MAHONE: NASCAR vet brings joy to young driver

Derrick Mahone

Derrick Mahone

HAMPTON — Ken Ragan has been a fixture in auto racing for many years. He raced on the NASCAR circuit, and now his son, David, is a racing star in the sport.

The elder Ragan has deep connections in the sport.

And recently he used those connections to make a “dream come true” for Abby Price.

The New Jersey sixth-grader always dreamed of driving on the track at Atlanta Motor Speedway. She feel in love with Legends racing while visiting her grandmother, Jean O’Connor, in Ragan’s hometown of Perry.

As Ragan was about to head to Hampton for a Thursday Thunder race two years ago, he invited O’Connor and her granddaughter to tag along.

With access to the garage area, Price was able to sit in a Bandolero car and get the thrill of being inside of AMS. It was impressive to this 12-year-old dirt track racer.

“It was huge,” Price recalled on Wednesday about her first AMS experience. “I thought the track was about two miles.”

From that moment of being in the Bandolero, Price was hooked. She wanted to race on the track.

And Ragan was the man to make it happen.

As Ragan and Price would communicate through e-mail regularly about her progression on the dirt tracks, they decided to make the dream happen.

While Wednesday’s practice run for Thursday Thunder was canceled because of potential inclement weather, Price got her chance to strap into a Bandolero.

For 20 laps in the humid early June weather, Price was racing around the track.

“It was fast,” she said moments after the practice run.

And clean too.

Laps around the dirt tracks in the New York and Pennsylvania area can leave you with a lot of mud stains. This go around drew a lot of sweat from the Georgia heat beating off the asphalt.

Price arrived in Georgia on Tuesday, with the permission from her parents to play hooky from school, in anticipation of the opening night of Thursday Thunder.

And all because of Ken Ragan’s many connections.

When he found out that Price wanted to be a part of opening night at Thursday Thunder, he got to work. He called Chris Riley and asked to borrow his son’s Riley crew chief, Cody Haskins.

Next was a call to Pike County attorney and racing fan Virgil Brown, who loaned Price his granddaughter’s old Bandolero.

“So many people have played a part in this,” Ragan said on Wednesday. “I have an interest in helping kids. I think Abby is a neat young lady.”

She felt like a kid on Christmas Day.

“I’m really excited about racing out here,” Price said. “I don’t care where I finish, this is going to be a big thrill.”