DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Sept. 17, 2008) – While the 51st annual Daytona 500 is 150 days away, NASCAR Sprint Cup Series drivers David Ragan and Paul Menard have spent the past two days at Daytona International Speedway participating in a Goodyear tire test.
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Ragan was behind the wheel of the No. 6 AAA Insurance Ford for Roush Fenway Racing while Menard drove the No. 15 Menard’s Chevrolet for Dale Earnhardt Inc. The two drivers were helping Goodyear officials test different tire compounds and structures for next year’s prestigious season-opening Daytona 500 on Sunday, Feb. 15.
“It’s data and driver feel,” Ragan said of the tire test. “We will go out and run 15 to 20 laps and obviously (see) how the car reacts the first five or six laps versus the last six or seven laps, see where the temperatures go, see how the data changes see how the lap times change and obviously looking at the tires to see how much they wear. The biggest thing is to try to get a tire that’s comfortable and has a good feel for the whole run but also durable and safe.”
“It’s actually kind of interesting,” Menard said. “Anytime you can drive a race car, it’s better than sitting at home. I’m glad to be here and do this. A lot of people say it’s boring but there are things you can do to keep it pretty exciting inside the race car. We’re making 20-laps runs so you try different lines and see if it’s any faster or not. There so many things that when you are in the draft you would like to try but you can’t do because there are 42 other cars around you where (today) you have 20 minutes to play around and try different things.”
Ragan, who narrowly missed the Chase for the Sprint Cup, will return for the
51st annual Daytona 500 in the No. 6 Ford for Roush Fenway and his new sponsor – UPS.
The Georgia native, who finished fifth in his first Daytona 500 start as a rookie in 2007, says he always gets excited about racing at the historic facility of Daytona International Speedway.
“Daytona just feels great,” said Ragan, who is the son of former racer Ken Ragan. “When you get off the plane, certainly for Speedweeks, there’s just something in the atmosphere down here that makes Daytona a special place for everybody that’s a race fan, a race driver, mechanics, crew chiefs and everyone. It’s always been special to me. We’ve always run well at Daytona. It’s a fun weekend and having UPS on board next year, it’s going to be our first race with them. We’re going to have a lot of fun in the 51st annual Daytona 500.”
Out of the Chase, Ragan and his team will try to steal some thunder from the 12 teams that did qualify for the Chase for the Sprint Cup.
“I want to be a spoiler and make a lot of noise during the Chase,” Ragan said. “That’s something that I think we can do. We’ve got some good tracks coming up. We’ve got a lot of desire and heart on our team to go out and get the job done and make things exciting the last 10 weeks. We’ve got great race cars. We’re in a position where we don’t have a lot to lose but a lot to gain. We’re going to finish in the top 13 or 14 in points but we want to go out and learn a few things and end the season on a good note so we can carry some of that momentum into the offseason.”
To purchase tickets for DIRECTV Speedweeks 2009 and the 51st annual Daytona 500, go online to http://www.racetickets.com or call 1-800-PITSHOP.