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
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
Cole Whitt and Brett Moffitt get together and collect Chase Elliott in an early wreck at Darlington Raceway.
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
Brett Moffitt goes up the track in Turn 1 and Keselowski gets caught up, damaging the No. 2 Ford.
RELATED: Full race results " Series standings " Chase Grid Below is a breakdown of how the full 43-car field fared at Phoenix International Raceway : 1. Dale Earnhardt Jr ., No. 88 Chevrolet, Hendrick Motorsports . Junior fans that waited out the rain delay were rewarded with the HMS driver's third win of the season. 2. Kevin Harvick , No. 4 Chevrolet, Stewart-Haas Racing . Phoenix ace Harvick led a race-high 143 laps despite battling a "loose in" race car and a spotty radio. On to Homestead to defend his title. 3. Joey Logano , No. 22 Ford, Team Penske . Logano failed to make the Championship 4 for the second year in a row, despite his solid finish. He needed to win, but failed to lead a lap. 4. Kyle Busch , No. 18 Toyota, Joe Gibbs Racing . Busch also battled radio issues and got too close to the wall on a pit stall that resulted in his team not being able to jack his car up, but the JGR driver came away with a top five and Championship 4 spot, nonetheless. 5. Jimmie Johnson , No. 48 Chevrolet, Hendrick Motorsports . Johnson was hit with a pit road speeding penalty while leading the race early on, but recovered for his 14th top-five finish of the season. 6. Jeff Gordon , No. 24 Chevrolet, Hendrick Motorsports . Gordon waded through handling issues in one area of the track but found himself in a favorable spot when the race was called on Lap 219. 7. Kurt Busch , No. 41 Chevrolet, Stewart-Haas Racing . Busch had one of the fastest cars but was black-flagged after jumping the start of the race. He never got back to the lead and was eliminated from the Chase. 8. Denny Hamlin , No. 11 Toyota, Joe Gibbs Racing . Hamlin will ride a top-10 finish into Homestead, where he won't get a shot at a title for the second straight year, but has a chance at his third win of the season. 9. Brad Keselowski , No. 2 Ford, Team Penske . Keselowski needed to win to advance but fell short despite leading four laps. 10. Aric Almirola , No. 43 Ford, Richard Petty Motorsports . Almirola has been consistently above average in the Chase and picked up his sixth top 10 of the season at Phoenix. 11. Ryan Newman , No. 31 Chevrolet, Richard Childress Racing . Newman clinched his Championship 4 berth with a thrilling move at Phoenix last year, but not much stood out about his 2015 fall race. 12. Carl Edwards , No. 19 Toyota, Joe Gibbs Racing . Edwards received the free pass on Lap 196 to get back on the lead lap, but didn't have enough time to get to the front, where he needed to be if he wanted to advance. 13. Paul Menard , No. 27 Chevrolet, Richard Childress Racing . Menard spent a good amount of time in the top 10 and was on pace to top his best career finish (ninth) at the 1-mile track before fading a bit. 14. Martin Truex Jr ., No. 78 Chevrolet, Furniture Row Racing . Truex got caught a lap down when the caution came out on Lap 196, but his finish was enough to help him advance to the Championship 4. 15. Jamie McMurray , No. 1 Chevrolet, Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates. McMurray finished in the top 15 for the third consecutive race and will look to make it four in a row to close the season at Homestead. 16. Danica Patrick , No. 10 Chevrolet, Stewart-Haas Racing . Solid finish for Patrick, who overcame a penalty for having crew members over the wall too soon. 17. Justin Allgaier , No. 51 Chevrolet, HScott Motorsports . For the third time this season, Allgaier finished in the top 20 in two of three races. 18. David Ragan , No. 55 Toyota, Michael Waltrip Racing . Ragan finished in the top 20 and got a bonus point for leading a lap -- not too shabby. 19. Erik Jones , No. 20 Toyota, Joe Gibbs Racing . Jones closes out his substitute driver run for Matt Kenseth with his second consecutive top-20 finish. 20. Austin Dillon , No. 3 Chevrolet, Richard Childress Racing . Dillon has finished in the top 20 for four consecutive races, his longest such streak of the season. 21. Kyle Larson , No. 42 Chevrolet, Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates. Larson came away disappointed with his finish after sporting a top-five car all weekend. 22. Casey Mears , No. 13 Chevrolet, Germain Racing . Mears' brakes weren't flowing well, but crew chief Bootie Barker said they looked fine when he brought the car in for a pit stop. 23. Clint Bowyer , No. 15, Michael Waltrip Racing . Since his infamous run-in with Jeff Gordon at Phoenix in 2012, Bowyer has just one top-10 at the track. 24. AJ Allmendinger , No. 47 Chevrolet, JTG Daugherty Racing . Allmendinger reported that his car had no forward drive on Lap 162 in P24, and he stayed right there. 25. Greg Biffle , No. 16 Ford, Roush Fenway Racing . Biffle is still searching for his second top 10 since August and only has one race left to accomplish it. 26. Kasey Kahne , No. 5 Chevrolet, Hendrick Motorsports . A disappointing season for Kahne continued at Phoenix, where he failed to lead a lap and picked up his worst finish since 2012. 27. Tony Stewart , No. 14 Chevrolet, Stewart-Haas Racing . Hard to believe, but Stewart has just three top-10s in 2015 -- and he didn’t come close to sniffing one at Phoenix. 28. Matt DiBenedetto , No. 83 Toyota, BK Racing . DiBenedetto got hit by Kasey Kahne on pit road but still managed his best finish since Darlington. 29. J.J. Yeley, No. 26 Toyota, BK Racing . Yeley had a great save early in the race and likely salvaged a better finish than he would've if he hadn't. 30. David Gilliland , No. 38 Ford, Front Row Motorsports . Gilliland had a vibration in his brakes that plagued him to a finish just inside the top 30. 31. Sam Hornish Jr ., No. 9 Ford, Richard Petty Motorsports . Hornish had to make an unscheduled pit stop with slight damage on his left rear and came home 31st. 32. Michael Annett , No. 46 Chevrolet, HScott Motorsports . Annett's 32nd-place finish is his second best at the 1-mile track in his career. 33. Cole Whitt , No. 35 Ford, Front Row Motorsports . Whitt's finish broke a string of three consecutive finishes inside the top 30. 34. Trevor Bayne , No. 6 Ford, Roush Fenway Racing . Bayne was penalized for being too fast on pit road and never recovered. 35. Landon Cassill , No. 40 Chevrolet, Hillman Smith Motorsports. Cassill's finish was his worst showing in the Phoenix fall race since 2010. 36. Brett Moffitt , No. 34 Ford, Front Row Motorsports . Moffitt struggled with his No. 34 Ford, which had "no front grip in the tires." 37. Ryan Preece , No. 98 Chevrolet, Premium Motorsports. Preece improved on his starting position by four places, which is a positive sign for a driver in just his fourth career Cup race. 38. Alex Bowman , No. 7 Chevrolet, Tommy Baldwin Racing . Bowman struggled with the electric system of his ride, telling his team, "Got power voltage, but it does not crank at all." 39. Jeb Burton , No. 23 Toyota, BK Racing . Burton’s Phoenix showing was his worst finish since Charlotte. 40. Ryan Ellis , No. 33 Chevrolet, Circle Sport. Ryan Ellis finished 40th in his Sprint Cup Series debut, but finished two spots higher than where he started. 41. Ricky Stenhouse Jr ., No. 17 Ford, Roush Fenway Racing . Stenhouse went to the garage after a brake issue caused a wreck with Joey Gase on Lap 196. 42. Joey Gase , No. 32 Ford, GoFAS Racing. Gase took significant damage to his No. 32 Ford after a wreck with Ricky Stenhouse Jr . on Lap 196 . 43. Timmy Hill , No. 62 Chevrolet, Premium Motorsports. Hill dropped a valve and eventually had his ride let the motor go.
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.
Brett Moffitt goes for a spin during qualifying forcing him to a back-up truck for the UNOH 225.
RELATED: Full race results " Series standings " Chase Grid Below is a breakdown of how the full 43-car field fared at Texas Motor Speedway : 1. Jimmie Johnson , No. 48 Chevrolet, Hendrick Motorsports . Johnson ran the bottom line to make up time and catch then-leader Brad Keselowski en route to his third straight Texas win (sixth overall). " RELATED: NASCAR.com goes 1-on-1 with Johnson in Victory Lane 2. Brad Keselowski , No. 2 Ford, Team Penske . The pole sitter led 312 laps and was just four circuits shy of punching his ticket to the Championship 4. " RELATED: Keselowski dominates but can't seal the deal 3. Kevin Harvick , No. 4 Chevrolet, Stewart-Haas Racing . Desperate to defend his 2014 championship title, Harvick rebounded from a couple cut tires and even spent some of Sunday's race driving with one hand on the wheel and one hand on the shifter because his car kept popping out of gear. " RELATED: Harvick overcomes adversity for top-three finish 4. Kyle Busch , No. 18 Toyota, Joe Gibbs Racing . NASCAR took the splitters from Kyle Busch and two of his Joe Gibbs teammates, but that didn't seem to deter Busch, who led a lap and kept his name in the hat for the Championship 4. " RELATED: NASCAR confiscates splitters for three JGR teams 5. Carl Edwards , No. 19 Toyota, Joe Gibbs Racing . Edwards recorded his seventh top-five Texas finish after spending most of the race in the top 10. 6. Dale Earnhardt Jr ., No. 88 Chevrolet, Hendrick Motorsports . Earnhardt held onto a car that was "wrecking loose" and was the beneficiary twice en route to his 16th top-10 at Texas. 7. Kurt Busch , No. 41 Chevrolet, Stewart-Haas Racing . Kurt Busch raced his way back into the top 10 on Lap 174 after dropping back to 22nd when his pit crew missed a few lugnuts during an early stop. " RELATED: Chase bubble watch post-Texas 8. Martin Truex Jr ., No. 78 Chevrolet, Furniture Row Racing . Truex, one of the biggest movers early, had to hold on tight in the closing laps due to a lack of power steering. " RELATED: Truex keeps title hopes alive with tough Texas run 9. Jeff Gordon , No. 24 Chevrolet, Hendrick Motorsports . While most teams were sweating the lack of practice due to Saturday's rain, Gordon and the No. 24 team could breathe easy thanks to their Martinsville win last weekend. 10. Jamie McMurray , No. 1 Chevrolet, Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates. McMurray picked up his third straight Texas top-10 after stopping for two tires only during the final caution period. 11. Austin Dillon , No. 3 Chevrolet, Richard Childress Racing . After a lengthy chassis adjustment to help over the bumps, Dillon cracked the top 10 with 50 laps left in Sunday's race and went on to record his best Texas finish. 12. Erik Jones , No. 20 Toyota, Joe Gibbs Racing . Subbing in for a suspended Matt Kenseth , Jones qualified sixth -- his best Cup start -- and managed his best Cup result. 13. Paul Menard , No. 27 Chevrolet, Richard Childress Racing . Menard went from being on the splitter during the first part of Sunday's race to needing help over the bumps en route to his eighth top-15 at Texas. 14. Brian Scott , No. 33 Chevrolet, Circle Sport . Scott turned in a solid run in his first Cup appearance at Texas. 15. Clint Bowyer , No. 15, Michael Waltrip Racing . "Stay after it," spotter Brett Griffin encouraged Bowyer as he was running 15th and chasing down the competition ahead of him. " RELATED: Hear driver audio on RACEVIEW . 16. Danica Patrick , No. 10 Chevrolet, Stewart-Haas Racing . After making her best Texas start (11th ), Patrick spent the race fighting a loose-handling condition. 17. AJ Allmendinger , No. 47 Chevrolet, JTG Daugherty Racing . Allmendinger restarted 20th on the final caution and picked up a few spots running the high line. 18. Aric Almirola , No. 43 Ford, Richard Petty Motorsports . Better on long runs, Almirola climbed through the field after an early penalty on pit road. 19. Greg Biffle , No. 16 Ford, Roush Fenway Racing . A hole in the cowl cover from the flat tire under green-flag conditions impacted Biffle late in Sunday's race. 20. Kasey Kahne , No. 5 Chevrolet, Hendrick Motorsports . " I think something is broken," Kahne reported as he faded from 12th in the final 25 laps. " RELATED: Hear driver audio on RACEVIEW . 21. Ricky Stenhouse Jr ., No. 17 Ford, Roush Fenway Racing . " The front is shot," Stenhouse reported to his team as he made his green-flag stop for four tires and fuel with 81 laps left in Sunday's race. 22. Ryan Newman , No. 31 Chevrolet, Richard Childress Racing . Newman was running ninth when he had a left-rear tire go down on Lap 145, and he made an unscheduled pit stop. 23. David Ragan , No. 55 Toyota, Michael Waltrip Racing . Ragan dropped through the field after he had to make an extra stop early in Sunday's race for damage sustained when leaving pit road on Lap 26. 24. Sam Hornish Jr ., No. 9 Ford, Richard Petty Motorsports . A vibration with 100 laps to go prompted Hornish to give up the battle for the beneficiary pass and hit pit road. 25. Landon Cassill , No. 40 Chevrolet, Hillman Smith Motorsports. Looking for rear grip, Cassill was running 26th and racing for the beneficiary pass on Lap 201. 26. Casey Mears , No. 13 Chevrolet, Germain Racing . With Sunday's finish, Mears keeps his streak alive and has completed all 23 events he's attempted at Texas. 27. Cole Whitt , No. 35 Ford, Front Row Motorsports . Whitt's biggest challenge mirrored that of the competition -- endure the ever-changing handling thanks to tire wear. 28. Justin Allgaier , No. 51 Chevrolet, HScott Motorsports . Allgaier picked up six spots within the first eight laps but consistently dealt with a tight handling condition in the center of the turns. 29. David Gilliland , No. 38 Ford, Front Row Motorsports . The longer green-flag run helped the handling of Gilliland's car. 30. Brett Moffitt , No. 34 Ford, Front Row Motorsports . Handling was a persistent issue for Moffitt , who radioed his team early in the race, "The rear feels like it's on ice, especially on throttle." " RELATED: Hear driver audio on RACEVIEW . 31. Michael Annett , No. 46 Chevrolet, HScott Motorsports . Annett improved upon his April appearance at the intermediate Texas track. 32. Jeb Burton , No. 23 Toyota, BK Racing . A 2013 victor at Texas in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series, Burton made his first Cup appearance at the 1.5-mile Fort Worth oval on Sunday. 33. J.J. Yeley, No. 26 Toyota, BK Racing . Yeley led Lap 55 during the fourth caution period before reporting to pit road for service. 34. Michael McDowell , No. 95 Ford, Leavine Family Racing . McDowell ran as high as 13th on Sunday, but was trapped on pit road when the eighth caution flag waved. 35. Matt DiBenedetto , No. 83 Toyota, BK Racing . DiBenedetto fared better during long green-flag runs and was in striking distance of his best Texas result. 36. Ryan Preece , No. 98 Chevrolet, Premium Motorsports. The Texas newcomer started from the rear of the field after an engine change. 37. Kyle Larson , No. 42 Chevrolet, Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates. Larson's best Texas start opened strong, but was stalled when he experienced a left-rear tire issue on Lap 101 to bring out the caution flag. 38. Denny Hamlin , No. 11 Toyota, Joe Gibbs Racing . A mechanical issue (fuel pump) sent Hamlin to the garage early in Sunday's contest. 39. Trevor Bayne , No. 6 Ford, Roush Fenway Racing . Bayne lost his right-rear tire and cut his brake line after getting into the wall on Lap 197 to bring out the eighth caution flag. 40. Joey Logano , No. 22 Ford, Team Penske . Logano, now in a must-win situation going into Phoenix, was briefly sidelined when his left-rear tire exploded on Lap 10. " RELATED: Logano goes for a spin early 41. Alex Bowman , No. 7 Chevrolet, Tommy Baldwin Racing . Bowman made his way into the top 25 before encountering a motor issue. 42. Tony Stewart , No. 14 Chevrolet, Stewart-Haas Racing . Stewart's day was done after he got loose and spun through the grass on Lap 52. 43. Ryan Blaney , No. 21 Ford, Wood Brothers Racing . Blaney dropped from the top 10 and headed for the garage after hitting the Turn 2 wall on Lap 25.
Front Row Motorsports will keep driver in Cup ride for 2015