Georgia native David Ragan celebrates after his win during NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Aaron’s 499 at Talladega Superspeedway last May. Ragan will race in this weekend’s AdvoCare 500 at his home track at Atlanta Motor Speedway. (Special Photo).
HAMPTON — David Ragan might be out of the Sprint Cup Chase, but the Georgia native comes home this weekend to Atlanta Motor Speedway with a lot of enthusiasm.
Ragan started his racing career as a youngster in AMS’s Thursday Thunder, a grassroots summer racing series.
And a win this weekend at Sunday’s AdvoCare 500 would salvage his season.
“Five hundred miles at Atlanta is one of the longest races of the year,” said Ragan, a native of Unadilla, which is just outside of Perry in middle Georgia. “It seems like it goes on forever. It’s a tough race, but I always look forward to it because it’s in my backyard. I love being back home in Georgia. It’s a big race for our sponsor, Peanut Patch Hot Boiled Peanuts, and for our team owner, Bob Jenkins. It’s going to be a fun weekend and we’re looking forward to it.”
During the late 1990s, Ragan would make the weekly trek to AMS to race in the summer series. So its understandable how the track holds special memories for him.
He comes into Sunday’s race with a 12th place finish at Bristol. Ragan will bring the experience of participating in a recent tire test by Goodyear at the 1.5-mile oval, as well as 10 previous Atlanta starts. His best finish at the venue is eighth (2008).
“We got a top-15 finish for Peanut Patch last weekend at Bristol, which we were real excited about and proud of as a team,” he said. “We’ll be looking to have another good weekend for them at Atlanta. We’ve got a cool new paint scheme, we’ve got some events where fans can get some autographs, it’s a holiday weekend — it’s going to be fun.”
Coming into Atlanta, he has only won win and is currently in 26th place in the Chase standings, but he still remains upbeat.
“I just have to drive a smart race,” Ragan said. “Being a small team, we are looking for those top 15-20 finishes.”
And a win at Atlanta Motor Speedway?
“That would be very big,” he said. “It would be one of my most cherishable items to win in Atlanta.”
During his amateur days at Thursday Thunder, Ragan found his way to victory lane nine times, which spanned the 1998-2000 seasons. He was second in the Bandoleros division in 1998 and won the Semi-Pro division in 2000.
Ragan said racing in the grassroots series prepared him for his pro career on NASCAR.
“Thursday Thunder allowed me to go meet the right people to get my career started,” he said. “For any kid that wants to get into driving, that is very helpful.”