By GREG KEIM
THE GOSHEN NEWS
SOUTH BEND —
One of the drivers that puts the pedal to the metal when FOX television announcer Darrell Waltrip uses his trademark phrase “Boogity, boogity, boogity” when the starter drops the green flag for a NASCAR race was in South Bend on Tuesday.
David Ragan, 27, was in town for The Great Logan Nose-On Luncheon at The Century Center. This is the 25th annual event.
“This is our single biggest event of the year,” Logan Center’s marketing director Ann Lagomarcino said. “We have over 1,000 people coming today. This is a huge day for us to get our mission on the radar.”
Logan Center is a non-profit organization that serves people with developmental disabilities.
“Developmental disabilities are a growing issue in our community, one that is not going to go away,” Lagomarcino added. “What makes events like today so great is that if the community doesn’t open up to the people we serve we can’t function.”
Ragan has first-hand knowledge of people with developmental disabilities since his 29-year-old brother Adam has Downs Syndrome.
“Adam is my older brother,” David Ragan said. “He is a big part of our race team and he is friends with a lot of the drivers. He probably gets more TV time than I do.”
Some of Ragan’s experiences growing up with Adam is one of the reasons he took the time to come to South Bend when contacted about appearing at the luncheon.
“We grew up in a small town and I know what my parents went through trying to make sure Adam got the proper care and the proper schooling,” Ragan said. “It’s great there is an organization like Logan Center to support the families and there is community support behind the center.”
Adam Ragan has a job at a Ford Dealership in Georgia.
David Ragan had heard of Logan Center, even before he was contacted about appearing at the fund-raiser luncheon.
“I meet race fans from all over the country,” he said. “A few years ago, I meet one from this local area who knew about Adam and told me about Logan Center.
“I was glad it worked out in my schedule to be here. You know how NASCAR is. Last week we were in Bristol, Tennessee, I’m here today and then we head to California.”
Ragan was in Tennessee to compete in the Food City 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway. He finished 21st out of the 43 drivers and was one of 33 cars still running when winner Kasey Kahne crossed the finish line.
This week NASCAR heads to California for the Auto Club 400 at the Auto Club Speedway in Fontana.
Ragan knows the important part an organization like Logan Center can play in people’s lives.
“These young girls and guys have tons of potential and we can’t forget that,” he said. “The sky is the limit for them if they get the proper help.”
Ragan is currently 33rd on the NASCAR Sprint Cup points list.
For years, NASCAR’s main fan base was in the southern states, but that has changed in recent years.
“The digital age has helped change our fan base,” Ragan said. “The fact you can instantly access the information has brought new fans to our sport.”
Another reason Ragan enjoyed coming to the area is that fellow NASCAR drivers Ryan Newman (South Bend) and Tony Raines (LaPorte) are from the area.
“They are good drivers,” Ragan said. “They started out like I did at small local tracks.”
According to Ragan, Newman is unique on the NASCAR circuit since he has a four-year college degree,
“I thought about college, but decided if I took the time off from racing to graduate I wasn’t sure about getting back into racing,” Ragan said.
Ragan began his racing career at age 12 in the Bandolero Series under the guidance of his father former Winston Cup driver Ken Ragan.
“I grew up watching dad race, but never really got serious about racing until I was 12,” he said. “By age 15 or 16 I was in it on a full-time basis.”
Ragan was a quick learner. In just his second year (1999) in the sport he won 12 races and the Bandolero Series National Championship. Ragan also had early success at the Sprint Cup level, finishing 13th in the points standings with six top-five finishes and 14 top-10 finishes, in his sophomore season (2008).
Ragan joined Front Row Motorsports in January of 2012. David Gilliland and John Wise are his fellow drivers on the team that is based out of Statesville, North Carolina.
“We are a mid-sized team, but our owner does a good job marketing the team and has a good plan for us,” he said. “We have not made a big splash, but we have shown improvement every season. There are perks to being on a smaller team and there are disadvantages. It’s like in baseball every year you have the (New York) Yankees or the (Boston) Red Sox but every once in awhile you have the Tampa Bay Rays sneak in there. Teams like Tampa Bay are capable of playing well, but not on a consistent basis year to year basis.”
Ragan shared his feelings on driver Danica Patrick’s decision to leave Indy Car Racing to go full-time on the NASCAR circuit.
‘She has had a positive impact on the sport,” he said. “She has brought some non-traditional fans to the sport and any time you can do that it’s great. NASCAR is the strongest motor sport in my opinion. Our TV ratings are going up.”
Ragan also weighed in on the new NASCAR Generation-6 cars that made their debut this season. According to NASCAR.com, The Gen-6 cars are the most comprehensive overhaul since the 2007 season. The purpose of the new cars is to re-establish brand identity among the automotive manufacturers and provide competitive upgrades in an effort to improve competition in NASCAR’s Sprint Cup Series.
“The Gen-6 cars are a game-changer,” Ragan said. “Teams are going to learn about the cars at different paces. Over the next few years you are going to see some big things from these cars.”