DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – David Ragan knows his way around Daytona International Speedway. And, after Wednesday, that familiarity involves much more than the famed 2.5-mile race track itself.
Ragan visited the “World Center of Racing” to help promote the 61st annual Coke Zero Sugar 400 on July 6, the annual midseason midsummer event at DIS for the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series. Ragan won the race in 2011, one of two Monster Energy Series victories in his career.
Wednesday was basically a “DIS immersion” experience for Ragan, one that started with him and Daytona International Speedway President Chip Wile fishing on Lake Lloyd, the 29-acre body of water in the speedway’s infield.
“Yean I can throw it [fishing pole] in as long as you point me in the right direction,” said Ragan, who grew up fishing in Georgia. “I grew up fishing on little small farm ponds and stuff like that. I used to catch catfish and largemouth bass. That was part of our summer vacations. It’s cool to fish here on Lake Lloyd.”
In 25 Daytona International Speedway starts, Ragan has three top-five finishes and five top 10s. Those statistics translate to some inherent optimism at the famed high banks for the driver of the No. 38 Ford for Front Row Motorsports, as the Coke Zero Sugar 400 approaches. A victory can earn Ragan a berth in the NASCAR Playoffs, which are contested over the final 10 races of the Monster Energy Series season.
“My very first DAYTONA 500 I finished fifth; I left and thought ‘man, this is easy’ but I realized [later] it wasn’t that easy,” Ragan said. “But over the years I’ve had good coaches and good race cars. I got some confidence here early in my career and throughout the last five or six years I’ve enjoyed coming here knowing I can make a difference behind the wheel, make the right moves, see things fixing to happen that I’ve thought about and I’ve planned about.”
With the advent of the NASCAR Playoffs, a victory in the Coke Zero Sugar 400 will assure Ragan a playoff berth – provided he finishes the 26-race “regular season” in the top 30 in points while also attempting to start every race.
“Now, that just puts so much more pressure on the line,” Ragan said. “If you’re in contention to win, you’re going to lay it all on the line.”