Veteran to drive for JGR starting with Atlanta Sprint Cup race Play: NASCAR Fantasy Live Joe Gibbs Racing announced Tuesday that David Ragan will serve as interim driver in place of injured Kyle Busch for the next several weeks beginning this weekend at Atlanta Motor Speedway. The team said in a statement that Ragan, a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series veteran, will run JGR's No. 18 Toyota as Busch recovers from multiple lower-leg injuries suffered in a crash Saturday at Daytona International Speedway. Matt Crafton, champion in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series the last two seasons, finished 18th as a last-minute fill-in for the season-opening Daytona 500. Front Row Motorsports and sponsor CSX accommodated Ragan's move, according to JGR. Ragan is expected to return to the team later this season. A spokesperson for Front Row Motorsports said there was "no announcement yet" regarding their plans for the No. 34 Ford at Atlanta. Erik Jones will pilot the No. 54 Toyota at Atlanta in the NASCAR XFINITY Series for JGR. Busch was expected to compete in the XFINITY Series' Hisense 250 (Saturday, 2 p.m. ET, FOX Sports 1) at Atlanta in JGR's No. 54 Toyota. An announcement on who will drive the No. 54 following the Atlanta race will be made at a later date, according to the team. "We appreciate being able to work with Front Row Motorsports and CSX for David's (Ragan) availability," said Joe Gibbs, owner of Joe Gibbs Racing. "We are fortunate to be able to have someone of David's caliber behind the wheel while Kyle recovers. Erik is a big part of our future at JGR and we will be increasing his schedule in the XFINITY Series beginning this weekend in Atlanta and seeking the earliest opportunity to provide him Cup experience. We appreciate all the support we have received from the NASCAR community including our fans and we look forward to getting Kyle back in the car as soon as possible." Kyle Busch's wife, Samantha, wished David Ragan luck on Twitter after the news was announced. Thx to David 4 filling in for Kyle. @JacquelynRagan is 1 of my best friends n they r the nicest ppl in the world,wishing them much success! — Samantha Busch (@SamanthaBusch) February 24, 2015 Ragan, 29, drove the Front Row Motorsports' No. 34 Ford in Sunday's Daytona 500 and has competed in the last three NASCAR Sprint Cup Series seasons, bringing the Statesville, North Carolina-based team its only premier series victory in May 2013 at Talladega Superspeedway. Before his tenure at Front Row, Ragan raced for Roush Fenway Racing from 2007-2011. Interesting enough, Ragan was teammates with current JGR drivers Matt Kenseth and Carl Edwards as recently as the 2011 Sprint Cup Series season, while all three were at Roush Fenway. Jones, a three-time winner in Truck Series competition last year and a four-time winner in his career, was in consideration for the ride in Sunday's Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 (1 p.m. ET, FOX), which would have made him the first active NASCAR Next driver to make a Sprint Cup start. Ultimately, JGR went with Ragan, a driver with eight full seasons of top-division experience and home-state ties, having grown up in Unadilla, Georgia, roughly 100 miles south of the Atlanta track. Busch, also 29, was released from a Florida hospital Tuesday for further treatment at a facility near his North Carolina home. The move came three days after the NASCAR XFINITY Series opener at Daytona, where Busch suffered a compound fracture of his lower right leg and a broken left foot, indefinitely placing him on the sidelines. Ragan's transition to the Gibbs team marks an abrupt shift in manufacturers, as his 291 career starts in the Sprint Cup Series have all come in Fords. It also creates a domino-effect vacancy at the Bob Jenkins-owned Front Row organization, which expanded to three full-time teams in the offseason with David Gilliland and Cole Whitt filling the other two seats. Ragan finished 17th in Sunday's Daytona 500, placing him 16th and in the final spot in the provisional Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup postseason grid after the season's first race. Per NASCAR rules, if one driver switches teams during the 26-race regular season, the driver remains eligible for Chase consideration as long as he remains in the top 30 in points. Jones ranks second in the Camping World Truck Series points after his runner-up finish in the Daytona opener. He's scheduled to compete in the full truck season for Kyle Busch Motorsports, and was expected to race in 10 XFINITY events for Joe Gibbs Racing. NASCAR.com's Zack Albert contributed to this report 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
Driver has begun process to be reinstated by NASCAR Play: NASCAR Fantasy Live The Delaware attorney general's office said Thursday that it will not bring criminal charges against NASCAR driver Kurt Busch , citing insufficient evidence. RELATED: NASCAR statement on Kurt Busch The decision concludes the criminal case concerning the alleged incident of domestic violence against former girlfriend Patricia Driscoll last September at Dover International Speedway . The Delaware Department of Justice confirmed the decision Thursday morning in an emailed statement. "After a thorough consideration of all of the available information about the case, it is determined that the admissible evidence and available witnesses would likely be insufficient to meet the burden of establishing beyond a reasonable doubt that Mr. Busch committed a crime during the September 26th incident," the statement read. "Likelihood of meeting that high burden of proof is the standard for prosecutors in bringing a case. For this reason, the Department of Justice will not pursue criminal charges in this case." NASCAR indefinitely suspended Busch on Feb. 20, the day a Delaware family court released its report granting Driscoll's no-contact order. The 36-year-old Busch has missed the first two events in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season, with interim driver Regan Smith -- a regular in the NASCAR XFINITY Series -- filling in for the Stewart-Haas Racing No. 41 Chevrolet team. NASCAR released a statement late Thursday afternoon to say that Busch remains suspended, but that the Delaware attorney general's decision removes a hurdle to Busch's possible reinstatement. "NASCAR is aware of the Delaware Department of Justice announcement today regarding driver Kurt Busch ," the statement read. "As we disclosed Monday, he has accepted the terms and conditions of a reinstatement program and is actively participating in the program. Kurt Busch 's eligibility for reinstatement will continue to be governed by that program and the NASCAR Rule Book, though the elimination of the possibility of criminal charges certainly removes a significant impediment to his reinstatement." RELATED: Busch starts reinstatement process Busch -- who testified that he repeatedly told Driscoll to leave his motorcoach Sept. 26 and disputed her accusations of physical abuse -- released a statement Thursday afternoon, showing his appreciation and welcoming the decision. "I am grateful that the prosecutors in Delaware listened, carefully considered the evidence, and after a thorough investigation decided to not file criminal charges against me," Busch's statement read. "I wish to thank my family, friends, fans, and race team who stood by me throughout this nightmare with their unwavering support. Thanks also goes to my legal team for making sure that the truth got out and was fully provided to the prosecutors. As I have said from the beginning, I did not commit domestic abuse. I look forward to being back in racing as soon as possible and moving on with my life." Less than an hour later, Driscoll and members of her legal team also issued statements regarding the decision. "While I respect the process, I am disappointed that full justice was not served here," Driscoll's statement read. "My family and I take a measure of solace in the Order of Protection From Abuse granted by commissioner Jones, who ruled my account of the facts was the most credible. At great risk to my personal and professional reputation, I have spoken candidly, at length, and on the record, to a variety of outlets in an effort to correct the distortions and sensationalism that have unfortunately marked the coverage of this painful time in my family’s life. I would urge anyone covering this case to stick to the well-established facts. Giving further air to baseless and discredited accusations about me does a disservice to the public and reduces a serious matter for law enforcement into tabloid gossip. "In all future developments in this case, I will continue to stand up for my integrity and for justice. But for now, I am focused on my family, my friends, and my important and gratifying work with the Armed Forces Foundation." Jim Ligouri, a Delaware-based attorney who represented Busch, deferred comment on Thursday's decision to Rusty Hardin, the lead attorney for Busch's legal team. A call placed to Hardin's Houston, Texas office was not immediately returned. Driscoll filed a complaint Nov. 5 with the Dover Police Department, which completed its investigation of the alleged altercation on Jan. 6, handing the case over to the Delaware attorney general's office. The criminal case was separate from Driscoll's request for a no-contact order, which was granted Feb. 16 by a Delaware family court. Busch's attorneys pledged to appeal the yearlong protective order, which mandates that Busch must not contact Driscoll and must stay away from her except "at NASCAR races and related events where closer proximity is required." NASCAR handed down an indefinite suspension four days later, after Kent County (Delaware) family court commissioner David Jones released his findings in a civil disposition, saying that a "preponderance of the evidence" indicated that Busch "committed an act of domestic violence" during Driscoll's visit to the driver's motorcoach at Dover. The commissioner's ruling also stated that Busch's "version of the events is implausible, does not make sense and is unlikely to be true given the totality of the other evidence admitted at trial." Mark Dycio, a Fairfax, Virginia-based attorney representing Driscoll, said Thursday in a prepared statement that Driscoll's legal team took heart in Jones' earlier report in light of Thursday's decision. "The decision from the Delaware Attorney General does not deny that the assault occurred, and indicates only that the state's attorneys lack confidence in their ability to get a criminal conviction," Dycio said. "It changes nothing about the established facts of the case. Mr. Busch testified in open court that he squeezed Patricia's face, and admitted to police that he slammed her head against the wall in the process. Given that these admissions establish an assault took place, and that police recommended Mr. Busch be prosecuted, it seems impossible that the attorney general's office made this decision on burden of proof grounds. "It would be unfortunate, and a terrible precedent for victims of abuse, if the prospect of inviting a media circus fueled by Mr. Busch’s wealth, notoriety, and hostile PR team in any way swayed this decision. We are comforted at least in the knowledge that the judge who did hear the evidence found clear reason to believe Busch committed the assault, and granted the protective order to Patricia and her family." Busch's suspension fell under two headings in the 2015 NASCAR Rule Book -- Actions detrimental to stock car racing; and 12.8: Behavioral penalty. Busch filed two expedited appeals Feb. 21 on the eve of the season-opening Daytona 500 , but NASCAR's ruling was upheld in both hearings -- the first heard by the three-member National Motorsports Appeals Panel and the final heard by National Motorsports Final Appeals Officer Bryan Moss. Stewart-Haas Racing officials said Monday that Smith again would serve as a substitute driver in this Sunday's Kobalt 400 (3:30 p.m. ET, FOX) at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, just outside Busch's hometown. SHR released a statement from Joe Custer, SHR's executive vice president on Thursday evening that read: "We appreciate the thoroughness of the Dover Police Department's investigation into the allegations made against Kurt Busch and respect the time the Attorney General put into his decision. They are experts in these matters and the decision not to pursue charges is an important one. We're currently working with NASCAR to understand how this impacts Kurt's reinstatement process." Thursday's developments did not change Chevrolet's stance on Busch. "Our relationship with Kurt Busch remains unchanged," Jim Campbell, Chevrolet vice president of Performance Vehicles and Motorsports, said in a statement. "He remains suspended, and we will continue to monitor all aspects of this situation." Busch applied for reinstatement of his competition license last Friday, agreeing to the terms and conditions set forth by NASCAR. Monday, NASCAR spokesperson David Higdon said there was no timetable to Busch's potential path to reinstatement, and that the requirements were developed as an individually tailored plan, created in consultation with an outside expert. Higdon confirmed that NASCAR's reinstatement procedure was separate from the requirements issued by Commissioner Jones, who required that Busch "be evaluated by a licensed mental health professional" and complete any treatment plan that person would prescribe. Busch has recorded 25 victories since beginning his career in NASCAR's premier series in 2000. He won his only series championship in 2004, the first season for the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup playoffs. Busch's absence marks the third time in his Sprint Cup career that he has missed races because of disciplinary reasons. Roush Fenway Racing cut its ties to the driver with two events left in the 2005 season after Busch was cited for reckless driving and belligerent behavior during a traffic stop, according to Maricopa County (Arizona) sheriff's deputies. NASCAR also gave Busch a one-race suspension for verbal abuse of a media member in June 2012. 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
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