Chris Buescher will pilot the No. 34 for the second straight week Play: NASCAR Fantasy Live RELATED: Entry list for Martinsville Three interim drivers in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series will reprise their roles for the second straight race this weekend at Martinsville Speedway based on the entry list for the STP 500 (1 p.m. ET, FOX Sports 1). Brett Moffitt will drive the Michael Waltrip Racing No. 55 Toyota in place of Brian Vickers , who will miss the next three months of competition after doctors discovered a recurrence of blood clots last week. Vickers has resumed taking blood-thinning medication, which precludes him from racing. Moffitt , a developmental driver for MWR, is scheduled to make his 12th Sprint Cup start and his first in the premier series at Martinsville in Sunday's STP 500 . He finished 22nd Sunday at Auto Club Speedway . Chris Buescher , a NASCAR XFINITY Series regular, will return to the Front Row Motorsports No. 34 Ford for the second straight week. Buescher finished 20th in his Sprint Cup debut Sunday at Auto Club as a last-minute fill-in when Moffitt was named as Vickers' replacement. Front Row later confirmed Buescher's return to the No. 34 on Twitter. . @Chris_Buescher will return to the No. 34 for @MartinsvilleSwy weekend. pic.twitter.com/0viNgEUyTx — FrontRow Motorsports (@FrontRowNASCAR) March 23, 2015 Buescher ranks second in XFINITY Series standings, just five points behind series leader Ty Dillon . David Ragan will continue as interim driver of Joe Gibbs Racing 's No. 18 Toyota in place of the injured Kyle Busch , who suffered fractures of both legs in last month's XFINITY opener at Daytona International Speedway . With Busch out indefinitely, Ragan is scheduled to pilot the JGR No. 18 for the next several weeks before returning to his regular ride in the Front Row No. 34. MORE: READ: Latest NASCAR news PLAY: Sign up for Fantasy Live WATCH: Latest NASCAR video FOLLOW LIVE: Get RaceView today FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule
Michael Waltrip Racing turns to 22-year-old in relief role CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Brett Moffitt , who made his NASCAR Sprint Cup Series debut in 2014, will drive the No. 55 Aaron's Toyota for Michael Waltrip Racing at Atlanta Motor Speedway on March 1 as Brian Vickers recuperates from offseason heart surgery. Owner Michael Waltrip made the announcement Tuesday during his team's stop on the Charlotte Motor Speedway Media Tour. "He was the driver that everybody at Michael Waltrip Racing wanted to be in that car at Atlanta," Waltrip said. "They believe in him." Moffitt said he learned of his appointment to the No. 55 Toyota two weeks ago, making it exceedingly difficult to keep his fill-in role a secret. "It was a stressful wait to find out that I was going to be in the car, that's for sure," Moffitt said. "I obviously wanted this opportunity really bad and I'm thankful for it." In seven Sprint Cup starts last season, the best start and finish for the 22-year-old native of Grimes, Iowa and former NASCAR Next driver and K&N Pro Series East race winner came in his debut on June 1 at Dover International Speedway when he began the race in 18th and finished 22nd. Though he said he has been enjoying his time as a developmental driver in the MWR system, Moffitt said he was continuing to explore options -- in any of NASCAR's three national series -- that would allow him to race on a more consistent basis. "I'm very happy with MWR. They're very supportive of me -- have been since 2011," Moffitt said. "They gave me the first opportunity to test a Cup car, they gave me the first opportunity to race one, so they've been huge supporters of my career and I wouldn't be where I am without them, that's for sure. But at the same time, I need to be in a race car more often and they've been willing to work with me on that, and they said hey, if you find an opportunity, we're not going to hold you back from it." Waltrip agreed: "We'll let Brett do anything he wants to do in order to get laps so that he can continue to mature as a race car driver. We believe in Brett , he's our guy, but if we can loan him out and he can race somewhere else that would make me happy." Waltrip will drive the No. 55 Toyota in the Daytona 500 on Feb. 22 (1 p.m. ET, FOX) as he attempts to win his third Great American Race. Despite missing the first two races of the season, Vickers received NASCAR's blessing to run for the Sprint Cup Series championship provided he meets all other requirements for the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup playoffs. He will return to his ride at Las Vegas Motor Speedway for the third race of the year on March 8. Last month, doctors discovered Vickers' body rejected a patch that was placed over a hole in his heart. They alleviated the problem and gave him clearance to race just three months after the corrective heart surgery. "They took my heart out and replaced it with a lion heart," Vickers joked on Tuesday. FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule
Brett Moffitt talks about his 8th place finish last weekend at Atlanta Motor Speedway while filling in for Brian Vickers and what he expects this weekend at Las Vegas Motor Speedway in the Front Row Racing No.34 Ford.
22-year-old scored eighth-place result at Atlanta subbing for Vickers Play: NASCAR Fantasy Live Brett Moffitt 's first start of the 2015 season left quite the impression, as the 22-year-old scored an eighth-place finish in Sunday's Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Atlanta Motor Speedway . Unfortunately for the Grimes, Iowa, native, start No. 2 has yet to be determined. Moffitt , a development driver with Michael Waltrip Racing , filled in for Brian Vickers in the organization’s No. 55 Toyota at AMS. It was his eighth career start in the series. Owner/driver Michael Waltrip finished 26th in a fill-in role for Vickers in the season-opening Daytona 500 . Vickers, sidelined for the first two races due to health issues, returns to the seat this weekend when the series heads to Las Vegas Motor Speedway for the Kobalt 400 on March 8 (FOX, 3:30 p.m. ET) "I wish I was in it for the next 30-some weeks," Moffitt said following his top-10 finish at AMS, "but I'm sure something will come about; an opportunity will open up, so we'll see." In a statement Monday, MWR co-owner Rob Kauffman said MWR officials are "enthusiastic about ( Moffitt's ) potential." " Brett is under a multi-year agreement with Michael Waltrip Racing ," Kauffman said. "MWR would love to get back to a three-car team and grow with him into the future. Before this past weekend we stated that we felt his name should be mentioned among the impressive crop of young drivers coming into the sport, and the Atlanta result validated that claim." Moffitt , a member of the original NASCAR Next class in 2011, competed regularly in NASCAR’s K&N Pro Series East from 2009 through '13, scoring nine wins and finishing inside the top five in more than half his starts (33 in 61 races). He has a handful of starts in ARCA, NASCAR's Camping World Truck Series and XFINITY Series. Earlier this year, Moffitt said he was pleased with his association with MWR and thankful for the opportunities the organization had afforded him thus far. "But at the same time, I need to be in a race car more often and they've been willing to work with me on that, and they said 'Hey, if you find an opportunity, we're not going to hold you back from it,' " he said. A lack of sponsorship forced MWR to contract from three Sprint Cup teams to two after the 2013 season. Should expansion be on the horizon, Moffitt could find himself on the short list of potential driver candidates. Another option, more likely given the time frame, would be to secure a ride for Moffitt through another Toyota-affiliated organization. "While we work toward a fully supported in-house program, it is MWR's desire that Brett get more quality opportunities in either of NASCAR's top divisions and we will work diligently to make that happen," Kauffman said. Dave Wilson, president and general manager, Toyota Racing Development, USA, said that Moffitt is "in our … driver development program and we have been working with him in a development capacity over the past couple of years. "Given the right opportunity we would love to see him in a Toyota down the road." Moffitt's Atlanta effort reinforced the group's belief in the talented youngster. It also reinforced his belief in himself. Although nearly two laps down to the leader at one point, a timely caution in the latter stages of Sunday's race allowed Moffitt and the No. 55 team to pit under yellow and gain track position. The team then opted to stay out under a subsequent yellow, and Moffitt found himself restarting third. And while he spun his tires on the restart, losing several spots, he was able to hold off Brad Keselowski and Ryan Newman in the closing laps and hold on to eighth place. "I was tearing up out there; this is the biggest accomplishment I could have ever done," an emotional Moffitt said afterward. "… These guys kept fighting. … I spun the tires there, luckily we were able to get 'em back on the last restart." MORE: READ: Latest NASCAR news PLAY: Sign up for Fantasy Live WATCH: Latest NASCAR video FOLLOW LIVE: Get RaceView today FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule
Interim driver coming off career-best Cup finish at Atlanta
Brett Moffitt goes for a spin during qualifying forcing him to a back-up truck for the UNOH 225.
Driver has strong history at Monster Mile in NASCAR K&N Pro Series East
CHARACTER COUNTS! to back the No. 66 car at Indianapolis Motor Speedway
Michael Waltrip Racing driver making season debut at Las Vegas Play: NASCAR Fantasy Live LAS VEGAS – Sporting a big smile and nodding acknowledgement to countless "welcome back" wishes as he walked around the Las Vegas Motor Speedway paddock, Brian Vickers conceded it felt a little different getting dressed for work Friday. "The first two times I've put this suit on it's been for photo-shoots or commercials or media and today it's to actually use it and it felt a little better zipping it up today than it did the first two times because it's here -- it's real and I can't wait to get in that car here in a few minutes," Vickers said. Sunday's Kobalt 400 (3:30 p.m. ET, FOX) in Las Vegas will be Vickers' first Sprint Cup Series race of the season in his No. 55 Aaron's Toyota as he recovers from offseason open-heart surgery. Doctors had to repair an issue from a previous operation to "patch" a hole in his heart. It's the third time since 2010 that Vickers has been sidelined because of serious medical issues, including a hole in his heart and recurring blood clots found at various times in his lung, leg and finger. Vickers, 32, has dealt with these life-altering, career-interrupting diagnosis and conditions through the years with thoughtful perspective – a quality those that know him would say he benefitted from well before he needed it most. "I think a perspective is anytime you have to fight for something and anytime it's taken away from you -- I mean, it's kind of like a kid with a toy, right?" Vickers said. "You take the toy away -- they just want the toy more. How many times have you pulled a toy away from a kid and -- we're just big kids, especially boys, we never grow up and I see a lot of females nodding -- so you take their toy away and they just want it even more. "And I've had it taken away several times, so, yes, I want it more and I think I also have a deeper appreciation for it. I think when you get in a routine, you do something for 10 years or 15 years, five years, whatever it is, you just kind of wake up in the morning and you expect it and then one day when you realize and maybe several days you realize that you can't just wake up and expect it, you've got to fight for it and you appreciate it more and you love it more "But at the same time, I also have -- I think I've tried to find balance in my life where, like I said earlier, it's not who I am. If it doesn't happen, my life's not over. There's still a lot of things to be done and challenges and opportunities and you just kind of keep going." Which is good news for Michael Waltrip Racing , which has steadfastly held a seat for the 2003 XFINITY Series champion and three-time Cup winner. His value to the team is not only behind the wheel. Vickers has contributed even when he's not been racing. Just ask 22-year old racer Brett Moffitt . Moffitt admirably filled in for Vickers in the No. 55 last week at Atlanta (eighth-place finish) and as a MWR development driver has relied on Vickers as a mentor on-track and someone whose path of perseverance away from the track, inspires. "I think we all have different stories of how we got here and how we stay here,'" Moffitt said Friday. "Seeing him [Vickers] go through all of this for multiple times and still having the will power to come back and tell himself he won’t be defeated is huge. His energy and attitude are better than ever right now. I really think he will come back on top of his game here, which he has proved in the past he can do." Some would find it interesting that as Vickers has navigated his medical challenges, his philosophy about his job has evolved too. A big talent, who has won money and fame and adoration through his performance on track, Vickers has discovered there is a good life to be had no matter how high your profile. "It's something over the last 10 years and my life and particularly the last five years dealing with everything, I've learned that my love for racing has only increased -- my love for what I do and how much I appreciate it -- but I've also learned that it's not who I am," Vickers said. "It's something I do and it's part of who I am. It's a very special part of who I am and it's something that means the world to me, but it's not who I am. If I can't race, that's okay -- life is going to go on. "I think from that perspective, yes, I asked the doctors, 'Can I go race and I want to go race,' but if they say no, I'm not going to fight them. If they said, 'Listen, we don't think it's safe,' I'm not going to fight them on it. Kind of through that process -- I mean, listen, being back here at Vegas, it was their choice, not me. I didn't push them into this." That's not to say that Vickers didn't always hope for the best and plan for the positive. Faced with difficult odds and given medical challenges he never anticipated, Vickers has remained equal parts strong, optimistic and philosophic. The upside of having to overcome these tough, personal and emotional circumstances is finding out that you can. "There are certainly times where I wasn't sure if I was ever going to be back and then you kind of deal with those emotions and then all the sudden you're back and then you have to deal with those emotions," Vickers said. "I couldn't be more thrilled about it. I think to a large extent a month ago, I was as curious as probably some of you were as to how I would feel Friday morning. I can tell you I couldn't be happier." "I was talking to someone on the way in and they asked what my emotions were going into this and I kind of look at it like a win-win. If we go out there and do well, that's great. And even if we don't, just being able to get back in a race car again and go 200 is incredible." Then he paused and smiled again, offering a not-too subtle lesson to us as all. "No matter what the outcome, I'm happy to be here and happy to be back in a car again and get a chance to do something I love, but I'm an optimist -- I think we're going to go out there and do well and I'm really proud of what this Aaron's Dream Machine team has done so far this year with Michael (Waltrip, team co-owner and a part-time driver) and Brett ( Moffitt , replacement driver) and the gains we've made through the off-season and the gains that Toyota has made through the off-season and hopefully we can put it all together here this weekend in Vegas and come out of here with a good finish." MORE: READ: Latest NASCAR news PLAY: Sign up for Fantasy Live WATCH: Latest NASCAR video FOLLOW LIVE: Get RaceView today FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule
Brett Moffitt will pilot No. 55 Toyota at Auto Club FONTANA, Calif. -- Looking understandably forlorn, Michael Waltrip explained Friday morning that his driver Brian Vickers will be out of the Michael Waltrip Racing team's No. 55 Toyota this weekend at Auto Club Speedway after experiencing "a reoccurrence of blood clots" and said he did not have a timetable for Vickers return. Brett Moffitt , 22, will steer the car this weekend -- his first time ever turning at lap at the 2-mile speedway -- while Vickers begins blood-thinning medication which prevents him from racing. "First and foremost our thoughts are with Brian and his family,'' Waltrip said. "He isn't just our race car driver, he is our friend and we know the NASCAR community will continue to rally around Brian. Waltrip said he spent time with Vickers in New Orleans this week before they all travelled to California in preparation for Sunday's Auto Club 400 (3:30 p.m. ET, FOX). The team received a call at 1 a.m. local time Friday from Vickers relaying the situation, and he is still in California under the care of doctors. Waltrip said that when he last saw his driver, there was no indication there was a problem. "Obviously he was disappointed in the results, but Brian has a lot of things in perspective,'' Ty Norris, executive vice president of business development and general manager of Michael Waltrip Racing , said. "He was aware of the issue, thought he knew what it was and it was confirmed." Waltrip reminded that "the situation is very fluid and it's new information," noting that no plans have been made beyond this weekend. He did say, however, that Moffitt , who finished eighth filling in for Vickers at Atlanta, would be the go-to driver as a replacement. "For the foreseeable future, Brett's definitely our guy,'' Waltrip said. Vickers missed the first two races of the year while recovering from heart surgery in December and NASCAR kept him Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup -eligible. Waltrip said he has not spoken with NASCAR yet to see how this setback affects his eligibility for NASCAR's 10-race, season-ending playoff. It's the fourth time Vickers has had to take time off for medical issues since 2010. "Thankfully because I recognized the signs and symptoms the doctors caught this early and I'm going to be OK,'' Vickers said in a team statement. "I had finished my treatment for the clot I had in my leg back in 2013 and I haven't needed to be on a blood thinner for a clot in my leg or lung since. "I'm going to follow doctor's orders and do everything I need to do to get well.'' Ironically, Vickers was supposed to be making appearances on behalf of sponsor Janssen Pharmaceuticals and its blood-thinning drug Xarelto at the track marking what is "Blood Clot Awareness Month," including a press conference at Auto Club Speedway . "I'm disappointed I can't be there, but if there is a silver lining in all this, hopefully what's happened to me will help raise awareness on this important health issue,'' he said. Vickers took to Facebook on Friday afternoon to thank his fans for their support. Post by Brian Vickers . Like other Sprint Cup Series competitors, points leader Kevin Harvick said he really felt for Vickers. "I feel bad for Brian because he does have that drive and determination to be in the car, and he's already overcome so much. It's just really really unfortunate." The situation especially hits home for Waltrip, whose mother suffered a stroke after a blood clot and has required round-the-clock care ever since. "When I look at my mom, I'm reminded spreading the word [about blood clots] is so important,'' Waltrip said. "Obviously this is a setback for our team and Brian, but this morning, we're just glad Brian's okay." Moffitt had been driving the No. 34 Front Row Motorsports Ford. The team announced that XFINITY Series Roush Fenway Racing driver Chris Buescher would take over the ride this weekend. MORE: READ: Latest NASCAR news PLAY: Sign up for Fantasy Live WATCH: Latest NASCAR video FOLLOW LIVE: Get RaceView today FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule