Ragan Warms Up By Warming Up Fans in Georgia
By Jeff Hood | Senior Writer
Braselton, Ga. – With the remnants of snowfall serving as a backdrop, two participants from the 2005 Roush Racing Gong Show headlined Sunday’s 100 lap Late Model race at Lanier National Speedway.
On a day when the temperature struggled to reach 32 degrees, Sprint Cup driver David Ragan and short track ace Bubba Pollard swapped the lead twice during the first 30 laps of the main event, which served as a fundraiser for the Shriners Hospitals for Children.
When Pollard pushed his No. 18 Chevrolet around Ragan and back atop the leaderboard on lap 31, he proceeded to check out on the 16-car field.
Pollard, a resident of nearby Senoia, Ga., was coming off a 2009 season that saw him win 12 Late Model races throughout the southeast.
Sunday’s victory was special for Pollard because it came in a car owned by legendary driver Ronnie Sanders of Fayetteville, Ga., who frequently struggled in races on the .375-mile paved oval during his illustrious short track career.
“It feels good to win for Mr. Ronnie,” Pollard said. “And it was fun racing against (Ragan) and for him coming down and supporting the short track guys.
“That makes it fun. But it’s just great to win.”
By the time the flagman Johnny Brown waved the checkered flag, Ragan’s ill-handling No. 6 Ford had slipped back to fifth.
Polesitter Russell Fleeman wound up second, just ahead of fellow Georgians Kevin Stephens and Dwayne Buggay.
A series of early caution flags proved to be beneficial for Ragan, who brought in veteran spotter Lorin Ranier to serve in that capacity on Sunday.
But Ragan’s Fusion struggled during the event’s final 59 laps, which ran caution-free.
“I was pretty happy with it on the first couple of runs” said Ragan, a native of Unadilla, Ga. “It was really good for 10 or 15 laps. But that long run there at the end it was really free up off and lost a lot of forward bite.
“But it was fun. It was fun to lead a few laps there. If we could have had two or three cautions throughout that last run, I would have been able to stay up there in the top two or three.
“But those guys just wore me out on that long run. It was a good race, though.”
Lanier, located about 35 miles northeast of Atlanta, will host SpeedFest on Sunday Jan. 31. It will be comprised of Super Late Model and Late Model features.
Pollard and NASCAR drivers Kyle Busch, David Stremme and Steven Wallace are scheduled to participate.
Ragan is close to adding his name to that list.
“There’s a good chance,” Ragan said. “Anytime you can run and think you can do a little bit better after working on it, yeah.
“We’ll get it back to the shop and work on it. Our plan is to come back and run. But we’ve got to get back to North Carolina and see what’s going on with our UPS Ford and see if we’ve got any stuff to do over there.
“If we’re off that weekend, I’d much rather be at a race track than back home at the house.”
Pollard is hoping to record another victory before February rolls around.
“We won a lot down south in Florida and Alabama (in 2009),” Pollard said. “We’re glad to win at Lanier.
“Hopefully, come SpeedFest we can dial it in and get a win.”
The biggest winner on Sunday was the Shriners. A check for nearly $29,000 was presented to the local charity.
“Anytime you can raise a little money and raise awareness for the Shriners, that’s a good thing,” Ragan said. “It’s always a tough sell here in January because it’s so cold.
“But for the people that came out, and certainly the racers, to raise money for the cause and to be at the race track is certainly a good thing.”
– Jeff Hood can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.orgNo Comment