By AMANDA VINCENT
Michael Waltrip Racing announced on Tuesday morning that David Ragan will drive the organization’s No. 55 Toyota in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series for the remainder of the 2015 season, beginning with the race at Kansas Speedway in Kansas City on May 9. Team co-owner Michael Waltrip will race the car Sunday at Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway.
“Life has thrown a lot at MWR the first part of this racing season, but our team has stood tall and worked through it,” Waltrip said. “Our original plans for the No. 55 team have been challenged since December, and we felt it was important for our employees and our sponsors to solidify the remainder of the 2015 season.”
The original plans had Brian Vickers continuing to race the No. 55 full-time in 2015, but Vickers was sidelined the first two races of the season at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway and Atlanta Motor Speedway as he recovered from off-season heart surgery. He returned for two races before being sidelined again by a recurrence of blood clots. As a result of the clots, Vickers is, once again, on a blood-thinning medication and can’t race while on the thinner.
Ragan moved over from Front Row Motorsports to drive the No. 18 Toyota for Joe Gibbs Racing to substitute for the injured Kyle Busch early in the season, a role he will continue to fill through Sunday’s race at Talladega. The Talladega race will mark the 300th-career Sprint Cup start for Ragan.
“The opportunity to bring David Ragan into the team is incredible for a number of reasons,” Waltrip said. “He will bring experience, consistency and a lot of confidence based on how he has been running with our Toyota teammates at Joe Gibbs Racing. He also puts the No. 55 team and Aaron’s right back into the Chase for the Sprint Cup contention, which is a very positive turn of events for that team.”
Busch’s return date still is undetermined and JGR has yet to name a replacement for substitute Ragan. Erik Jones, a regular in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series for Kyle Busch Motorsports, filled in for Denny Hamlin in Joe Gibbs Racing’s No. 11 Sprint Cup car recently at Bristol (Ten.) Motor Speedway. Car owner Joe Gibbs has mentioned a desire to get Jones behind the wheel of the No. 18 before Busch’s return.
Michael Waltrip Racing development driver Brett Moffitt recently has been the fill-in driver behind the wheel of the No. 55. Earlier this season, Moffitt filled-in for Ragan in the No. 34 Ford at Front Row Motorsports. Since Moffitt was called back to MWR to drive the No.55, he was replaced by NASCAR Xfinity Series driver Chris Buescher. Whether Buescher or Moffitt will drive the No. 34 after Talladega also is unknown. Buescher will drive the No. 34 at Talladega.
“I’m really proud of the incredible job Brett MOffitt has done for us in the 55,” Waltrip said. “He has been a big part of this organization for the last couple of years, and he will continue in that role. With the limited number of starts Brett has in this industry, he has proven that he has the talent to be a full-time NASCAR Sprint Cup driver, and we are still committed to helping him get that opportunity.”
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