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FYI WIRZ: NASCAR's David Ragan and Matt Kenseth Have Fast Words, Faster Deeds

Dwight Drum@@racetakeCorrespondent IIIJuly 4, 2011

David Ragan during introductions at Loudon, N.H.
David Ragan during introductions at Loudon, N.H.

Fourth of July fireworks may have been banned in drought states and budget-burdened locales across the U.S. where wildfires and money woes persist this summer, but fireworks were plentiful at Daytona International Speedway. 

Engine combustion provided plenty of sparks during the Coke Zero 400 on the 2.5-mile tri-oval track. Post-race pyrotechnic devices burst high in the sky.   

The National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing (NASCAR) brought the Sprint Cup show to the beach community, where racers maintained high speeds and tandem pushing for 160 laps in the humid Florida night. 

David Ragan, 25, proved he had the fire to win his first Sprint Cup race after 162 attempts. Teammate Matt Kenseth pushed him across the start-finish line after avoiding a late-race, multi-car crash.       

Ragan is in the final year of the Roush Fenway sponsorship with UPS, so the win came at an appropriate mid-point in the 2011 season.

UPS vice president Ron Rogowski seemed optimistic.     

“We’re very proud to have David Ragan as UPS Racing’s brand ambassador and are excited to congratulate him on his first win,” said Rogowski. “David has a great future ahead of him, and we look forward to many more trips to victory lane with him.”

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Ask any NASCAR driver if the next race excites him, and he is likely to ooze upbeat comments without further prompting.

But sometimes a driver's pre-race words are prophetic and precise. Here are comments made by David Ragan, Matt Kenseth, and Joey Logano before and after the Coke Zero 400 at Daytona:

David Ragan (No. 6 Ford): Finished First (Started Sixth)

Before the green flag:

“I can’t wait to get back to Daytona. Daytona is a track we’ve always run well at, and we even had a chance to win the [Daytona] 500 earlier this year. We need to get a good run to get our season back in gear. We’ve struggled some the last few weeks, but I’m excited to race Saturday night in the Coke Zero 400.”

After the checkered flag:

“Probably the first time that I felt we've got a car that's fast enough that we can win this thing if we make the right decision throughout the race. So we made a pact with our teammate, Matt Kenseth, that we're going to work together through thick or thin. I was a little worried about that too. Sometimes falling to the back and to the front, you get jammed up throughout the race.

“So I didn't know if that was the right decision or not, but bottom line, our car was fast. That's what wins these races. You've got to have luck, you've got to have pit stops and all that stuff goes into effect. But you've got to have a fast car, and our UPS Ford was fast. The engine ran flawless, and that's what won the race for us. I had Matt right behind us. I knew we had a good pusher. I knew we had the car to do it and not try to make any mistakes, and try to put ourselves in good position. And we wound up actually being in the lead on the last restart, and that was a winning moment for us to be able to start on the front row.” 

Matt Kenseth (No. 17 Ford): Finished Second (Started 16th)

Before the green flag:

 “It’s a lot different ever since the repave and the introduction of the cars getting locked together and pushing each other. It’s certainly a lot different than anything we’ve done until this February, so I’m curious to get out in the race and see what it’s like and see if there’s less grip than what there was in February and if the pushing and getting pushed is any more difficult than it was. There have only been two of these style of races so far, and I got wrecked in both of them, so I’m hoping to turn that around and not have that happen on Saturday and somehow be up front toward the end.”

After the checkered flag:

“We had really fast cars together. It's almost like you're a team. You know what I mean? It's almost like two cars are one cars, so in a way I feel like we won.

“Our cars were really fast together. We got up front early and led. Kind of made a plan last week. Jimmy and Drew worked together to make a plan, and David and I talked a lot yesterday and today. We both got up there and got our bonus point.

“The two speedway races have been a disaster so far this year, so I'm happy to not get wrecked tonight and finish second.” 

Joey Logano (No. 20 Toyota): Finished Third (Started 37th)

Before the green flag:

“I saw the stat that I’ve pushed four different winners to victory lane between Daytona and Talladega over the last couple of years, and that is crazy. It is good, because that means we’ve always had a fast car and been able to stay out of trouble and be up at the front at the end of the race, but it sucks to always finish second. I think it’s about time to get the No. 20 up front and let someone push me for the win. It is all about putting yourself in the right position with just a handful of laps left in the race.”

After the checkered flag:

“It's crazy out there, you know, you think we'd ride around for 350 miles, but we don't. We just keep going out there."

“David and Matt were loyal to each other all day. They were working with each other all day long, so you knew nothing was going to happen there at the checkered [flag]. They were going to work together to make sure one of them won the race.”

Unless otherwise noted, all quotes were obtained from official release materials provided by NASCAR.

FYI WIRZ is the select presentation of motorsports topics by Dwight Drum @ Racetake.com.

Photo credit: Dwight Drum at Racetake.com