HUNTERSVILLE, N.C. – For many reasons, David Ragan couldn’t be more excited for Sunday’s Geico 500 at Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway.
First off, look no further than his record at the 2.66-mile superspeedway to see why the driver of the No. 18 PEDIGREE® Toyota Camry for Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR) is very much looking forward to Sunday’s 500-mile race. Much is made about racing luck at Talladega, but Ragan’s record there indicates there’s a little more to his solid finishes there than luck. In all, Ragan has four top-fives, and seven top-10s in 16 career starts there. But, the most memorable came in April of 2013, when he made it to victory lane with underdog team Front Row Motorsports.
On top of his solid track record and Talladega race win, Ragan will be celebrating a career milestone Sunday regardless of the outcome. He’ll be making his 300th NASCAR Sprint Cup Series start. Of particular note: Busch, the regular driver of the No. 18 Toyota, went to victory lane the day of his 300th start in April 2013 at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth.
Sunday’s race at Talladega will also be the first of two this season with Pedigree as primary sponsor of the No. 18 Toyota, the other coming in September at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon. Ragan, an avid animal lover and dog owner, would like nothing more than to bring the dogs riding along on the Pedigree Toyota back to victory lane at Talladega, a place he’s quite familiar with. The Talladega race will coincide with the launch of a new tastier and meatier PEDIGREE® Dry Dog Food recipe that delivers the variety that pet parents are looking for. The new recipe is loaded with whole grains and protein accented with vegetables, providing a nutritious and delicious difference that pet parents will see and their dogs will taste.
Despite his success at Talladega over the years, Ragan admits the winner of Sunday’s 500-mile race will not only need to have a strong car, but also have that racing luck on his side in order to survive the seemingly inevitable multicar accident on NASCAR’s longest track. That, in addition to his winning “Pedigree,” he might have just what the No. 18 PEDIGREE® Toyota needs to celebrate in victory lane late Sunday afternoon.
DAVID RAGAN, Driver of the No. 18 Pedigree Toyota Camry for Joe Gibbs Racing:
Do you look forward to Talladega knowing that you have such a good record there?
“I love going to Talladega. I wouldn’t enjoy the racing there if it was 36 times a year but, a couple times a year, it’s just a different strategy and mindset the entire weekend. You have to do different things with strategy for the whole weekend. You have to do different things with your racecar to make it fast. And you have to work well with others. It’s a fun weekend. Always a great crowd and close to home and I went there a few times as a kid. Any time you’ve won at a track, it’s always fun to go back because you know you can do some of the right things to win there. Obviously, going to Talladega this year and driving for JGR in the Pedigree Toyota, it’s going to be another new experience with a different group of guys and seeing what their strategy is. Also, you get to see the strengths and weaknesses of their cars on the superspeedway. I know the Toyotas ran really well at Daytona, and it’s going to be fun to strap into one at Talladega and see what we can do.”
What is it about the restrictor-plate tracks that have helped you run so well on them over the years?
“I think the biggest thing is having a good mindset going into the weekend. We all know you can get caught up in a wreck that’s not of your doing. You can be part of accidents that you can’t avoid. I think sometimes guys just have a bad attitude going into the weekend. I remember the first time I went there as a rookie – Jimmy Fennig was my crew chief and he talked about having the right attitude, taking it serious all weekend long, and it’s really worked out well for me. I’ve been fortunate to have some good racecars, good engines, good crew chiefs and spotters, and it does take that whole package to run well. It’s definitely something I enjoy and, when you find some success at the plate tracks early in your career, it’s something you can really build on. Going to Talladega, I know anything could happen and there could be the big one early in the race and we can get caught up in it. I also know I can avoid it and we can play the right strategy and win the race. It just gives me a lot of confidence going into the weekend.”
You have Pedigree on board with you this weekend, and you are an animal lover. How special are your pets and dogs to you?
“My wife and I have some traditional pets and non-traditional pets. We have a couple of cats and dogs at our house. My wife Jackelyn worked at the local animal shelter over the years so, if we didn’t travel 36 weeks a year, we would probably have even more animals in the house. We are definitely an animal family and have a lot of different kinds. Our dog Oliver is annually in the Greg Biffle pet calendar. He’s a good dog and he’ll be in Talladega with us since we usually bring him there. Talladega has some nice grass and a lot of infield to run around in at the track.”
- Tom Jensen
NASCAR Editor at FOXSports.com & RACER Magazine