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Ragan looks for solid finish in Bristol Night Race

Jeff Birchfield • Aug 7, 2019 at 1:02 AM

JOHNSON CITY — For David Ragan, there’s something about racing at Bristol Motor Speedway at night that brings out both the best and worst in him and his fellow NASCAR drivers.

Ragan, who will drive the No. 38 Shriners Hospitals for Children Ford in the Bass Pro Shops NRA Night Race on Saturday, Aug. 17, gets wrapped up in the excitement of 500 laps under the lights at the “World’s Fastest Half-Mile.”

“Short-track racing in general is a lot of fun, but Bristol is like a short track on steroids,” Ragan said Tuesday at a promotional event at The Mall at Johnson City. “It’s neat to see the fans engaged when the lights come on and the drivers get a little more crazy.

“We’re not as smart when the lights come on. We start making crazy moves and doing crazy things, but that’s what the fans love.”

It’s what the 33-year-old driver from Unadilla, Georgia, loves as well. One of the biggest victories of his career came in the 2009 NASCAR Xfinity Series Food City 250 at BMS when he held off Roush Racing teammate Carl Edwards for the win. He believes that did a lot to further his racing career; he’s now in his 13th season in the Monster Energy Cup Series.

Ragan, the 2007 NASCAR Rookie of the Year, is proud of his career accomplishments, which include two Cup Series victories — including Front Row Motorsports’ only team win in 2013. He has four wins, 33 top-five and 97 top-10 finishes across NASCAR’s three national series.

“I’ve started to reflect on my career recently,” he said. “The first 10 years, it seemed it went by in a flash. I was racing, trying to learn as much as I could. Fortunately, I was able to win a couple of races that allowed me to keep a job and keep a sponsor. Now, I love the competition, working with my team, although it’s harder and harder to leave my family.

“When I first started, I wasn’t married, didn’t even have a girlfriend. Now, I’ve got a wife of seven years and two kids ready to go to school. It’s harder to leave every Thursday and come home Sunday, and then come up for other events. But when it’s time to pull your belts tight, you just have to perform your job and execute.”

Ragan has plenty of local ties. His car owner, Bob Jenkins, is from Dandridge and owns multiple companies in Morristown. Johnson City driver Mike Potter briefly drove in the Cup Series for David’s father, Ken Ragan.

David Ragan has one top-10 finish in 25 Bristol starts. Other results include a 17th-place finish in the 2018 Bass Pro Shops NRA Night Race and a 21st-place run in April’s Food City 500.

This season has been a tough one for the driver. His best finishes so far are 15th at Charlotte and 16th at his home track of Atlanta.

Ragan’s goal is to at least equal or better that next week at BMS.

“We can do a top 15,” he said. “I feel if we can get our car rolling and get some good strategy, a top 15 knocking on the door of a top 10 is a realistic goal. We feel our short track program is a little better than our intermediate stuff. It’s more mechanical grip instead of having all the drag out of the car and horsepower in. It’s about getting through the corners.

“Bristol is always a fun race for me. I love the short tracks and as a kid I remember watching the Night Race at Bristol. A lot of special memories and a great race for anyone who likes seeing some action.”

CARTER COUNTY HERO

Hampton-Valley Forge volunteer firefighter Chris Russell was named the Tri-Cities Neighborhood Hero for 2019.

On Christmas Eve, Russell was the first to respond to a home fire off Clover Branch Road in Elizabethton. That’s when he heard residents yelling for help after a woman collapsed in the back bedroom after breaking out the window.

Russell, putting himself at risk, pulled the woman through window to safety.

“I pulled up to the house and saw a gentleman who told me the woman was still inside. I made entry into the window and pulled her out,” Russell said. “I was able to perform CPR, resuscitate her and get her back. You don’t think about the consequences until afterwards.

“When the time comes, you get tunnel vision and you just react to what’s happening at the scene,” he added.

Russell, a Stoney Creek resident, will be honored during pre-race ceremonies for the Bass Pro Shops NRA Night Race.

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