A night out in Vegas with David Ragan

Free time can often turn expensive in Las Vegas, which is why I wondered if any Twitter followers wanted to meet up for dinner Tuesday night. I figured it would keep me away from the casinos and also be a fun time to chat with people about NASCAR.

But the night turned out to be way better than expected, and I want to share the story with you.

Three Vegas locals — Hunter, Bruce and Jose — were among those who saw my dinner invitation. But a non-local saw it, too: David Ragan.

After spotting the tweet while lying in bed scrolling through his timeline on Monday night, Ragan reached out with an incredible offer: Why not have the group join him and spotter Rocky Ryan for dinner at an Italian restaurant owned by Ragan’s friend?

So there we were — a driver, spotter, writer and three NASCAR fans — sitting at Ferraro’s, enjoying some crazy good family-style food and talking about all things racing.

As we dined on gnocchi and chicken Marsala and calamari, Ragan told us what it was like to be in the middle of a three-wide pack at Talladega. Ryan told us about his days as Ward Burton’s spotter. The fans told us about why they liked certain drivers and which races were on their bucket list.

While Ragan and Ryan spoke, I kept peeking at Bruce and Hunter and Jose to see their faces, and it was so cool to see them smiling and soaking up the experience. Meanwhile, Ragan and Ryan spent two and a half hours at the dinner — this despite being on Eastern time after just landing in Vegas — and could not have been nicer.

Anyway, that’s it. There’s no “catch” to this story. Ragan didn’t ask me to write about it or even mention it to anyone. He wasn’t trying to promote anything. The fans didn’t have to pay a dime.

Ragan just decided, completely on his own, to give three avid NASCAR followers the kind of memory they’ll treasure forever.

 

Fan Profile: Paul Baker

These 12 Questions-style fan profiles are one of the rewards offered as a tier on my Patreon page. You can catch up on the other profiles so far this season here.

Name:  Paul Baker

Location:  New York

Twitter name: pauljbaker79

Age: 38

1. How long have you been a NASCAR fan?

Since 2008.

2. How many races have you attended?

Three.

3. Who is your No. 1 favorite driver?

Kyle Busch.

4. What made you a fan of his?

I moved to the U.S. from England in 2008 for work, so I was intrigued by the sport coming in. My lucky number is 18 — and who doesn’t like candy? As I got more interested in the races, the more I heard his name. Then I started listening to the team radio and I found the blow-ups entertaining to listen to. So I guess the reason everyone else hates on Kyle is the reason I like him. I’ve learned more listening to Kyle and Tony on the radio than I have through any other medium.

5. Who is your most disliked driver?

I honestly don’t have one.

6. Why not?

I’m a fan of the 18 and I hope he wins whatever race he enters. But I have a lot of respect for all the drivers. What they can do blows my mind. Driving a car inches from each other at hundreds of miles an hour is insane.

7. What is your favorite track?

Growing up watching cars going left and right, I’m going to go with Watkins Glen or Sonoma.

8. What is one thing you would change if you were in charge of NASCAR?

More transparency around the post-race penalties. Everyone wants to jump on the guy who fails, but are we talking a fraction of an inch or a blatant attempt at cheating?

Also, give the drivers a cooling-off period after the race. I know if I have a shitty day at work, the last thing I would want is a camera in my face asking why the day sucked. I get that the raw emotion makes good TV, but the better story surely comes from a clear thought.

9. What is one thing you would keep the same if you were in charge of NASCAR?

The access fans get to the teams and drivers. The pits/garages are a mess of people on race day, but it’s unlike the access you get to sportspeople in any other sport around the world.

10. How often do you yell at the TV during a race?

If the 18 is leading with 10 to go, I’m on my feet pacing (I almost wore out the floor during Homestead 2015) — but I don’t yell.

11. Do you have any advice for other fans? 

I feel I should be asking them for advice still. I guess if anyone hasn’t been to a race, they absolutely should. The races I’ve been to have been some of the best days of my life. And to hear the cars at the green flag — words can’t describe it.

12. What else do you want the NASCAR world to know about you?

I’m a Kyle Busch fan — not Kyle Busch. So if you see me at a race with the shirt and cap, go easy on the cursing at me!