raganwho last competed in the series in 2022, began his NASCAR career at what was then known as Roush Racing, spending his first five seasons in Cup driving for Hall of Fame owner Jack Roush.

Now, nearly two decades since his first series start, he finds himself with the opportunity to again compete for Roush on NASCAR’s biggest stage – the Daytona 500.

And even better, the 38-year-old native of Unadilla, Ga., believes he still has the chance to win.

Late last season, Ragan was asked about his interest in running a third entry in this year’s Daytona for what is now Roush Fenway Keselowski Racing and the organization’s recent resurgence only made his decision easier.

“I miss the racing scene a little bit, but really I’m extremely happy with my schedule and still being involved in the sport from a competition side but also having a little bit more of my personal life that that I can be home and with my wife and kids,” Ragan told Motorsport.com.

“It’s been a perfect balance. But you know when an opportunity comes up to drive a real fast race car with a team that has really proven that they can win races at a lot of different types of tracks, it was a no-brainer to me.”

Victory lane: race winner David Ragan, Roush Fenway Racing Ford celebrates

Photo by: Eric Gilbert

Ragan’s tenure at Roush was a bumpy one and ended following the 2011 season having finished no better than 13th in the series standings. However, he did earn his first series win with the team later that year in the July race at Daytona.

Despite leaving full-time competition in Cup after the 2019 season, Ragan has remained involved in the series, primarily doing simulation and testing work for Ford Performance.

Most recently, he has also tested NASCAR’s full battery powered race car and was going to drive it in an exhibition at last weekend’s Busch Light Clash at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum before severe weather upended the schedule.

“I stay pretty in touch with all the Ford teams during the season driving the wheel-force car, which is the OEM test car we work closely with,” Ragan said.

“You know each Ford team generally sends a representative to those tests and then I often follow up with some simulator work for some of the teams just to help them develop tire models and different things with that car.

“So, I’ve followed along closely with what Brad (Keselowski) and Chris (Buescher) have been doing at RFK and the great season they had last year.”

RFK has typically had a strong superspeedway program and that’s largely where Ragan found success during his driving career.

An expert at drafting tracks

His two career wins came at Daytona and Talladega, and he was in position to win in the 2011 Daytona 500 until he was black-flagged on the final restart for changing lanes before taking the green flag.

“I guess you could say I’ve flirted with a Daytona 500 victory in the past,” he said. “If I didn’t think that I could win the race, I wouldn’t consider doing it again.

“Daytona is a race that is a little bit of an equalizer because everyone’s been off for a couple of months, and you have that additional track time with the Duel races on Thursday and more practice Friday and Saturday.

“I feel like I’m on a level playing field with every driver in that race. The Daytona 500 – it’s a race that you know every driver wants to be a part of, not just here in the US, either. It was an easy decision, you know, personally to do it.”

While excited about the opportunity to return to Roush and compete with a car capable of winning, Ragan is adamant he harbors no interest in returning to full-time competition.

“This is not the beginning of any comeback tour,” he said. “I do feel like I’m in the greatest shape of my life. I feel like I’m mentally probably as strong as I’ve ever been. I’m 38 years old so I mean, I still feel like I could go out and race with these guys.

“You know, my priorities have just shifted a little bit. I really love my time with my kids and being home and being able to take some family trips. You might see me run a race or two to have a little fun and scratch that itch.

“But, man, I love being home a little bit more and not having all that stress on my shoulders.”

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