HUNTERSVILLE, N.C. – What could be more rich and satisfying than M&M’s® Crispy? The only thing sweeter for David Ragan, driver of the No. 18 M&M’s® Crispy Toyota Camry for Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR), would be popping open a pack of M&M’s® Crispy to celebrate winning the M&M’s® Crispy Pole Day award followed by a trip to victory lane in the Toyota Owners 400 at Richmond (Va.) International Raceway.
Speed will be a key element to success in the Toyota Owners 400 for Ragan and crew chief Adam Stevens. It shouldn’t be a problem under the leadership of Stevens, who has an impressive record at Richmond. Stevens owns two wins, six top-five finishes and six top-10 finishes at “America’s Premier Short Track” in the NASCAR XFINITY Series. The last time he called a winning race at the track was in September 2014. Not only did he lead the team to victory, he also swept the weekend by earning his first pole award at the track. Stevens is now looking for the same “M-azing” results Saturday night in NASCAR’s Sprint Cup Series with his eye on the sweet taste of a top starting spot on M&M’s® Crispy Pole Day and a victory in Saturday night’s 400-lap race.
Lately, Ragan has found his groove with JGR and has excelled at the short-track events. He recorded his best finish and only top-five when he finished fifth at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway in March and qualified 11th at Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedwa, where he was on track for a solid finish before a midrace accident not of his doing derailed his strong run.
He is currently 18th in the point standings, 117 out of first but only four points out of 16th and looking to close that gap even further. Ragan knows the equation for good racing at Richmond and is looking to apply that to his efforts this weekend. He has a 99.5 percent laps-completed record at the .75-mile short track, giving him confidence heading into the race weekend.
It’s said that “Virginia is for Lovers” but, this weekend, as the Sprint Cup Series heads to Richmond, Ragan, Stevens and the No. 18 team would love nothing more than to indulge in the rich, creamy milk chocolate taste of victory at Richmond with the M&M’S® Crispy pole award in hand and another solid run Saturday night.
DAVID RAGAN, Driver of the No. 18 M&M’s Crispy Toyota Camry for Joe Gibbs Racing:
What are your thoughts heading into Richmond?
“I really enjoy the short tracks — all of them, including Richmond. They are always some of my favorite races of the year. Richmond is such an important race for us. It’s the last race before the Chase in the fall, and the spring event is always an important stop on the Sprint Cup schedule. Denny Hamlin was able to take part in the Goodyear tire test leading up to the Richmond weekend, so hopefully that will help the entire Joe Gibbs Racing team out a little bit. It’s a big weekend for the M&M’s/Mars folks and I know a lot of their associates and customers will be in attendance. It’s a fun weekend and a fun race, for sure.”
What makes Richmond unique to you?
“Richmond has a lot of speed to it versus your normal short tracks. You’re running 150 miles per hour into the corners but you still have to use a lot of brakes. Forward drive is very important. Over the course of five or six years, the Richmond racetrack has really worn out some and the tires are very important. So you’ll see guys early in the run be very good, but they fall off a little too quick. I think that is a great equation for good racing. Whenever you can have good tire fall-off, you’ve got multiple grooves, so a lot of things about the Richmond race make it exciting. And then, with the Saturday night atmosphere, it doesn’t get much better than that.”
What would it mean to win the M&M’s® Crispy Pole Award?
“That would be awesome. The M&M’S ® Crispy Pole Day at Richmond would be cool. Anytime you can represent your sponsor’s event is a great accomplishment. It will definitely give us a little extra incentive. I’ll try to talk Adam into doing an extra qualifying run in practice. Track position at Richmond is very important, so qualifying will be important. In 400 laps, so much can happen, but it would be awesome to set fast time and get a cool M&M’S® Crispy trophy to take home.”
ADAM STEVENS, Crew Chief of the No. 18 M&M’s Crispy Toyota Camry for Joe Gibbs Racing:
How do you feel about Richmond and your efforts going for the M&M’s® Crispy pole award?
“Richmond is a fun place. We just tested there with Denny. I feel like we have a good baseline setup going back and we learned a lot of things we can use to our advantage as the weekend goes. We’ll probably unload a little closer than most, so we should be able to get swapped over to qualifying trim a little quicker than a lot of guys. Maybe we'll make a couple of extra mock runs and really go for the M&M’S® Crispy pole. David has been good there in the past and, myself in the Xfinity side, we have had some good results there, so I'm looking forward to getting there. It's a fun place.”
- Tom Jensen
NASCAR Editor at FOXSports.com & RACER Magazine