Interim driver hoping to continue in No. 55 ride RELATED: Toyota not sure what MWR will do BRISTOL, Tenn. -- David Ragan , 10 starts into his role as driver of the Michael Waltrip Racing No. 55 Toyota, said he's yet to speak with MWR officials, or anyone else, about his future role with the organization. Ragan joined MWR earlier this season after a nine-race stint with Joe Gibbs Racing as interim driver for the No. 18 team of Kyle Busch . His first start of the year, the Daytona 500 in February, came with Front Row Motorsports . "I haven't talked about next year with anybody for anything," Ragan said before the start of an open test on Wednesday at Bristol Motor Speedway. "In regards to some of the rumors that are out there, I've read just like everybody else has online, but all I can do is the best I can do week in and week out and hopefully everything will take care of themselves." Ragan qualified third for the second consecutive race this past weekend at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. It was his fourth top-10 start in the past five races. However, he has only two finishes inside the top 15 since joining the team in a relief role for driver Brian Vickers , who remains sidelined due to medical issues. Aaron's, a long-time MWR sponsor and currently the primary sponsor for the No. 55 entry, has yet to announce its plans beyond the 2015 season. In addition to the No. 55, MWR also fields the No. 15 Sprint Cup entry with driver Clint Bowyer . Sponsorship is provided by 5-hour ENERGY and both Bowyer and the sponsor are in the first year of multi-year agreements with the organization. Ragan, 29, is a two-time winner in the Sprint Cup Series. His first win came in July of 2011 at Daytona with Roush Fenway Racing . In 2013, he put Front Row Motorsports in Victory Lane for the first time when he won at Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway. MWR is said to be considering a split from Toyota, which has provided engines and technical support to the organization since the automaker moved into Sprint Cup in 2007. Dave Wilson, President & General Manager, Toyota Racing Development, USA, told NASCAR.com that he did not know if the relationship with MWR would continue beyond 2015. In the meantime, Ragan said he would like to remain at MWR going forward if that is an option. "I like everyone at MWR and the Aaron's folks have been great to work with," he said. "We've got a good thing going ... hopefully we can keep it going. That'd be fun." FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule
Companies will continue to compete against each other in 2015 RELATED: Toyota 'not sure what MWR is going to do' Michael Waltrip Racing co-owner Rob Kauffman has agreed to purchase an interest in Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates, according to statements from the two NASCAR Sprint Cup Series organizations. According to a statement from MWR, the "companies will continue to operate separately and compete against each other for the remainder of the 2015 season. They are also currently evaluating ways to field the most competitive race teams possible to provide an excellent platform for their partners and employees for the 2016 and beyond." How the move will impact the number of teams involved has yet to be determined, although it appears likely that the re-tooled CGR will be a three-team effort in 2016. What that means for co-owner Michael Waltrip and MWR going forward is also unknown at this time. Sponsorship agreements with Aaron's and manufacturer support with Toyota are scheduled to conclude at the end of '15. "My focus is on 2015 and fulfilling the commitment we have made to our partners and Toyota, which is placing our teams in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup ," Michael Waltrip said in a statement Thursday. "There are a lot of details yet to be sorted regarding 2016. I will work closely with Rob Kauffman and our sponsors to formulate the best way forward." MWR, founded by Waltrip, a two-time Daytona 500 winner as a driver, fields two Sprint Cup teams for drivers Clint Bowyer and David Ragan . It has been affiliated with Toyota since the automaker made the move into Sprint Cup in 2007, the same year Kauffman came aboard to provide financial stability. Recent years have seen the organization, located in Cornelius, North Carolina, struggle; it downsized from three teams to two following the 2013 season when penalties before the start of the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup knocked one of its teams out of the Chase field. That led to the decision by primary sponsor NAPA to part ways with the organization, and without funding, driver Martin Truex Jr . was left to seek employment elsewhere ( Furniture Row Racing ). Bowyer, driver of the No. 15 Toyota, hasn't been to Victory Lane since his debut season with the group in 2012. He is currently 15th in points and trying to earn one of this year's 16 Chase berths. Teammate David Ragan joined the organization this season, replacing Brian Vickers in the No. 55 ride when Vickers had to step aside for health reasons. Ragan is 24th in the points standings. On Wednesday, he told NASCAR.com that he would like to remain with the organization. "I like everyone at MWR and the Aaron's folks have been great to work with," he said. "We've got a good thing going so hopefully we can keep it going." Aaron's is the primary sponsor of the No. 55 team. CGR, which is currently affiliated with Chevrolet, also fields two Sprint Cup teams, featuring drivers Jamie McMurray and Kyle Larson . The organization also has XFINITY Series interests as part of an alliance with HScott Motorsports . A statement from CGR on Thursday confirmed the agreement between Kauffman and Ganassi. Both McMurray and Larson are looking to make their first Chase appearance this season; McMurray is ninth in points and likely one of this year's 16 participants. Larson is currently 20th in points and could qualify should he win one of the next six races. Sabates, owner of the team from 1989 through 2000 before becoming a minority partner in '01, issued a statement to SiriusXM NASCAR on Wednesday, saying that the move "is about making our team stronger; a three-car team is stronger than a two-car (team)." Sabates also discounted reports that Kauffman's involvement meant he was out as a partner. "I'm not going anywhere," Sabates said. "... The rumors that Rob is buying me out are not true." Ganassi became majority owner of the team in 2000; he partnered with Dale Earnhardt Inc. from 2009-13 and the organization was known as Earnhardt Ganassi Racing. Since '14, the group has been known as Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates. FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule
Brian Vickers talks about being proud of Jeff Gordon for being about to call it quits at the height of his career.
Driver to be on blood thinners for next three months Play: NASCAR Fantasy Live RELATED: Vickers sidelined with recurrence of blood clots FONTANA, Calif. -- Brian Vickers , driver of the No. 55 Michael Waltrip Racing Toyota, addressed the media on Sunday at Auto Club Speedway for the first time since team owner Michael Waltrip announced Friday that Vickers will not race in the Sprint Cup Series Auto Club 400 (3:30 p.m. ET, FOX). Vickers explained that he will have to be on blood thinners for three months because of recurring blood clots that were discovered on his lungs in a CT scan on Thursday. The driver said he cannot drive while he's on blood thinners. "I have not been on a blood thinner since the end of 2013," Vickers said in a press conference on Sunday. While Vickers gave no specific timetable for his return, he said he remains hopeful about resuming his racing career and is far from crossing that bridge. Vickers has been dealing with frequent blood clots in his leg and lungs that caused him to miss the first two races of the year while recovering from heart surgery he had in December. NASCAR kept Vickers Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup -eligible. This is the fourth time since 2010 that Vickers has missed had to sit out due to medical reasons. "I've been told a thousand times I'll never race again," Vickers said. "And I've raced the last two weeks." In the only two races that Vickers participated in this season (Las Vegas, Phoenix) he finished 15th and 41st, respectively. Waltrip explained on Friday when the news was announced that he had spent time with Vickers in New Orleans recently and that when he last saw his driver, there was no indication that Vickers was experiencing health issues. It wasn't until 1 a.m. local time on Friday that the MWR team received a call from Vickers detailing his situation. Filling in for Vickers in the No. 55 will be 22-year-old Brett Moffitt . This will be Moffitt's first time ever racing on the 2-mile speedway in California. Moffitt had been piloting the No. 34 Front Row Motorsports Ford for David Ragan as he filled in for injured No. 18 Kyle Busch . NASCAR XFINITY Series driver Chris Buescher will be behind the wheel of the No. 34 Sprint Cup car. When asked if the North Carolina native is worried that his medical condition could push him into an early retirement he responded with confidence. "Am I worried? Yeah, of course," Vickers said. "Have I given up hope? No. "Whatever happens next I couldn't have been happier to be in that car for the last two weeks," Vickers said. 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
Three-time Sprint Cup Series race winner tweets out news Brian Vickers will be part of NBC's NASCAR coverage starting today with an appearance on "NASCAR America," NBC Sports Network's show covering the sport, according to tweets from the driver. Vickers is slated to appear on the Tuesday and Wednesday editions of the show as well. Really excited to welcome @BrianLVickers to #NASCARAmerica today on @NBCSN ! — NASCAR on NBC (@NASCARonNBC) June 1, 2015 For those wondering what I am up to-happy for an opportunity to join @NASCARonNBC on some of their shows. Great to see them back in NASCAR — Brian Vickers (@BrianLVickers) June 1, 2015 I will be on NASCAR Night in America Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday of this week as well as numerous other times this season. — Brian Vickers (@BrianLVickers) June 1, 2015 In addition, Vickers will be involved in their telecasts of races at New Hampshire Motor Speedway and Michigan International Speedway . Also lending a hand to their NH & MI races & maybe some others. Looking forward to seeing the other side of the broadcasts! Tune in tonight — Brian Vickers (@BrianLVickers) June 1, 2015 Vickers has been sidelined since March because of recurring blood clots. The 31-year-old made two starts this season at Las Vegas and Phoenix, with a best result of 15th-place at Las Vegas. David Ragan is filling in on the No. 55 Toyota for Michael Waltrip Racing for the remainder of the season. Michael Waltrip and Brett Moffitt also have been behind the wheel of the No. 55. NBC's coverage of Sprint Cup Series races kicks off Fourth of July weekend at Daytona with the Coke Zero 400 Powered by Coca-Cola on July 5 (NBC, 7:45 p.m. ET).
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 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
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
Brian Vickers runs across the front of Jimmie Johnson's car, sending the No. 55 into the wall and Johnson to pit road with damage.
Tony Stewart and Brian Vickers talk about their recent health issues and getting ready for the 2015 season.