Ragan, whose last appearance in the NASCAR series was in 2022, commenced his NASCAR journey with what was then Roush Racing, spending his initial five seasons in the Cup driving for renowned owner Jack Roush.
Now, nearly two decades since his debut in the series, he finds himself with the chance to race for Roush once again on NASCAR’s grandest stage – the Daytona 500.
Even more promising, the 38-year-old native of Unadilla, Ga., maintains his belief in his ability to clinch victory.
Towards the end of last season, Ragan was approached about participating in this year’s Daytona with Roush Fenway Keselowski Racing, and the organization’s recent resurgence only strengthened his resolve.
“I miss the racing scene to some extent, but I’m genuinely content with my current schedule and remaining involved in the sport from a competitive standpoint while also having more time for my personal life with my wife and kids,” Ragan expressed to Motorsport.com.
“It’s been a perfect balance. But when an opportunity arises to drive a genuinely fast race car with a team that has consistently proven their ability to win races across various tracks, it was an obvious decision for me.”
Ragan’s tenure at Roush encountered challenges and concluded after the 2011 season without achieving higher than 13th in the series standings. Nonetheless, he secured his first series victory with the team later that year at Daytona in July.
Despite stepping back from full-time competition in the Cup after the 2019 season, Ragan has stayed involved in the series, primarily contributing to simulation and testing work for Ford Performance.
Most recently, he participated in testing NASCAR’s fully battery-powered race car and was slated to drive it in an exhibition at last weekend’s Busch Light Clash at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum before severe weather disrupted the schedule.
“I remain closely connected with all the Ford teams during the season, driving the wheel-force car, which is the OEM test car we collaborate with,” Ragan stated.
“Typically, each Ford team sends a representative to these tests, and afterward, I often engage in simulator work for some teams to aid in developing tire models and other aspects with that car.
“So, I’ve closely followed Brad (Keselowski) and Chris (Buescher) and their achievements at RFK and the successful season they had last year.”
RFK has traditionally boasted a formidable superspeedway program, where Ragan achieved success during his driving career.
An adept at drafting tracks
His two career wins occurred at Daytona and Talladega, and he was poised to win the 2011 Daytona 500 until being black-flagged on the final restart for changing lanes before the green flag.
“I suppose you could say I’ve come close to winning the Daytona 500 in the past,” he remarked. “If I didn’t believe I could win the race, I wouldn’t consider participating again.
“The Daytona 500 is somewhat of an equalizer because everyone’s been off for a couple of months, and you have additional track time with the Duel races on Thursday and more practice on Friday and Saturday.
“I feel like I’m on par with every driver in that race. The Daytona 500 – it’s a race every driver wants to be part of, not just in the U.S., either. Personally, it was an easy decision to do it.”
While enthusiastic about the chance to return to Roush and compete with a car capable of winning, Ragan firmly asserts he has no desire to return to full-time competition.
“This isn’t the start of a comeback tour,” he emphasized. “I do feel I’m in the best shape of my life physically. Mentally, I’m probably as resilient as ever. At 38, I still feel I can race with these guys.
“My priorities have just shifted slightly. I cherish my time with my kids and being home, and being able to enjoy family trips. You might see me race once or twice for fun and to scratch that itch.
“But, ultimately, I love being home more and not carrying all that stress on my shoulders.”