Ragan has a pole; now he wants to win
The Ford camp was back in the saddle again at Texas Motor Speedway.
Considering the speed the Fusions exhibited at Las Vegas, the first intermediate race of the season where Fords secured the first four positions in qualifying, it's not surprising to see Roush Fenway racers David Ragan and Carl Edwards on the front row for the Samsung Mobile 500.
For Ragan, it was his first career Cup pole in 153 starts. As a pole-winner bonus, TMS awarded Ragan with a Turnbull 1886 deluxe take down rifle.
"It has been a long time coming," Ragan said. "I feel like we have had several opportunities to get some poles, and it is a great thing. I am really happy. I can't wait to get back to the hauler and talk about our car for tomorrow night. When the green flag drops tomorrow night, people will forget that we were on the pole.
"I will remember it and I will get to walk by and check out my gun, but we have to get out front and lead some laps and get some solid finishes. I think our car is really good for tomorrow night, and we have a good game plan for the race. I can't wait."
Ragan has been fast this season. He's qualified in the top 10 for three of the first seven events. However, Ragan has posted just one top-10 finish — eighth last week at Martinsville.
Ragan has seen clear improvement across the board with the Roush cars this season. He said the difference in closing the deal Friday was simple.
"First thing is that I wasn't backwards coming off turn two like I was at Vegas, so that helped," Ragan said. "When you are fast in practice — and we have qualified in the top five and top 10 two or three times this year — when you do that you eventually qualify on pole.
"If you finish second, fifth and eighth, you eventually win a race. That is our main goal. Our cars are just faster. I think you could look across the board at all the Roush qualifying efforts and typically Matt (Kenseth, who qualified fourth) and Greg (Biffle, 16th) are in a middle pack, and so have we been the last year or two. I think we are all qualifying better because our cars are faster and easier to drive, and we don't have to reinvent the wheel on qualifying days."
For Edwards, who is in a contract year with Roush, having fast cars at his disposal that enable him to contend for championships could make the difference in whether he stays or goes. Edwards acknowledged that he was disappointed after last week's performance at Martinsville, where his team qualified 23rd and was unable to finish better than 18th. Consequently, Edwards relinquished the points lead to Kyle Busch.
"We got home from Martinsville and I was so frustrated about our race there," Edwards said. "We always talk about the ups and downs in this sport, and that was a bad weekend. We lost the points lead. But then I started thinking about how at Vegas we had the top three in qualifying and we were super-fast in practice, and I thought that we could come to Texas and see if we still had that and here we are.
"We are fast in practice and have three of the top four in qualifying that are Fords. We are as good now on the 1.5 mile, almost as good as we were in 2005 when we were lights-out and won 15 total races or something like that. We are close to that form again, and that is good."
HOEDOWN AT CARL'S FARM
Let's take a little quiz: Which of the following words does not describe Carl Edwards?
A) Race car driver
Well, this is actually a trick question because the driver of the No. 99 Roush Fenway Racing Ford is all of the above.
Edwards purchased farmland in central Missouri, which he sharecrops with a friend. However, Edwards admits he's a farmer in training.
"I am learning a lot about farming," Edwards said. "It is not as simple as it looks, but we have been having a lot of fun with it. It is something that is so different from what I do every week that I really have a lot of fun with it. It is a good time.
"I have a tractor and everything. I am dangerous with my tractor. I need a four-wheel-drive tractor. I got mine stuck the other day a little bit. All they let me do is mow stuff down. They don't let me do anything that requires any great skill. I have fun with it, though; we have a good time."
RIDING WITH DINGER
Crew chief Mike Shiplett delivered a "told you so" on pit road before checking in with AJ Allmendinger, who qualified 15th on Friday.
Shiplett was defending his experimentation in Thursday's opening practice session where the best lap Allmendinger could muster was 31st on the speed chart. Although Dinger moved up to 10th in Happy Hour, being forced to qualify ninth was detrimental to his results.
"Going out early hurt us and the track is getting shady real quick here," said Allmendinger, who has an average finish of 12.3 at Texas Motor Speedway in the last three races. "I am proud of the gains we made today, though. You just have to take where the race car was and make small steps on it. I think we have the car close enough so we can make small gains on it. You never really know until you drop the green, though."
TOPS AT TOYOTA
Despite the previous success of his Joe Gibbs Racing teammates at Texas, Joey Logano posted the fastest lap in qualifying among the Camrys. Logano was eighth overall with a lap of 187.585mph.
With the race starting in daylight and ending under the lights, Logano says he expects "every challenge" on Saturday night, and he's not sure how the car will react.
"We practice (Friday) and it was really, really hot," Logano said. "I don't know what we are going to have."
Logano, who is 27th in the point standings, had one bright moment last week. The Connecticut native enjoyed the UConn Huskies' NCAA hoops championship Monday.
"Heck yeah," Logano said. "I wore my UConn hat all week."
Kyle Busch was caught up in a race-ending wreck in the Nationwide Series after Tim Schendel nailed the No. 18 Toyota on Lap 88.
"We crashed," Busch said. "That's about it. That's what it's going to go down in the notebook. But we had a good car."