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February 14, 2024

David Ragan

Daytona Beach, Florida

Press Conference

An Interview with:

THE MODERATOR: We are going to start our post-qualifying press conference. We are joined by David Ragan, driver of the No. 60 RFK Racing Ford.

We'll start with questions.

Q. David, you're watching on pit road, you have a seven-time champion, two-time Daytona 500 winner trying to beat your time. What is going through your head? How much of a relief is it to make it and not have to worry about tomorrow?

DAVID RAGAN: Well, initially I thought, Man, we're cutting this way too close. I felt like we'd have a really fast race car, and we do. I really wasn't expecting that lap from Anthony. That was a great lap for him and that team. Congratulations to those guys.

I didn't have a chance to beat Jimmie Johnson too often in my career when he and I were running week in, week out. I'll take the small victories when I can.

That just shows you how close the competition is. All these teams work hard on all the details. Every 10th, half of a 10th mean something. To be able to get locked in on pole night is really special. We've still got a lot of work in front of us to have some speed to go contend for a win.

Couldn't be more proud of the RFK team for the efforts so far.

Q. Since you have the locked-in spot, for tomorrow is there a balance between preserving the car but also being able to mix it up, get a sense of what the racing will be like for Sunday?

DAVID RAGAN: Yes, there's a balance for sure that we want to tread lightly. Certainly we do want to race this car; it's our primary for a reason. The Duels, that's the best opportunity for you to learn how your car is going to drive in the draft, what kind of speed it has, and build some rapport with other cars out there to get a feel for who can help you, who you can help.

We're going to race. We came down here to race, and that's a good opportunity to learn. Certainly if things get a little sideways, we'll back it off a little bit and be a little more conservative than normal. But I feel like the Duels are a great chance to race, and that's what we're here for.

Q. David, this is arguably your best shot at the 500 maybe since you were with Roush the first time in 2011. Has Jack been here today? If not, have you had a chance to talk to him yet after locking in? What does this mean to be back with this ownership group and back in the 500?

DAVID RAGAN: So I haven't talked to Jack today, but I have spent some time chatting with him lately. It's always great to get some words of advice from Jack.

I owe a lot to Jack Roush and Jeff Smith back in the day to take a chance on a 19-year-old kid that just wanted to go racing. So certainly there is a lot of pride to come back to Roush Fenway Keselowski Racing and to see how successful they've been in the past couple seasons, getting that team turned back around. I know that makes Jack real proud and real happy.

Yeah, he'll be at the racetrack this weekend. Yeah, I don't have my phone with me. Maybe he's tried to call or text me. He's a pretty good texter. I'll have to go back and see what he's doing. I know he's watching with a lot of great interest. I know he'll have some words of advice for me, too.

I owe a lot to Jack. I'm grateful that he and Brad had enough confidence in me to drive one of their race cars and be a teammate this weekend.

Q. You have four races in the Next Gen car in 2022. No races last year. I don't know how much time, if any, you've had in the Dark Horse. Do you feel any difference from what you knew in 2022 and what time you've had in this year's model yet?

DAVID RAGAN: I haven't. I've done all the testing for Ford with their wheel force program the last four or five seasons. I've got thousands of laps in the regular race cars.

But the Dark Horse, I think only the guys, the drivers that participated in the Phoenix test are the only couple that have laps, competitively, in that car.

Simulation is so much of our world today. That's a lot of my duties with Ford Performance and supporting the team's needs. We've had already a lot of laps at, gosh, Atlanta, Las Vegas, Phoenix, a lot of tracks already. I think they've got a pretty good handle on it. We didn't really know too much of what to expect at Daytona.

Knowing how much the speedways mean to Edsel Ford and the Ford family and the Ford Performance team, I know they didn't overlook the performance at these speedway races.

I expect it to be fast. This is a small sample size for what we'll see on Thursday and the rest of the week.

To answer your question, these are the first competitive laps I had in the Dark Horse Mustang.

I think the objective was to definitely find a little more pure, raw speed at these intermediate and short tracks. I think they didn't want to take anything away from the success the Fords have had at Talladega, Daytona and Atlanta the last several seasons.

We know that we needed -- in order to win more races and contend for championships, we needed to be a little bit better at those intermediate-style tracks. Hopefully it's the best of both worlds.

But I'm pretty optimistic and a little surprised with how much speed all the Fords have shown so far tonight.

THE MODERATOR: Thank you for your time, and good luck this weekend.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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