Ken Ragan Represents A Strong Georgia Racing Family

Ken Ragan made a name for himself as a driver in ARCA and NASCAR's Sprint Cup series before working with Legends car racing. Photo courtesy GRHOF

By Brandon Reed
Posted in Feature 8/26/11

When most people talk about Ken Ragan, they talk about his time as an independent racer out of Georgia, or about his later role in bringing the current form of racing known as Legends cars to prominence.

What many may fail to realize is that Ken Ragan was a second generation racer who brought much skill, determination and drive to all his racing efforts.

It’s those attributes that has carried over to the third generation of Ragan racing with Ken’s son, NASCAR Sprint Cup racer David Ragan.

Ken Ragan of Unadilla, Georgia, was born on Sept. 12, 1950 into a racing family.  His father, Hugh, owned race cars that raced on Daytona Beach and at the famed Lakewood Speedway in Atlanta, among many others, in the 1940s and 1950s, picking up an eighth place finish on the beach in 1948.

Ken grew up in central Georgia, graduating from Perry High School in 1968.  Four years later, he would earn a degree in Industrial Management and Engineering from Southern Tech in Marietta, Georgia.

Ragan began his racing career piloting high-speed go carts, winning the World Karting Association Championship in 1978 after finishing as runner-up in 1977.

The move to full sized cars may have taken its first major turn when Ragan and his brother, Marvin, purchased a Chevy dealership in Unadilla in 1981.  Soon after, he and Marvin purchased a sportsman car from Bobby Allison.   Ragan began racing in sportsman events across the southeast.

Ragan won the final race held at Middle Georgia Raceway in Byron Georgia, and competed around the nation.

Ragan’s first major race was in an ARCA event at Talladega Superspeedway in May of 1982.

In 1983 and 1984, Ragan would make several ARCA starts, along with four Sprint Cup and five Nationwide starts.  He would finish ninth at Daytona in a qualifying race, then back that run up with a 14th place finish in the Daytona 500, his best finish in four starts in that event.

Ragan would score his best career Sprint Cup finish later that year at Talladega, where he placed 11th.

While Richard Petty and Cale Yarborough’s close finish would steal the spotlight later that same year at Daytona in the Firecracker 400, Ragan did his part to be part of the big show too.  He finished just ahead of the two leaders as they came to the start finish line for the final caution, all the while carrying a “Ragans For Reagan” paint job on his #77 in honor of President Ronald Reagan, who was in attendance.

Ken Ragan sat on the pole for the ARCA event at Daytona. Bill Elliott sat on the pole for the Daytona 500, making it an all Georgia sweep. Photo courtesy GRHOF

In 1985, Ragan made it an all Georgia sweep of the Speedweeks pole at Daytona.  With fellow Georgian Bill Elliott on the pole for the Daytona 500, Ragan scored the pole for the ARCA series event earlier the same week.  He would finish fourth in that event.

Later that year, a serious wreck at Talladega would sideline Ragan with a neck injury.  His crash, along with photos of rescue members fumbled attempts to get him out of the car, would run in a prominent racing magazine in a feature explaining how not to extricate a driver from a wrecked machine.

Ragan would recover, and return to racing later that year in Michigan.  He would also score a coveted ride as R&D driver for DiGard racing.

In the late 80s, Ragan would continue making starts in ARCA and Sprint Cup events.  He would start as the Wild Card starter in the 1990 Busch Clash, then go on to finish fifth in the ARCA event at Daytona that year.  He would also record a fourth place finish at Atlanta.

Ragan would make his final Sprint Cup start at Michigan on Aug. 19, 1990.

In all, Ragan made more than 50 NASCAR Sprint Cup starts throughout his career, as well as several Nationwide series and ARCA starts.  Ragan ran in four Daytona 500s, in 1984, 1985, 1986 and 1987.

After retiring from driving, Ragan worked to help establish Legends Cars of Georgia in 1997 and in 2001 would move to Charlotte, North Carolina to manage 600 Racing, which manufactures and sponsors Legends cars around the world.  Ragan was instrumental in opening the door for many drivers to have the opportunity to race, including several current NASCAR stars.

Ken, his wife Beverly and eldest son Adam recently relocated back home to Unadilla, Georgia.  His son David is currently the driver of the number 6 UPS Ford for Roush-Fenway Racing, and won this year’s Coke Zero 400 at Daytona International Speedway.

Later that same month, the Ragan family scored a second big win, when Ken was named as a 2011 inductee into the Georgia Racing Hall of Fame in Dawsonville, Georgia.

When Ken is inducted on Oct. 21, he will represent three generations of Georgia racing excellence that all stems back to the same work ethic, skill, determination and drive.  It will be a proud night for the Ragan family, and a proud night for Georgia racing.

Brandon Reed is the editor and publisher of Georgia Racing

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