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 season 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." Ed Laukes, vice president marketing, performance and guest experience for Toyota Motor Sales, issued a statement Friday morning with a similar sentiment. "We've spoken with Rob Kauffman and understand he has agreed to buy an interest in Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates," the statement read. "Rob has not disclosed the plans for Michael Waltrip Racing past the 2015 racing season. Toyota and TRD remain focused on winning races and championships with our team partners this year." 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
Catch up before Sunday's Windows 10 400 (1:30 p.m ET, NBCSN, MRN, SiriusXM) What: 42nd annual Windows 10 400 Where: Pocono Raceway, Long Pond, Pennsylvania When: Sunday, August 2, 2015 TV/Radio: NBCSN, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Distance: 160 laps (400 miles) Green Flag: 1:46 p.m. ET Pit Road Speed: 55 mph Caution Car Speed: 70 mph Fuel Window: 32 laps On The Front Row ( Full lineup ) 1. Kyle Busch , Joe Gibbs Racing No. 18 Toyota (178.416 mph) 2. Kevin Harvick , Stewart-Haas Racing No. 4 Chevrolet (178.168 mph) To the rear Jeb Burton , BK Racing No. 26 Toyota (going to backup car) Failed to Qualify None Fastest in Practice ( Full practice results ) First Practice: Brad Keselowski , Team Penske No. 2 Ford (176.606 mph) Second Practice: Carl Edwards , Joe Gibbs Racing No. 19 Toyota (175.812 mph) Third Practice: Kyle Busch , Joe Gibbs Racing No. 18 Toyota (175.240 mph) Bumps be gone Two months ago, drivers complained about bumps in Turn 2 over Pocono's new waterfall entrance. The track paved over the section, and the racers have recognized the work done. " They did a great job repairing or improving the bumps and issues they had over in the Tunnel (Turn) especially on the apron," said an appreciative Dale Earnhardt Jr . But June winner Martin Truex Jr . may have lost an advantage, saying, "A few differences in the race track with the Tunnel Turn being smooth again, I think that certainly makes it a little bit easier on everybody else." Second consecutive sweep? Earnhardt won both races in 2014, and Truex will attempt to become the eighth driver to complete the season sweep at the Tricky Triangle. In addition to the two Juniors, the six other drivers who have achieved the Pocono sweep are Bobby Allison (1982), Bill Elliott (1985), Tim Richmond (1986), Bobby Labonte (1999), Jimmie Johnson (2004) and Denny Hamlin (2006). Four-Time's last time The all-time wins leader at Pocono, Jeff Gordon , will attempt to make his seventh trip to Richard Petty Victory Lane in his last start at the track. Gordon's last win at the Tricky Triangle came three years ago in this race when he snapped a tie with NASCAR Hall of Famer Bill Elliott for lead. The facility incorporated "GORDON" into the start/finish line, and it has a "Thank you Jeff 24" sign greeting patrons and race teams as they drive out of the track under the Tunnel Turn. Birthday bonanza A win would be an early birthday present for Gordon, who turns 44 next Tuesday, as well as his crew chief, Alan Gustafson, who turns 40 next Wednesday when fellow Hendrick crew chief, Chad Knaus, turns 44 as well. Last year's Sunoco Rookie of the Year winner, Kyle Larson , celebrated his 23rd birthday on Friday, and 38th-place qualifier Jeb Burton will join him at that age next Thursday. A two-time Pocono winner, Kurt Busch , turns 37 next Tuesday. Four in a row Coors Light Pole Award winner Kyle Busch will attempt to become the first driver to win four consecutive Sprint Cup Series races since Jimmie Johnson won four Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup races in a row in the fall of 2007. Other drivers with wins across a month of consecutive Sundays include NASCAR Hall of Famers Dale Earnhardt, Bill Elliott , David Pearson, Darrell Waltrip and Cale Yarborough. Others to turn the trick have been Harry Gant, Jeff Gordon , Mark Martin and Billy Wade. If Busch wins, he'll go for five in a row at Watkins Glen and try to become the first driver to accomplish the feat since another NASCAR Hall of Famer, Bobby Allison, did it in 1971. Richard Petty holds the record with 10. Taking the fifth Kyle Busch and Harvick haven't won on five of 23 Sprint Cup Series tracks, and Pocono is one they have in common. In addition to the Tricky Triangle, Harvick is winless at Dover, Kentucky, Sonoma and Texas while Busch hasn't gone to Victory Lane at Charlotte, Homestead-Miami, Kansas and Martinsville. Chevy seeks milestone The Bowtie Brigade has won six consecutive races at the track, and if it wins on Sunday, it will make the 750th victory for the manufacturer. Seventy-six different drivers have won in a Chevy, which has claimed 38 manufacturer titles including the last 12. Gordon boasts the most wins with 92, followed by Johnson with 74, Earnhardt (73), Waltrip (60) and Yarborough (48). Next new winner? Through 20 races, 10 drivers have won their way into the Chase with Kyle Busch on the cusp of making the top 30 and becoming the 11th driver to make the playoffs, leaving five spots with six events until the field is set. Of top 30 drivers without a win in 2015, Larson has the best average finish of eighth. The second-best driver in that group is two-time Pocono winner, Stewart, with a 12.1 average finish. Another former winner, Ryan Newman , is third with a 12.4 average finish. Double-duty dudes JJ Yeley skipped Saturday's practices to head to Iowa and run the XFINITY race. Four drivers competed in Saturday's Camping World Truck Series race at Pocono: Kyle Busch , Austin Dillon , Harvick and Brad Keselowski . Driver Rating Best driver rating average at Pocono based on races since 2005: 1. Denny Hamlin , 108.3 2. Jimmie Johnson , 106.9 3. Kurt Busch , 105.9 Defending race winner Dale Earnhardt Jr ., Hendrick Motorsports No. 88 Chevrolet Former Pocono winners in the field Jeff Gordon (6); Denny Hamlin (4); Jimmie Johnson (3); Tony Stewart , Kurt Busch , Dale Earnhardt Jr ., Kasey Kahne , Carl Edwards (2); Ryan Newman , Joey Logano , Brad Keselowski , Greg Biffle , Martin Truex Jr . (1). FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule
MWR co-owner not leaving team, 'taking anything' to CGR LONG POND, Pa. -- Michael Waltrip Racing co-owner Rob Kauffman said on Saturday at Pocono Raceway that he plans to integrate MWR and Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates, in which he has purchased an interest. Meeting with media for the first time since MWR issued a statement two days ago that the team and CGR would "operate separately and compete agains each other for the remainder of the 2015 season" while "evaluating ways to field the most competitive race teams possible" for 2016 and beyond, Kauffman emphasized that he continued to work with Waltrip. "First and foremost, I think it's important to realize that Michael and I own Michael Waltrip Racing ," Kauffman said. "We control Michael Waltrip Racing together. We're business partners. We're great personal friends. So any idea that like I'm leaving or taking anything is actually misplaced. "What we're really doing is integrating the businesses, trying to get the most competitive product on track, do the best for all of our partners and that's really our focus. It's a competitive business as everybody knows. It's competitive on track as well as off track." The timing of the statement was an attempt to keep both organizations focused on 2015, "getting hopefully one to two cars in the Chase and doing a great job for our partners," Kauffman said. "We've been very excited about the developments over the summer we've had with the teams," Kauffman continued. "They're running well. And there's hundreds of people working back in Charlotte. We want to keep them focused on what they need to do." Through the first 20 races, CGR's Jamie McMurray sits 11th in the provisional Chase Grid, the top winless driver in the points standings. MWR's Clint Bowyer holds the final spot in the Chase in 16th place. McMurray's teammate, Kyle Larson , is 20th, and MWR's David Ragan is 24th in points. With all four teams in the top 30 in the standings, each one is a victory away from making the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup . Looking to the future of the two race teams, Kauffman said those plans are still under consideration with their performance helping determine 2016 plans. "In terms of our plans, whether we have three cars, four cars; two roofs, one roof, that's all yet to be determined," Kauffman said. "And how we do in the 2015 season will help determine whether that happens. If we do a great job, that will be one outcome. If we do a less great job, probably another. I think it will be pretty obvious to people." FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule
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