and get to race with Daniel (Suarez) and Erik (Jones) and be good teammates to those guys and it would be awesome to bring a checkered flag back home for Norm Miller and everyone at Interstate Batteries and their entire dealer and distributor network.”