For David Ragan, not to mention his family, Atlanta Motor Speedway has and will likely always be a special place.
The veteran driver not only piloted legends and bandolero cars around the Hampton, Ga. Track’s ¼-mile “Thunder Ring,” but Ragan’s father, Ken directs the Legends racing program at AMS.
So when it came to picking NASCAR Cup Series races to run this year for Rick Ware Racing, the decision of getting behind the wheel for the first race weekend at the re-profiled Atlanta Motor Speedway was an easy one as he looked at which events to consider.
“For me, what drew me to this program was having a chartered car that didn’t have a full-time driver, and I could kind of pick and choose races,” Ragan said.
In fact, when Ragan briefly fielded questions on Saturday morning in Atlanta, it came after being on a ski trip with his family less than 24 hours earlier.
“It’s important for me to be back here and have some fun with my friends and family,” Ragan said. “With the first repave in 1997, I can remember watching that reconfiguration happen. I kind of wanted to be back here this weekend. I would’ve definitely had fear of missing out — FOMO. It’s kind of cool to be here at Atlanta Motor Speedway and see what the future might look like here.”
Like many drivers going into the weekend, all Ragan could do about knowing what this weekend’s racing will be like is to guess. Ragan, however, does not expect a carbon copy of the racing seen at Daytona and Talladega and those track’s high banks, partially due to the track length in Atlanta.
“The cars are going to be wide open all the way around the racetrack; I think the preferred groove will be the bottom lane,” Ragan said. “You’ll have some pack racing to some extent over 500 miles. Obviously, the corners are tighter and the straightaway is not as long, so I think it’ll be a bit of a mixture.”
It does not hurt that Ragan has a pair of wins in NASCAR’s top division, both coming at the superspeedways of Daytona and Talladega.
“I don’t have anything to prove, I’m not racing for points,” Ragan said. “I just want to have a chance to win in the end. They know that racing around me, I won’t get too crazy in the end.”