DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – It’s not very often that a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver surprises a race fan at his door step.
But that's exactly what happened to three Daytona 500 ticket holders on Tuesday afternoon.
To celebrate the delivery of 53rd annual Daytona 500 tickets around the world, David Ragan, driver of the No. 6 UPS Ford for Roush Fenway Racing, jumped into a UPS package car and visited the homes of longtime area ticket holders.
Matthew Leon, Walter Gasowski and Joe Roll (collecting them for his sister Marie Frye) were presented with their tickets to “The Great American Race” on Sunday, Feb. 20. Ragan also delivered goodie bags to all three ticket holders as well as new 14x14x14 soft-sided coolers.
“From our relationship with UPS, we get to be the deliverer of good news all the time,” Ragan said. “This is a cool deal to be in November and getting excited about the Daytona 500. It shows you how loyal the Daytona 500 fans are and how big a race the Daytona 500 race is.”
It’s the second straight year Ragan has rode shotgun in the UPS package car through the streets of the Daytona Beach area delivering tickets.
For Gasowski, who owns nine infield spaces for Daytona 500, it was a thrill to have a driver swing by his house with his tickets.
“The crowd we get (around our camp site) nowadays is around 150 people,” Gasowski said. “This is great. I do a lot of prep work. I’ve got a lot of buddies that help me out. To see some reward back to us, it’s overwhelming.”
Following his ticket deliveries, Ragan visited more than 400 sixth graders of Silver Sands Middle School in Port Orange for a Racing to Read pep-rally with Volusia County Superintendent Margaret Smith, Principal Rick Inge and Daytona International Speedway President Joie Chitwood III.
Students were briefed on the 2011 Racing to Read program where if they read 20 books between Nov. 15 and Jan. 14, they will have the choice of a free ticket to either the NextEra Energy Resources 250 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race, the DRIVE4COPD 300 NASCAR Nationwide Series race, the Daytona Supercross or an all-access tour of the Speedway.
More than 50 schools across Volusia County are participating in the program.
After giving kids encouragement to reach their reading goals and answering some questions, Ragan raced some students in an R/C car race.
And while in Daytona, Ragan couldn’t help but check in on the repaving of Daytona International Speedway. With the paving of the surface complete, Ragan hopped into a Ford Mustang and took some laps around the historic 2.5-mile tri-oval with Chitwood.
“It’s a different feeling to know that the place has been torn apart, repaved and all the man hours and women hours that have been put in to change the surface here at the greatest race track in the country,” Ragan said. “It’s neat to make a few laps. It’s smooth. I was in one of Jack’s (Roush) Mustangs. We were going about 120 mph.
“It was a different outlook on things. Typically when you are down here racing, you are thinking about how it’s going to turn getting into the corner and how is it going to be over this bump. Now, you’re going to be thinking about how fast I’m going here and who’s helping me here. It’s going to be a different learning curve for all the drivers but it’s going to be fast.”
Tickets for the Daytona 500, which start at $55, and are available online at www.daytonainternationalspeedway.com or by calling 1-800-PITSHOP.