Our series of weekly NASCAR driver interviews continues with David Ragan, who drives the No. 23 car for BK Racing. Ragan is currently 30th in the Sprint Cup Series standings entering this week's race at Michigan International Speedway.
Q: What is an errand or chore in your daily life people might be surprised to learn you do yourself?
A: Being that I have kids (two daughters), my errands and chores are pretty busy. I wash dishes, I help prepare the meals, I definitely change diapers, I help clean the house some. I do a little bit of everything. There’s really nothing I consider off-limits.
What do you cook?
I’m not a big grill master by any means, but we freeze a lot of chicken and fish we can thaw out really quick and just throw on the grill. I can grill OK. The stuff is edible, but it’s by no means gourmet.
Q: If you could do any race over again, which race would you choose?
A: The 2011 Daytona 500 (when he was penalized for changing lanes before the start/finish line on a green-white-checkered restart). That was a race that could have changed the course of my career; winning the Daytona 500 might have kept UPS around a little bit longer. At the time, I felt like I didn’t do anything wrong. I clearly understand the rule now, but at that point, NASCAR wasn’t enforcing the rule — and I was the one they decided to make an example out of. I hate it all came down to that. I wish it had been Pocono instead of the Daytona 500.
Does it stick with you? Do you think about the what-ifs a lot?
Life happens, and you adjust for what’s next. I’m grateful a lot of things have gone right in my career. I’ve gotten breaks at the right time and I’ve been able to win a few races. I don’t dwell on it or feel any type of remorse from making a mistake. I can think about it with a smile; I don’t get depressed when I think about it.
Q: The longest race of the year was the recent Coca-Cola 600. But how long of a race could you physically handle without a driver change?
A: I thought about this question during the race! On one of the last cautions, I looked up and it was like 40 to go and I thought, “I wonder how many more miles I could physically run?” I think we could all go longer; I just don’t know how long we could go at 100%. We could probably run 1,500 miles or a 12-hour race, but you would be very inconsistent with lap times and the pace would slow down. The racing wouldn’t be as good. So we could probably run 200 more miles and still have all the drivers running 100%, but that’s probably all we could go while competing at a high level.
Q: Let’s say president of NASCAR was an elected position voted on by the drivers — and you decided to run. What would one of your campaign promises be?
A: Make NASCAR Great Again. (Grins) No, that was a joke. NASCAR is pretty great right now.
I’d be like other politicians and just promise everything and then once you get elected, just do what you want. In order to be a politician, you can’t say the truth. You can’t say what you really mean. You just have to say what it takes to get elected. Then once you get elected, you hire all your buddies and take care of all the people who donated to your campaign. I hope I'm never a politician.
Q: At the start of this year, exactly 2,900 drivers had ever raced in the Sprint Cup Series. Where do you rank among those 2,900?
A: That’s a very hard question to answer because the different eras have presented different challenges. But you’d have to look at the statistics: I’ve won a couple races and I don’t know how many top-fives and top-10s I have. I’d say I’m in the top 200 if you just look off the statistics. I think guys like myself who have won a couple races and been around the sport a few years and had some limited success, depending on what era we drove in, maybe we would have been a little more successful.
Q: What do you think your reputation is — and is that reputation accurate?
A: I think my reputation is, “David is a good guy, a good family man and a good racer.” I think that’s pretty accurate. I hope it is, anyway. I like to think of myself first as a good person, because after this racing is all done and the money is all gone and the trophies are rotting away, you still have your family and your reputation as being a person. This is just a sport; it’s not your entire life. I try to keep that in perspective. I don’t want to regret missing out on things in my life, because this is just a small portion of what I hope my life will be.
Q: A famous chef wants you to invest in the new restaurant he’s opening, but he wants you to pick the cuisine. What type of food would your restaurant serve?
A: I’d have traditional, real American, country-style kitchen and hire a bunch of grandmas as cooks. You can’t beat good meat and fresh vegetables. It doesn’t have to be super fancy with little leaves and flowers laying on your plate with a demi-glace swirl and artistic designs. Just some fried chicken and fresh beans and corn on the cob and a nice homemade biscuit is a pretty good meal. You can’t go wrong with that.
So keep it simple and focus on the food, right?
I wish I could tell people that when I go to restaurants. Like when (wife) Jacquelyn and I go to a sushi restaurant and they want to make it really extravagant with beautiful colors and presentation, I want to say, "I came here to eat. Save your money on designing the wasabi, just give me the food and save all the art for somebody else."
Q: What is the most daring thing you’ve done outside of racing?
A: Got married. (Smiles) That was a joke. Obviously, I’ve read some of the 12 Questions this year and I thought about this question. I don’t know that I’ve really done anything daring where I risked my life or risked injury. I do go hiking and skiing, but that’s pretty common. I’ve picked up some hitchhikers before.
I’ve never picked up a hitchhiker because it seems like it could turn out really badly. You didn’t have any negative experiences with it?
I’ve picked up five or six of them in my life and all of them have been interesting people who were genuinely appreciative of the ride and were just trying to get somewhere. Like if I’m getting on an interstate and there’s a guy with a little bit of luggage and he doesn’t appear to be too threatening from the first observation, I’ll help him out. A couple times they’ve ridden in the cab of my pickup truck; other times they’ve just jumped in the back. My dad (former driver Ken Ragan) picked up a hitchhiker just last week.
Q: In a move to generate more excitement, NASCAR decides in an upcoming race they’re going to require every driver to have a passenger in the car. You get to pick the passenger. Who do you choose?
A: I’d probably pick Brian France. I know that’s been a popular answer this year, but Brian is obviously the head of our sport and someone who isn’t around the garage a lot. He’s not at the test sessions a lot. He’s not walking on pit road before the race. So I’d like to see Brian in the race car, because I'd not only want him to see when we take the green flag on a restart and go four-wide at Michigan — and how awesome that is — but also how much of a struggle it is when you catch a car and you get in that dirty air. I'd just want him to be able to see things firsthand.
Q: How often do you talk inside the car without hitting the radio button?
A: I talk to myself a lot if someone cuts me off or I get a bad restart. I’ll say, “Man, that was stupid. Why did you do that?” But we have a choice to push the button, and you push it for a reason: To communicate information to your crew chief. To be screaming or hollering or just hitting the button to hear myself talk, I don’t think that’s very productive. If you want entertainment, you do not need to listen to our radio because it’s usually pretty straightforward.
I don’t find any benefit to scream at other people, because it doesn’t really do anything. Now, if we had direct communication with other cars and I could flip over to someone else’s radio and say, “Hey! What the hell did you do that for? What are you thinking?” Then I think I would talk more there. We had that option four or five years ago when we were doing the tandem drafting. We had like 15 different channels, and that was a cool feature.
I think you’ve hit on something there. Wouldn’t it be a great thing to add to NASCAR if every driver had the ability to talk in the cars and fans could hear you guys yelling at each other? That would be pretty interesting.
We have the technology where eventually that could happen, and it would be another neat thing for the fans to pick up on. Maybe during the year, you get to have different drivers’ frequencies in your radio and once you use your teammates four times, you’ve got to put somebody else in. That would be something fun for the TV networks and fans to listen in, absolutely. There could be a little strategy in that, too. It would be chaos. But maybe that could be something I could talk to Brian France about while he’s riding in the car with me.
Q: Who will win the Sprint Cup in 2021?
A: I’m only 30 years old, so maybe I’ll be there. If I win the Sprint Cup in 2021, I’m retiring. I’ll be done. I’ll retire in Las Vegas at the awards ceremony.
Just drop the mic?
Drop the mic and go home.
Q: I’ve been asking each driver to give me a question for the next interview. The last interview was with Matt Kenseth, who wanted to know what you’ve enjoyed the most and least about being a parent so far.
A: The thing I enjoy least about being a parent is the lack of sleep. My wife and I, we liked our sleep. Even before kids, we’d usually go to bed pretty early. Sleep is underrated in this world, and when you get a good night’s rest, there’s nothing better than waking up after that.
The thing I’ve enjoyed is being able to have an impact in a child’s life. Being able to teach them right from wrong, to help them educate themselves and watching them learn and grow. I feel like I’ve got a big role in developing who they’re going to be and their mindset; that’s a lot of pressure, but if you take pride in doing that, it can be a lot of fun. That’s something my parents did for me; they instilled a lot of their values in me as a young kid, so hopefully I can do a good job for my kids and when they’re 10, 15, 20 years old, I can say, “Hey, I helped them get there."
And do you have a question for the next interview? It’s with Blake Koch.
How often do you pee in the shower? Is that an appropriate question?
Oh man. Yeah, let's go with that.
I’d like to know. Do you pee in the shower sometimes? Never? All the time?