Ragan Tests ARCA At Toledo
April 30, 2008 | 8:37 A.M. EST
Soon after, Ragan found himself strapped inside a Roulo Brothers-prepared ARCA RE/MAX Series Ford Taurus at Toledo Speedway. Ragan announced back in March that he will be competing in the May 18th Hantz Group 200 presented by Federated Car Care at Toledo.
"It's going to be a day of fun for sure," said Ragan. "Not a day off by any means; but a chance to drive a quality racecar and have a shot to win a big race."
Ragan, prior to his NASCAR tenure with the Roush Fenway Racing organization, made 29 ARCA RE/MAX Series starts, including two at Toledo where he finished second and fourth in 2005. He also posted one victory at Lanier Nat'l Speedway that same year.
"I love Toledo Speedway. I'd rather run a short track anyway. I get my share of mile and a half tracks on the weekends. Toledo's just a neat little race track. It's got just enough banking, and there's a second groove to pass. It's big enough to carry decent speed and slow enough to have all those great short-track characteristics. It's also great to be working with Gary (Roulo) again. He helped me a lot through the years.
"For me, it's also about returning to my roots. ARCA helped me get to where I'm at, so I want to give back."
Ragan will not only give back when he comes to race at Toledo, he'll start from the back too.
"We're going to have our work cut out for us. We won't be able to practice and qualify the car, so we know we're going to have to start from the rear. These guys in this series are tough to beat. They race here every single week and have a real good handle on their programs.
"We're just going to have to be patient. Let everyone else make mistakes, take our time and get to the front - maybe have a shot at winning the thing. Mostly, and more importantly, we want to put a good show on for the fans; but we're going to try and win the thing; there's no doubt about that.
"We ran a late model in Georgia last Saturday night. Started 28th and ended up fourth. We hope to do better than that at Toledo."
Ragan also knows that he'll be up against some very stiff competition at Toledo, where winning will be difficult enough starting from the front, let alone the back. That's also why he tested all day at Toledo Monday, right up until dark.
"We're going to have some fun, but the biggest lure is the competition. It gets better and better every year here and we want to be part of it. These ARCA guys have this thing figured out. It's not easy to come here and win.
"We're working on a baseline set-up. Obviously, the track's going to be very different when we come back - the weather too. But we still need a good baseline set-up to work from. We're also looking at simple things - making sure there are no leaks, all the mirrors line-up right. We ran here before, so we've got some good notes to go off of.
"Gary (Roulo) wanted to stay and test all day tomorrow (Tuesday), but I had to get back and get ready for the week ahead."
Ragan also wanted to get the feel of the new short-track radial Hoosier tires. Nine-time ARCA RE/MAX Series champion and nine-time Toledo winner Frank Kimmel currently holds the one-lap track record at Toledo with a time of 16.359 seconds, for an average speed of 110.031 mph. But that was set on bias ply tires. The record was also set right after the track had been newly paved in 2001. With normal wear and tear, the track has slowed some over the years.
"The radial tires felt great. They've got a lot of grip. We got down into the 16.20s, so we know the radial is considerably faster than the bias tire. We also felt like the tire didn't fall off that much either, so I think the fans are going to see one heck of a show out of it."
From the Toledo test, Ragan hopped another plane Monday night and headed home to Charlotte, where he's getting ready for his next NASCAR Sprint Cup Series adventure.
"I gotta get back to the shop Tuesday - Jack (Roush) comes in for meetings on Tuesdays. I'll go into the office, sign my fan mail - basically do all my running around, go to the bank, cut my grass, all that stuff. I love to cut grass - just bought a new tractor. If I'm home on Tuesdays, I do my house, my parents' house and my shop in Kannapolis.
"Wednesday, we're going to a military base in Norfolk, Virginia for an autograph session. Thursday, I'm going to Discount Tire to sign autographs, and then we're doing a little deal with Kraft Foods Thursday night. Then we're at the track (Richmond) Friday morning."
For Ragan, being at Richmond Int'l Raceway is a very good thing. Richmond is where Ragan earned his career-best Sprint Cup Series finish of third in 2007, his first full season in the world's most competitive stock car series. Coming off an impressive fourth place finish at Talladega last Sunday, Ragan has moved to 15th in points. His stock, needless to say, is very much on the rise. Ragan, unlike many in the race at Talladega, managed to avoid all the pile-ups.
"From where I was sitting (at Talladega) it wasn't too bad. We had good track position all day and that certainly helped to avoid all the bad stuff."
From Talladega to Toledo, Ragan is becoming quite used to the typical track transitions required to compete at the highest levels of stock car racing.
"In years past, it would have been tough, but we do that often now. I mean, you're at Phoenix one week, then testing on a road course the next. Running all the different tracks just makes you a better racer. You just learn to accommodate your driving style. No different then going from Talladega to Toledo.
"But things are going good at Roush Fenway Racing. We're definitely sitting better now than we were last year at this time. We still need to be better, but the team's great. We've got the same team on the Nationwide side as the Cup side, so the more we work together, the better it gets all the way around.
"One of things I miss racing in Cup is that I don't get a chance to work on the cars anymore. Fortunately, that's all handled now by quality, professional people, but I still miss it. When I raced for Wayne Day in the ARCA RE/MAX Series, I was in the shop working on the cars from eight till eight, sometimes longer. It was really good experience to learn the cars the way I did, and I miss that part of it. I'm not even sure which car the team's bringing to Richmond. I'll just get in and drive."
Fortunately for Toledo area race fans, Ragan will get in and drive when the Hantz Group 200 presented by Federated Car Care rolls off at Toledo Speedway Sunday afternoon, May 18th. The event will be tape-delayed for MavTV. Four-time Toledo winner/NASCAR veteran Ken Schrader has also filed an entry for the race.