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Ragan a champ in ’09? It’s not far-fetched
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Ragan a champ in ’09? It’s not far-fetched

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David Ragan, a title contender? Probably seems unrealistic to many. Take your focus off Jimmie Johnson’s quest for a third consecutive title and Carl Edwards’ crusade to snap that streak and a Ragan title run in 2009 doesn’t seem far-fetched.

The second-year driver for Roush Fenway Racing has cut his accidents and spins from last season by more than two-thirds and has scored more points in the Chase than five championship contenders.

His 11th-place finish Sunday was his sixth consecutive top-15 finish. Although not racing for a crown — Ragan can clinch 13th in the points this weekend at Phoenix — he has outscored every non-Chase driver by at least 135 points.

A year ago, Ragan was involved in 22 accidents or spins, according to NASCAR statistics. This year, it’s seven.

“I couldn’t be more proud of him,” said Ken Schrader. “He learned how to race instead of go fast for one lap, worry more about racing and being there at the end of the day.’’

Call it a sign of maturity for the 22-year-old from Unadilla, Ga. By not crashing as often, his team doesn’t spend all its time repairing cars or hurriedly building new ones. Instead, his team can hone the cars they have.

“We’ve had good race cars every race and that’s led to top-10s,” Ragan said. “We haven’t had engine failures, we haven’t had mechanical failures and we haven’t had any incidents on the race track.”

Had Ragan made the Chase — a 32nd-place finish at Richmond cost him a chance to make it — he’d be eighth, and, 77 points out of the top five. He’s scored more points (1,035) in the Chase than Kyle Busch (858), Denny Hamlin (925), Dale Earnhardt Jr. (927), Tony Stewart (962) and Matt Kenseth (973).

Ragan says the team is trying to simulate Chase conditions to prepare for next year.

“We’ve put some extra pressure on ourselves to perform well,” he said. “By us working on our restrictor-plate program, by us really concentrating on Martinsville and then kind of letting everything else happen the way it should, it goes to show everyone else that we feel like our team is as capable of competing once we get in that Chase.”

DEALING: Talks in the garage continue about possible mergers, deals and such. Petty Enterprises has had talks with Dale Earnhardt Inc. and Chip Ganassi Racing. All teams are talking to each other to better position themselves next year.

It doesn’t matter if manufacturers are different; teams are talking. With Chevrolet and Chrysler talking about a merger, it could make a Ganassi-DEI or Petty-DEI merger happen.

“It’s hard to be two-car team in this world and thrive, not only from a business standpoint but success on the track,” said Robbie Loomis of Petty Enterprises.

PIT STOPS: Lowe’s will continue as sponsor of Lowe’s Motor Speedway in 2009, the track announced Tuesday. The 10-year contract was to end after this year. … Points leader Jimmie Johnson’s primary car at Phoenix has run twice and won both times — at Richmond in September and Martinsville in October.

Contact Dustin Long at 373-7062 or dustin.long@news-record.com

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