'Clear to me it's time to take a step back' - Ragan

Image by Kinrade/LAT

'Clear to me it's time to take a step back' - Ragan

NASCAR

'Clear to me it's time to take a step back' - Ragan

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David Ragan didn’t wake up one morning and decide he no longer wanted to be a full-time NASCAR Cup Series driver. Ragan, driver of the No. 38 Front Row Motorsports Ford, said it had been “six to 12 months of thinking about his future both as a competitor and father.

“And over the past couple of months, it became really clear to me that it was time to take a step back and be home a little bit more, simple as that,” Ragan explained over the weekend at Bristol Motor Speedway. “In the world of motorsports, to be a premier race car driver, I think you have to dedicate your life to driving that race car and being the best driver for the team. And that means putting racing first — in front of everything else; in front of your family, your kids, your hobbies — a lot of things.

“I’ve enjoyed making that sacrifice over the past 10-12 years — a sacrifice that was necessary to stay in the Cup Series as long as I have and to keep a job. And I’ve had a lot of fun.”

Ragan and Front Row announced last Wednesday that he would be stepping out of the car after this season — full-time at least. With two young daughters, Ragan knows there are going to be more and more activities for them to participate in, and being there to help his wife run them around is important to him.

“I still love racing and have a lot of things that I want to accomplish this year. I’ll still be around and, hopefully, race a little here and a little there; but the days of full-time Cup racing and that commitment level…I’m just ready to turn my focus to the household a little bit,” he said.

Ragan has been in the NASCAR Cup Series since 2007. There are other racing adventures he might be interested in chasing, he said — perhaps opportunities that he once passed over. Big Late Model races around the country, he mentioned. The Truck Series race at Eldora. And, he would even love to drive in the 24 Hours of Daytona.

Competing again in the Cup Series would require checking a few boxes, such as being at a track he could have fun and succeed at, and being with the right team. But he has no plans for that as of now.

Ragan retired with accident damage on the second lap at Bristol this weekend, and has only one top-15 finish so far this season. Image by Jarrett/LAT

Ragan has finished 30th and 25th in the points since returning to Front Row in 2017. He hasn’t earned a top-10 finish this year, with his best result a 15th place in the Coca-Cola 600. A crew chief change was made to the team last month, with Mike Kelley taking over for Seth Barbour.

It hasn’t been a flashy career for Ragan although he has two career wins — Daytona in 2011 and Talladega in 2013. He finished a career-high 13th in the standings in 2008. That same season, Ragan also finished a career-best fourth in Xfinity Series points where he also has two career wins.

There have also been ‘what if’ moments. Would a driver coach and a couple of different mentors when he was young have changed anything? Would he have won the Daytona 500, and would UPS have stayed at Roush Fenway Racing, had he not being penalized for changing lanes in 2011?

Asked if there is anything about his career that feels incomplete, Ragan said he always wanted to race and win a championship.

“Everybody that gets to this elite level wants to be the best,” he continued, “but I think that some of those titles and trophies and achievements are only short-term victories — something that just leaves you wanting more. The real things in life that bring true contentment are how your kids love you, how you impact others in your community, and what kind of marriage you have — stuff like that. Those are the things that really matter.

“If I would have had a few more wins or that championship, I don’t think I would be any different now; and I think if you ask any of these guys in the garage that have won more races and more championships, they would agree: It’s never enough. You always want more and that’s obviously the goal of the sport that we’ve competed in; that’s what we live by and die by in the sports and entertainment world. But that’s certainly not what defines me.

“So, no, I don’t really have anything that I look back on and say, ‘Hey, if I would have won five more races or 10 more or even 20 more, would that change who I am?’ Probably not. I’d have a few more trophies at the house, but that really doesn’t mean a whole lot at the end of the day.”

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