CHARLOTTE - Despite proving he can win at NASCAR's highest level and feeling like he's in his prime, David Ragan didn't know if he'd be able to race this year.
"You can't do it forever, but you want to retire when it's your time or on your terms," said Ragan.
The Unadilla native was without a spot driving for any NASCAR team for 2016 after splitting time between three racing teams in 2015. Months passed where he worked the phones himself, drawing on contacts with owners, sponsors and friends made through years of racing. Finally, he found the right opportunity.
"It's a big relief to have the opportunity to go race full-time in the Sprint Cup series," said Ragan.
The 30-year-old driver is the new face of BK Racing's #23 Dr. Pepper Toyota (Ragan notes a Dr. Pepper would taste great in Victory Lane). Ragan has proven he can win, with victories at Daytona in 2011 and Talladega in 2013. He's raced for big teams, including Roush Fenway Racing for several years and a fill-in role with Joe Gibbs Racing last season while Kyle Busch was injured. BK Racing is a much smaller team with a different feel.
"The pressure's there, but it's a little different," said Ragan. "You sometimes have more fun [with a smaller team]. You get to work with a closer knit group of employees that are real happy to be here."
Ragan is set to run a full slate of Sprint Cup Series races starting with the Daytona 500. He's not one who will stare down all the teams who passed over him for spots in their cars, but admits it does add a little fuel to the fire.
"You don't want to burn any bridges, but you want to keep everything healthy. It's a competitive sport we're in. It'll feel real good when I can beat those guys."