Charlotte, NC (SportsNetwork.com) – Michael Waltrip Racing announced on
Tuesday that David Ragan will drive the No. 55 Toyota for the remainder of the
2015 Sprint Cup Series season, beginning with the May 9 race at Kansas
Brian Vickers was to drive the No. 55 car for MWR this year, but open heart
surgery in December forced Vickers to miss the first two races of the season.
He returned to racing for the March 8 event at Las Vegas, but two weeks later
when the series competed in Fontana, California, he was sidelined by recurring
blood clots in his lungs.
Vickers is currently taking blood-thinning medication, preventing him from
being able to race. No timetable has been set for his return.
Team co-owner Michael Waltrip is scheduled to drive the No. 55 in this
weekend’s race at Talladega. Brett Moffitt drove it in six races this season.
Moffitt finished a career-best eighth at Atlanta on March 1.
Ragan had been driving the No. 34 Ford for Front Row Motorsports, but after
the Feb. 22 season-opening Daytona 500, Ragan moved over to Joe Gibbs Racing
to substitute for the injured Kyle Busch in the No. 18 Toyota. Busch suffered
a fractured right leg and left foot during an accident in the Xfinity Series
season-opener at Daytona.
“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 in a team statement.
“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 opportunity to bring David Ragan into
the team is incredible for a number of reasons. 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
(team sponsor) right back into the Chase for the Sprint Cup contention, which
is a very positive turn of events for that team.”
Vickers drove the No. 55 in a partial schedule during the 2012 and ’13 Sprint
Cup seasons and then ran a full schedule in 2014. He finished 22nd in the
point standings last year, with three top-five finishes and 9 top-10s for the
“There is absolutely no question about Brian Vickers’ ability, but there
remains a question of his availability,” Waltrip added. “We are going to
remain very close with Brian while he works on his plan to return. We have
told him that MWR is here when he has a clear picture about what the future
holds, but we don’t need to add any timeline pressures. He is working with a
lot of medical advisors, and once he has established his plan, we will sit
down and discuss next steps.”
Ragan has driven the No. 18 car for JGR in eight races this season, beginning
with Atlanta. He is presently 19th in points, with one top-10 finish (fifth
place at Martinsville). Ragan is scheduled to drive the 18 for the final time
this weekend at Talladega. It will be his 300th career start in the series.
“The only way I can repay all the people I have to thank for making this
happen is to go out and win races and get MWR, Aaron’s and Toyota in the
Chase,” Ragan said. “It’s going to be awesome knowing when I climb in the No.
55 at Kansas that car will be mine the rest of the season. I look forward to
working with (teammate) Clint Bowyer, the crew and shop employees at MWR. It’s
tough what’s happened to them this year, but I hope I can come in and make
2015 something special.”
Ragan has two wins in the series — July 2011 at Daytona and May 2013 at
JGR has yet to announce their driver plans for the 18 car for Kansas and
beyond, but there is wide speculation that 18-year-old Erik Jones might take
over that ride until Busch returns. Busch is hoping to be back in the car in
Chris Buescher, a regular in the Xfinity Series, will drive the No. 34 car for
Front Row at Talladega. The team said in a news release on Tuesday that it is
working on finalizing the driver lineup for races to follow and will announce
those plans soon.