David Ragan insists that he is going to be ready for the week-long preparations for next weekend's Daytona 500, despite being taken out just a handful of laps into the season-opening Budweiser Shootout.

The third-year driver started his #6 UPS Ford from 16th in the 28-car field, but became the victim of a typical superspeedway incident involving three other cars with just three laps in the books. Although he was unsure as to how exactly the chain-reaction started, he felt clear where the blame for his exit lay.

"I'm very disappointed," the 23-year old sighed, "Our UPS Ford was fine the first few laps, but someone on the outside just got checked up and it was a chain reaction. I don't know who was behind me, I think it was the #7, but he wasn't really paying attention and just drove into the back of us and kind of made a mess.

"We were having a good time. I felt like our car was just as fast as it needed to be to win the race and, certainly, just a couple laps in, you're just feeling everything out and checking everything to make sure it's as normal as it should be. It's just a typical deal here at Daytona and Talladega - when someone gets checked up, usually, two or three rows back, someone doesn't see it."

Despite the setback - the accident also sidelined Robby Gordon, at whom Ragan directed the blame, and rookie Joey Logano and Scott Speed - the Roush Fenway driver insisted that it would not hamper his preparations for the blue riband 500, a race in which he finished fifth in his rookie season.

"We're gonna be ready for the 500," he emphasised, "We're gonna have a good car that's capable of winning the race, but I'm just disappointed for all the UPS fans and employees and everybody at Roush Fenway that have worked hard. We could have won this thing tonight, so it's just disappointing to hear the noise in the background and me standing in here."

Amid observations that several cars looked extremely uncomfortable out on the track on Saturday night, Ragan admitted that it was hard to get a handle on the Car of Tomorrow on all circuits.

"From my first experience in one of the CoT cars, you could get it however you wanted it, but it was either uncontrollably loose or uncontrollably tight and I guess more people are comfortable with it tight and that's what they choose to do," he commented.

"I think anytime you have a 3400-3500 pound race car with 800-plus horsepower that's gonna be an issue. We've made good strides with our Fords to handle better and we don't really pay attention to one issue, we try to work around everything. I think the development is still going on to get a better handling car, but I don't really know how the old cars drove, so I don't have a good history to base my opinion on. I feel like we've had some races last year that our car was perfect and I couldn't ask for anymore - it was very comfortable and easy to drive - and then we had some races that it was dramatically loose and tight, but that's the way any race car is with a hard tyre and when you're going that fast."

Having been tabbed as possibly the most improved driver of 2008, and been handed the responsibility of carrying the UPS colours campaigned in the past by the likes of Dale Jarrett, Ragan admits that there will be more expected of him as he enters his third season in the top tier of NASCAR's ladder.

"I've thought about that a little bit and, certainly, in years past, no one really mentioned anything or didn't expect us to do well," he reflected, "I think, in the last two years, we've done what we expected to do, and I think, in the upcoming season, we expect to do a little bit more.

"It's neat to see that we're getting a little bit of good press, and people are talking about us more than in years past, but we've got our focus on our goals and that's the same thing we've done the last two years. I don't think [expectation] is gonna affect us any. We know that we're capable of winning races, we're capable of making the Chase. We've got good race cars and it's all about me being a smart race car driver, not making mistakes and having a little bit of luck along the way.

"When you get to Sprint Cup racing, everyone has fast cars, everyone has good people working on their cars and everyone has nice engines and nice race cars, so you realise how tough this sport really is - I think every driver finds that out when they get here. You just have to make provisions. You have to work harder and that's what makes Sprint Cup racing the best motorsports in the world."



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