News Column

NASCAR: David Ragan Facing Uncertain Future

Oct. 28, 2011

Don Coble

NASCAR

David Ragan hoped to have an answer on his future last Saturday night at Talladega Superspeedway, but he didn't hit any of the numbers in the Powerball lottery drawing.

So he went back to work this week looking for sponsors and race teams.

Four months ago, he was one of the hottest drivers in NASCAR, especially after his popular victory in the Coke Zero 400 at Daytona International Speedway. But as quickly as his fame came, it fizzled -- along with the continual struggles in the economy -- with just two top-10 finishes in his next 12 races.

He's not sure what's ahead or where he will end up. Until he does know, his calendar will be filled with sales pitches, talking to car owners and finishing out the season in the No. 6 UPS Ford at Roush Fenway Racing.

"I still don't know what's going to happen, but it's not going to keep me from trying to win another race this year," he said. "Winning has a way of solving a lot of problems."

There are four races remaining in the Sprint Cup Series season, including Sunday's Tums Fast Relief 500 at Martinsville Speedway. It's been one of his worse tracks, a place where in 2006 Tony Stewart once called Ragan a "dart without feathers." But with so much to prove and so little time to do it, it could be an important part of his future plans.

From the start, Ragan has struggled to find his place at Roush. It took a while for him to be comfortable as Mark Martin's replacement, and now that Ragan has developed into one of the sport's popular and competitive drivers, he's suddenly the odd man out at Roush.

Matt Kenseth, Greg Biffle and Carl Edwards all signed contract extensions earlier this year, but the company has been slow to lock up sponsorship. Ragan's UPS deal was downgraded to a part-time sponsorship, and it moved over to fill in some of the holes on Edwards' car.

Edwards still has some unsold races, and Kenseth has no funding. That's pushed Ragan to the bottom of Roush's priorities -- and probably out the door.

"The stars all lined up perfectly on me, I guess," Ragan said.

Ragan would accept a part-time ride in the Sprint Cup Series while running for the Nationwide Series championship, he said. Even that kind of schedule has been difficult to find, especially with other drivers like Martin and Brian Vickers looking to do the same thing.

"The thing working in my favor is I'm young; I've still got my best years ahead of me," Ragan said. "I can do Nationwide and wait for the economy to turn back around. Until then, I'll be meeting with sponsors and trying to put something together. We've talked to a lot of people, but we haven't put anything in the bank yet. Until then, we have to keep working on it."

In four full-time seasons, he's created a solid portfolio. He was the late leader at this year's Daytona 500, only to be penalized by NASCAR for changing lanes on the final restart too early. He also won the pole position at Texas Motor Speedway and Indianapolis Motor Speedway this year.

But he knows the best way to make sponsors happy is to keep winning, which could put Roush and other top teams in the mix for a limited Sprint Cup schedule next year.

"I think I have said it a lot: I have had pressure from day one being a young guy at Roush Fenway," he said. "Coming into this season, we knew we would have a lot of pressure. We have run well, and we got the win and put ourselves in a position to make the Chase. I think that brings more pressure just because now we are so close we need to capitalize on the progress we have made."

Ragan failed to make the Chase. He's 18th in the standings after finishing eighth last Sunday at Talladega Superspeedway.

"I'm staying positive," he said. "It's tough out there, but I feel like I've got some options."

Some of them aren't in NASCAR. He still maintains a limited Late Model and Legends series racing schedule. He also owns a Ford dealership near his hometown in Perry, Ga.



Source: (c) 2011 The Florida Times-Union (Jacksonville, Fla.) Distributed by MCT Information Services


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