STATESVILLE, NC - His cross-country hauler drive now behind him, David Ragan is back to focusing on his four-wheeled vehicle that will tackle the rough Kentucky Speedway this weekend. The 1.5-mile oval in Sparta, Ky., is bumpy and abrasive and is known to give tires a beating.
The No. 34 Taco Bell team will prepare to handle those bumps in the road as they head to the Bluegrass State for this weekend's Quaker State 400 Presented by Advance Auto Parts. Ragan has two Sprint Cup career starts at Kentucky Speedway, including an eighth-place finish in 2011.
Ragan returns to a more normal routine after co-driving the No. 34 team's transporter nearly 3,000 miles from Statesville, N.C., to Sonoma Raceway in California last week. He split time with trucker Mike Smith for the 42-hour journey across the country to fulfill a goal after obtaining his commercial driver's license last year. Along the way, he earned the CB handle "One Way," a good-natured tribute to his plan to drive the truck to Sonoma and to take a plane back home to North Carolina.
Comments from Taco Bell team driver David Ragan heading to Kentucky:
"All these mile-and-a-half tracks are a lot different. And Kentucky is very much different. It's a very abrasive surface and bumpy. They've ground it a couple of times, and that's a good thing. It's different. It's not smooth and easy on the tires, so it's important to have a good shock package, a good handling package that will get you over those bumps so they don't affect the car much.
"It's hot. It's a Saturday night race, but it's still always warm temperatures there in June for us. So, it's a tough weekend. But we always look forward to going to the Bluegrass State. A lot of race fans are there to support us. And it's a lot different than any other mile-and-a-half track, so it adds a different element of surprise for sure.
"Last year was crazy hot. I'm hoping that was just a one-time thing. We had a race like that a few years ago in California when we raced there on Labor Day and it was just extremely hot. And last year's Kentucky race very much matched what that California race felt like. I'm sure those temperatures can be topped, but I sure hope that they don't this year.
"The trip to Sonoma was a long trip, for sure. We left Statesville early Tuesday morning and got to Sonoma on Thursday. It was long trip but it was fun and something I'd wanted to do for a few years. I got the opportunity to do it with Mike (Smith), our truck driver, and got some tutorials on the way out. We had some fun and I got to experience what our truck drivers go through on their longest trip of the year. But I was glad to get to Sonoma and sleep in a hotel room.
"I was surprised by the number of people along the way who were interested in the hauler and NASCAR and the cars inside. We talked to them at the truck stops and other places along the way. It's a big, moving billboard, so everyone wants to comment on it. I met a lot of race fans out there along the trip. I look forward to doing it again one day."