What do Cup and Nationwide drivers David Ragan and Michael Annett have in common as they prepare to start the NASCAR racing season at Daytona next month?
Both Ragan and Annett will head straight their local short tracks for some preparatory competition prior to the start of their top tier series competition. And both of them are competing at tracks not only close to their hearts but close to home as well.
Ragan will hit his local short track this weekend in the season opener of the CRA (Champion Racing Association) Super Series. The newly-married Sprint Cup driver will star at SpeedFest 2013 this weekend at Watermelon Capital Speedway just a hop, skip and a jump from his hometown of Unadilla, Georgia.
Ragan competed last year in this same event pre-Daytona, finishing third after starting on the pole. He is hoping to top finish that this year, racing in his own No. 77 David Ragan Inc. Ford.
“It’s always a lot of fun to go run a race in January when we have some free time,” Ragan said. “This race always draws a lot of guys from all over, especially up north where it’s still too cold and snowy to go racing.”
“We just have a lot of fun,” Ragan continued. “And running a race that close to home, I get a lot of friends and family in the stands cheering me on.”
While Ragan’s primary job is behind the wheel of the No. 34 Ford Fusion Motorsports, he also loves returning to his short track roots, racing a handful of late-model competitions with his own two car team based in his new home in Concord, North Carolina.
“It’s a chance for me to go race four or five times a year at the short tracks and just have some fun,” Ragan said. “My late model program is two cars.”
“I’ve got one full-time employee who works on them,” Ragan continued. “Other than that, it’s me and my cousin and some volunteer help.”
“Some of the guys from Front Row Motorsports go with us on the weekends to help.”
While Ragan thoroughly enjoys the local competition, he also acknowledges that even when he is having fun, he still wants to claim that checkered flag.
“Sometimes I have to remind myself that it’s just for fun,” Ragan said. “I’m a competitor and I admit I can get caught up in the moment of trying to be competitive.”
“I want to spend more money than we should on the cars to make improvements here and there,” Ragan continued. “Then I remember to dial it down a bit and remember why I do it.”
In addition to enjoy the big Cup tracks, Ragan is also very fond of his home track, Watermelon Capital Speedway.
“Watermelon Capital Speedway is a very fun race track,” Ragan said. “It’s D-shaped, where the back straightaway curves a little.”
“It’s not your typical short track,” Ragan continued. “It’s challenging.”
“Last year we sat on the pole and finished third,” Ragan said. “Two years ago we finished fifth or sixth, so we usually run pretty well and have had some changes to win.”
“This weekend, our goal is to go down there, lead the most laps and win the race.”
Fellow Nationwide competitor Michael Annett is right there with Ragan as far as wanting to win in his local short track event. He will compete at the Iowa State Fairgrounds Battle at the Barn, an indoor carting event this weekend that also includes another fellow racer Kenny Wallace.
Annett, Nationwide driver for Richard Petty Motorsports, will compete locally in the 360 and 390 clone classes, as well as the 20-lap feature. This is the fifth year for the Battle at the Barn, which attracts the Midwest’s best kart racers.
“This is a really cool event happening right in my back yard,” Annett said. “I’m happy Toby Kruse (the event’s promoter) invited me.”
“I have a deep appreciation for these racers working hard to fulfill their dreams,” Annett continued. “They’re good racers too.”
“I’m looking forward to competing with them and interacting with all the fans that come out.”
Annett, who will be warming up to take his seat in his Richard Petty Motorsports Nationwide car, will participate in an autograph session in the Jacobson building prior to his local short track race.