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Ragan Gets An Early Start In A Late Model

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Tuesday, January 5 2010
The road to Daytona starts in Georgia this weekend for Roush Fenway Racing driver David Ragan. (RacinToday file photo by Tony Bush)

The road to Daytona starts in Georgia this weekend for Roush Fenway Racing driver David Ragan. (RacinToday file photo by Tony Bush)

By Jeff Hood | Senior Writer

Braselton, Ga. – A portion of NASCAR driver David Ragan’s offseason has been dedicated to putting the finishing touches on a Late Model car he recently purchased.

With major assistance from cousin Brett Ragan, a member of Carl Edwards’ Nationwide Series team, and longtime friend Chris Dilbeck, David Ragan will have an opportunity to put his No. 6 Late Model Ford through its paces on Sunday when he competes in the third annual Ice Cold Shriners Bowl at Lanier National Speedway.

The second-generation driver and native of Unadilla, Ga. scored a popular victory in an ARCA event at the .375-mile paved oval, located 35 miles northeast of Atlanta, in May 2005.

“Lanier is certainly a track I remember as I grew up,” said Ragan, the son of former Sprint Cup driver Ken Ragan. “I used to go there as a young kid and watch Late Model races. I got to go there and race my Legends car. When they announced they were going to run an ARCA race at Lanier in 2005, I knew that could be a good opportunity for me.

“To go there and sit on the pole and win that race, it was a big win. It was my first ARCA win and, overall, a big night.”

Ragan’s chief competition in Sunday afternoon’s 100 lap feature is expected to be a strong contingent of area drivers. After finishing fifth in last year’s Ice Cold Shriners Bowl, Ragan was determined to return to this event and challenge for the win.

“This is just a good opportunity to get back in the car during the offseason and experience everything I experience during a race,” said Ragan, whose Sprint Cup sponsor, UPS, is based in Atlanta. “We’ll try to raise some money for the local Atlanta chapter of the Shriners. We’ll have the Shriners Hospital for Children on the hood of our No. 6 Ford.

“And this is a good market for us. It’s a close trip from Charlotte and Unadilla, so a lot of friends and family can come and watch.”

Ragan’s Late Model car is expected to appear in five or six events this season. Ragan hopes to compete at Watermelon Capital Speedway in Cordele, Ga., a .4-mile paved oval managed by his uncle, Marvin Ragan, twice this season. Dilbeck may also drive the car in a handful of other events.

But Ragan made it clear that his primary focus is getting his No. 6 UPS-sponsored Cup car into victory lane in 2010. Ironically, one of Ragan’s best shots to accomplish that feat is next month’s Daytona 500.

One of Ragan’s two Nationwide Series wins last season came at Daytona’s sister track in Talladega. And his new crew chief, Donnie Wingo, guided Jamie McMurray to victory in the most-recent Cup race at Talladega in November.

“I think Donnie is a racer foremost, and that’s what I like about him,” Ragan said. “I like people that are passionate about racing and been around racing for a long time. Donnie is very confident. The biggest thing is getting to the race track and get going.

“On a whole, (Roush-Fenway Racing) is changing some things, as far as how we build the cars and get them setup for the race weekends.”

Following a short break between Christmas and New Year’s Day, Ragan resumed his busy work schedule. He braved bitter-cold weather to test his Late Model at Lanier on Saturday. After spending much of this week at the Roush shop, he’ll return to Lanier on Friday for a three-day weekend that he hopes results in a victory on Sunday.

That would give Ragan plenty of confidence heading into the upcoming NASCAR season.

“We’ve got to make the (Sprint Cup) Chase and win a race,” Ragan said. “It was good to win a couple of Nationwide races last season. But our expectations this year are to be in contention in Sprint Cup, make the Chase and win a couple of races.

“I believe we’re a team that can contend for wins and top 10 finishes every weekend. I can’t wait to get to Daytona.”

– Jeff Hood can be reached at jhood@racintoday.com

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Tuesday, January 5 2010
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