Monday, December 5, 2011
Updated: December 6, 10:28 AM ET
David Ragan wants opening at Penske
By David Newton
LAS VEGAS -- David Ragan was given his release from Roush Fenway Racing on Monday, opening the door for him to possibly replace 2004 Sprint Cup champion Kurt Busch at Penske Racing.
Ragan said he asked for his release Monday morning, after learning that Busch and Penske Racing had mutually agreed to split. He then talked to Penske Racing president Tim Cindric to express an interest in the vacant No. 22 ride.
"I want to be in consideration for that car," Ragan said.
Ragan said he had been disappointed when UPS informed Roush Fenway during the season that it was not returning to the No. 6 car as a sponsor.
"Sometimes crazy things happen for a reason. I feel I've got a good shot to have a sit-down talk with the guys at Penske," Ragan said. "We haven't discussed that, but I have reached out to them and hopefully later on in the next week or two we'll have more to talk about."
Although Ragan didn't have a Sprint Cup Series ride with RFR for 2012, he remained under contract until he was given the release. The move now clears him to pursue the Penske opening, as well as other potential vacancies in Sprint Cup and the Nationwide Series.
"I wanted to be able to say with complete confidence I was available when I told some other teams I've spoken to that I could come race for them next year," Ragan said. "I'm very grateful for what Jack (Roush) and those guys have done for my career.
"I just felt like it was time for a change and to move on."
Penske Racing executive Bud Denker acknowledged that Ragan "and others" would be considered to replace Busch, whose behavior on and off the track led to the split. He did not give a timetable, but indicated it could be several weeks, as the process has just begun and sponsor Shell Pennzoil will have to approve the winning candidate.
Others drivers who might be considered include David Reutimann and Brian Vickers. Reutimann was released from Michael Waltrip Racing, while Vickers was a part of Red Bull Racing, which is folding its NASCAR operation.
Denker said that Sam Hornish Jr. will not be under consideration, as Penske wants the former IndyCar Series champion to focus on a full Nationwide Series run in 2012 before returning to Cup.
Hornish drove full time in the Cup Series for Penske from 2008 through 2010, recording only two top-5 finishes and never finishing better than 28th in points.
Ragan finished 23rd in points this past season, but won his first Cup race at Daytona International Speedway in July. His best season came in 2008 when he finished 13th in points with 14 top-10 finishes.
Despite his lack of success on the track, RFR officials and UPS have praised Ragan for the way he works for his sponsors.
"I would be honored to be offered a position or ride over at Penske," Ragan said. "I think a lot of Roger and that organization. An opportunity has come open and we're ready to take advantage of it."
David Newton covers NASCAR for ESPN.com. He can be reached at email@example.com.