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NASCAR driver substitutions enough to make head spin

The 2015 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season kicked off in February at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway. Is that also when “silly season” started? I guess not really, but it sure seems that way given the unusually high number of driver substitutions.

There used to be a joke surrounding the NASCAR garage that there was something in the water, but that joke was surrounding a high number of pregnancy in the driver motorcoach lot among drivers’ wives and girlfriends. Maybe there’s something in the water necessitating fill-in drivers, even though fill-ins are being called on for various reasons.

Here’s what’s gone on so far, and I’m not guaranteeing that I won’t leave something or someone out.

Brian Vickers announced prior to the start of the season that he’d miss the first two races of the year at Daytona and Atlanta Motor Speedway as he finished up his recovery from December heart surgery. Team co-owner Michael Waltrip drove Vickers’ No. 55 at Daytona, and Michael Waltrip Racing developmental driver Brett Moffitt climbed in the car at Atlanta.

Kurt Busch was indefinitely suspended from NASCAR competition because of the offseason drama stemming from domestic abuse allegations. Regan Smith was called on to drive Stewart-Haas Racing’s No. 41 car in place of Busch. Smith drove the car at Daytona, Atlanta and Las Vegas Motor Speedway before Busch was reinstated, beginningn with the fourth race of the season at Phoenix International Raceway.

Now, here’s where the most movement came. Kyle Busch suffered serious injuries in the season-opening Xfinity Series race the day prior to the Sprint Cup Series season opener at Daytona. Camping World Truck Series regular Matt Crafton drove Busch’s No. 18 in the Daytona 500, but afterword, David Ragan was selected as the regular fill-in in the No. 18.

But wait. Ragan already had a full-time gig, driving the No. 34 for Front Row Motorsports. Cue up another substitute. Joe Nemechek drove the No. 34 at Atlanta before Moffitt was chosen to drive the No. 34 on a more regular basis, pending Ragan’s return.

Moffitt moved over to the No. 34, on loan from MWR, until Vickers has to climb out of the car, again. After returning to the No. 55 for Las Vegas and Phoenix, Vickers’ blood clot issue returned, taking him back out of the car. Michael Waltrip Racing then needed Moffitt back to fill-in for Vickers until further notice.

With Ragan still driving Kyle Busch’s No. 18, the No. 34 was, again, left without a driver. As a result, Xfinity Series second-year driver Chris Buescher, was called up for Sprint Cup competition for FRM.

Remember Smith from earlier in this post? Well, he’s back for Sunday’s STP 500 at Martinsville. Kyle Larson fainted during an autograph session on Saturday afternoon. As a result, he’s sidelined for Martinsville; insert Smith for the No. 42 Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates entry.

Larson is expected to be back for the next race at Texas Motor Speedway on April 11. Kurt Busch is also going strong since his return, so here’s where we should stand after Martinsville, at least when it comes to substitutes:

David Ragan for Kyle Busch in the No. 18
Brett Moffitt for Brian Vickers in the No. 55

And here’s the really interesting one. . . .

Chris Buscher for Brett Moffitt for David Ragan in the No. 34

Is that it? I think so.

Are we on the same page, here? I sure hope so. I’m hoping for a slow “silly season” for 2016 later on this year. I’m thinking I’ll still be getting used to drivers being in their regular rides upon their returns.

Now that I think about it, “silly season” for 2015, I don’t think, included this much movement. I think I’m going to have a headache.

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— Photo courtesy of Getty Images for NASCAR

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Posted by on March 29, 2015. Filed under Blog by Amanda Vincent,NASCAR. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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