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
Teen who's a patient at Shriners Hospital in Cincinnati will attend Cup race SPARTA, Ky. -- David Ragan will have a special guest with him when he hits the track this weekend at Kentucky Speedway. Hunter Rogers, an avid NASCAR fan and patient at Shriners Hospital for Children -- Cincinnati, will be cheering on the No. 55 from the pit box during Sunday’s Quaker State 400. The 13-year-old was burned as an infant and will visit the hospital regularly for scar revisions and treatments until he reaches the age of 21. Ragan , a Shriner and avid supporter of the hospital, was able to meet his guest of honor Thursday, when he visited the Cincinnati branch of the hospital. The Michael Waltrip Racing driver spent one-on-one time with Rogers, in addition to partaking in a variety of games and activities with the rest of the children. The visit was part of Ragan ’s awareness and fundraising initiative for the hospital, which Ragan named his official charity in 2008. He will continue to visit hospital branches throughout the United States and one lucky patient will be invited to accompany him at the race track following each gathering. In 17 starts this season for three different race teams, Ragan has three top-15 finishes, including one fifth-place result at Martinsvillle. With no Cup activities going on in Kentucky, I am headed to @shrinershosp in Cincinnati. Visiting a few of the patients and their families. — David Ragan (@DavidRagan) July 9, 2015 Sprint Cup 's @DavidRagan made Hunter Rogers' day at Cincy @shrinershosp . Story at 10 @FOX19 . @KySpeedway @IJennnaahh pic.twitter.com/e7C9yHWP6T — Jeremy Rauch (@FOX19Jeremy) July 9, 2015 FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule
Drivers debate aero rules while at open test at Bristol Motor Speedway Maybe they aren’t completely sold on the high drag package that debuted this past weekend at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, but after a couple of days to chew on the results, drivers seemed a bit less vocal in their level of disappointment with the platform. "I applaud NASCAR for trying, doing everything they can," Joe Gibbs Racing driver Carl Edwards said during a break in Wednesday's open test at Bristol Motor Speedway. "They're trying all these different things to produce the best racing they can." Not exactly an endorsement for the Indy package, which will also be used in August when the Sprint Cup Series returns to Michigan International Speedway, but an understanding of what NASCAR officials are hoping to develop. However, Edwards, who finished 13th at Indy after winning the pole, remains steadfast in his belief that the continued reduction in downforce is the best route. "I believe the racing as we lose aero dependency, as they take downforce away, you're just going to see better and better racing," he said. "… I really think the more we go back toward that, the better off we're going to be." The high drag package featured a 9-inch spoiler (a 3-inch increase) as well as other aero changes. Downforce was impacted, but only slightly. Instead, the taller spoiler created a larger wake of air behind the cars. Ryan Blaney , 12th at Indy, said he thought the high drag package "showed promise." "There are good things and bad things you can take away from each package," the Wood Brothers Racing driver said. "That's what it's always going to be no matter what package you bring; there's always going to be positives and negatives and drivers are going to have different feedback about every one. "I thought the high drag package really helped us get big runs down the straightaways behind other cars and you could make a move getting in the corner. But Indy being a single-lane race track it was hard to kind of make a move in the corner. You had to kind of set yourself up for the straightaway." Michael Waltrip Racing driver David Ragan agreed that the taller spoiler and other configurations made for a better closing rate on others when coming off the corners and onto the long straightaways at Indy. "But once you got to their back bumper, once you pulled out, you really couldn't do anything with that run," Ragan , who finished 21st, said. "It was real easy to stall out. I'm not an aero specialist so I don't know if we could tweak on that … I thought the cars changed balance a lot behind other cars. … When I could run by myself, my car would be a little on the tight side and when I would catch a car, or if I caught two cars side-by-side in front of me, my car would shift to really, really loose really quick. "I think just all the air off of their cars was disruptive and I didn't have any consistent air on mine. You had to be on the wheel and on top of it making adjustments certainly when you were in traffic or by yourself." While Indy's 2.5-mile course is tight, one-groove and without much banking, Michigan should be a better barometer for the package. "I think you will see some bigger packs at Michigan," Ragan said. "You’ve got a little more grip in the race track, you've got a little more banking, definitely more grooves so I think you've got more options to run two- and three-wide in the corners. "But I think my big concern is the handling for those guys that are in the middle of the pack. The cars in the top four or five are going to have a very good advantage just from the fact of having clean air. Those guys running 20th are going to have to fight a different fight because of handling. "It will definitely be, in my opinion, a little better going to Michigan just because the race track will promote a little better racing." Tire Chatter Sprint Cup and Camping World Truck Series teams competing at Pocono (Pa.) Raceway this weekend will run the same Goodyear tire codes and a combination that's been used at the 2.5-mile, three-turn track since 2012. According to Goodyear, the tire combination is used only at Pocono. Meanwhile, XFINITY Series teams competing this weekend at Iowa Speedway will use the same combination used there earlier this season. Indy Violations There were 31 pit-road penalties handed down during Sunday's Crown Royal presents the Jeff Kyle 400 at the Brickyard, nearly half of which were due to team pitting before pit road was open. NASCAR officials announced a P3-level penalty Wednesday levied against the No. 98 Premium Motorsports team for an unattached weight that fell of the car during practice at IMS. 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. "The 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. 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, N.C., struggle; it downsized from three teams to two following the 2013 season when penalties prior to the start of the Chase for the 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. 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 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
TRD president: 'Not sure what Michael Waltrip Racing is going to do' With four victories in the last five races, thanks to Kyle Busch , and Busch's Joe Gibbs Racing teammates also holding wins that practically put them into the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup , Toyota is on a roll. David Wilson, president of Toyota Racing Development, told SiriusXM NASCAR Radio Tuesday that the manufacturer has its sights set on more teams making the 2015 Chase while also looking ahead to its 2016 lineup. Wilson compared Toyota's comeback to JGR's own, saying the seeds for 2015 success were sown during one of its worst seasons since joining the Sprint Cup Series in 2007. "2014 was one of our worst years since we came into the sport, into the Sprint Cup Series and certainly one of Joe Gibbs Racing 's worst years," Wilson said. "But we started that turnaround last summer literally. That was when we got the big wake-up call. We just missed it on this no ride-height rule. Our engines were a little bit off, and we buckled down. "Really the turnaround started, I trace it to Chicago of last year, almost a full year ago where our performance gradually started getting better. We were able to get the three Joe Gibbs Racing drivers into the Chase. Denny nearly won the championship at Miami, but that was, to be fair, more to do with the format of the Chase." Last Sunday, the manufacturer earned its first Brickyard 400 win, the last of the 23 premier series circuits where it hadn't won a race. Rather than resting on its laurels, Toyota is looking to add more cars to NASCAR's playoffs. If Busch moves into the top 30 in points, a quarter of the field will be driving Camrys, but Wilson is shooting for closer to half of the 16 drivers. "I've said as one of three manufacturers that statistically we need to load that funnel at Chicago, arguably with five, six, seven Toyotas," Wilson. Michael Waltrip Racing with Clint Bowyer 's No. 15 team and David Ragan 's No. 55 are the manufacturer's two highest-ranked drivers without wins, sitting 15th and 24th respectively in the standings. Based on points, the No. 15 driver is currently in the provisional Chase Grid, but if Busch makes the top 30, Bowyer will be bounced without a win. As the manufacturer attempts to add those MWR teams to this year's Chase, Wilson wasn't certain about the organization's future with Toyota. "We are talking to a number of organizations about the future, and certainly in the near-term, we're not sure what Michael Waltrip Racing is going to do," Wilson said. "They've yet to announce their plans. Certainly we have had a rich history in the sport together. We got our butts kicked together in 2007, our first year, and you forge very close and personal relationships when you have those trials together. "Whatever they decide to do, we certainly wish nothing but the best for them." Wilson has acknowledged discussions with Furniture Row Racing owner Barney Visser about the Denver-based team's potential manufacturer move from Chevrolet to Toyota. But the TRD president suggested that Furniture Row, like Toyota itself, was focused on its 2015 Chase efforts. "Regarding Furniture Row Racing , again they haven't announced their plans for next year certainly," Wilson said. "I imagine they're focusing on getting Martin Truex well-positioned in the Chase as well and competitive." FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule
Edwards: "This is like the first practice session" BRISTOL, Tenn. -- More than one dozen NASCAR Sprint Cup Series teams spent Wednesday testing at Bristol Motor Speedway, preparing for next month's return when the high-banked, half-mile track hosts the Irwin Tools Night Race . "The surface here doesn't change a lot, but the groove changes a lot," Joe Gibbs Racing 's Carl Edwards said of the concrete racing surface during a break in the eight-hour session. "People end up racing right up against the fence. "We're not really able to do that today. Basically, this is like the first practice session (of a race weekend) -- when we show up (in August), the race track will be like this." Still, with only six races remaining before the field is officially set for this year's Chase for the Sprint Cup , any opportunity to improve one's chances for one of the six events isn't taken lightly. "Seventy-five percent (of what we do today) is relevant," Edwards said. "We're just not really able to run up there to that high groove." Edwards, a winner in this year's Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway, hasn't officially locked in a spot in the 16-team Chase field, but for he and a handful of others that have already won this year, it's a formality. Three of Edwards' 24 career wins in Sprint Cup have come at BMS and he was fast here on Wednesday. He also cut a tire down during the afternoon session, and contact with the wall did a bit of cosmetic damage to the No. 19 Toyota. "We know exactly what we were lacking when we came here the last race," he said, "so it gives us the opportunity to work on some things." In addition to Edwards, other teams taking part in the test were Ryan Blaney ( Wood Brothers Racing ), Joey Logano ( Team Penske ), Aric Almirola ( Richard Petty Motorsports ), Ricky Stenhouse Jr . ( Roush Fenway Racing ), Paul Menard ( Richard Childress Racing ), David Ragan ( Michael Waltrip Racing ), Jamie McMurray ( Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates), Danica Patrick ( Stewart-Haas Racing ), Travis Kvapil (TMG), Kasey Kahne ( Hendrick Motorsports ) and Landon Cassill (Mike Hillman Racing). Logano and Kahne are also previous winners at Bristol. Stenhouse is still searching for his first Sprint Cup win; the fast BMS track seems to suit his driving style. The 27-year-old has finished sixth or higher in his last three starts here. "It's just fun," Stenhouse Jr. said. "I like running the top, it kind of reminds me of a dirt track the way you can really kind of turn to the right getting into the corner once we get some rubber down on the top lane. We haven't gotten it quite high enough today, but we've worked pretty far up there." The RFR driver is 27th in points, and his fourth-place finish here earlier this year has been his only top 10. "Honestly, being 18th or 19th in points or where we are, if you don't have a win, you're still outside (the Chase)," he said. "I could be eight spots better and it really wouldn't do me any good other than obviously we're getting better finishes, better results." A two-time XFINITY Series champion, Stenhouse said the No. 17 team has improved -- "I think we're getting better," he said -- but the gap between his group and the leaders is still a wide one. "That's why we really kind of embraced coming to this test," he said. "It's been a good race for us in the past. Out of the races that are left, it's probably our best shot to catch a break. "We've been close (here); we know we're not exactly there yet. But we know if we make the right adjustments and get the car a little better, then we'll have the opportunity. And really, that's all you can ask for." The Irwin Tools Night Race is scheduled for Aug. 22 (7:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN, PRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio). FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule
No. 18 team is clicking, winning four of last five races RELATED: Where Busch's streak ranks " Kyle's post-Indy Facebook page Two days after a dramatic and dazzling victory at Indianapolis Motor Speedway -- his third consecutive NASCAR Sprint Cup win and fourth in five weeks -- Kyle Busch still sounded awed and amazed. The 30-year-old confessed Tuesday in a national teleconference with reporters that there was a time when he thought his season was over before it started and insisted the guiding force in his recent historic high performance was as much because of the people around him -- doctors, his wife Samantha and crew chief Adam Stevens -- as it was something he's been doing differently. "It was a natural reaction initially," Busch conceded, thinking he wouldn't race again in 2015 after suffering serious injuries -- broken leg and foot -- in the Feb. 21 season-opening XFINITY Series race at Daytona International Speedway. "Fortunately, everything came to plan actually quicker than we all anticipated, and for me, once I started listening to doctors and understanding what all was going on and what all I was going to go through, I realized, 'OK, I'm going to be back this year.' " "They didn't want to rush me coming back too soon and take a chance of reinjuring something. We made the right decisions. I think everything just kind of came together and fell nicely." And that's the understatement of the season. Busch said he will be having further offseason surgery to have plates taken out of his left foot and screws removed from his right leg. And if he responds to that surgery and recovery like he has this season, the competition should be very worried. The Joe Gibbs Racing driver is on a rare and impressive run that seldom happens in NASCAR's most competitive ranks. After missing the first 11 races of the season, Busch has won four times in the nine events he's started. By winning Sunday's Brickyard 400 -- the first victory ever for Toyota in the race -- Busch cut a 58-point deficit to 30th place in the standings to 23 points with six races remaining to decide the 16-driver Chase for the Sprint Cup playoff field. When Busch received a Chase eligibility waiver from NASCAR upon his return, it came with two conditions: that he win a race and be ranked among the top 30 in the drivers standings. When Busch returned to competition in May, he was 179 points behind then 30th place driver Tony Stewart . He's made up 156 points in nine races. Asked on Tuesday if he credits his current win streak and ability to overcome the setbacks to a more mature mentality or extra motivation, the new father Busch had a much simpler answer: people. "I think I would point more so towards the relationship with Adam Stevens and myself," Busch said thoughtfully. "There was never a time and there was never a weekend that we weren't able to speak to one another (when Busch was recovering from injury). "I think that really helps fortify a relationship as much as we could without me being in the race. Then since I've been in the car, just trusting what he's doing and giving him all the feedback I possibly can and letting him go to work. "He's done a really good job -- the whole team (has) of everything that they've put together for me. "Maybe it was a little bit of other stuff, too, studying the racing and seeing what was going on and being hungry for it and wanting it and knowing that this is what I want to do. I don't have anything else in life that interests me as much as driving race cars." The result has been nothing short of amazing -- to watch, to cheer, to chronicle and understandably to take part in. "I definitely think the whole company is really jacked up," Busch said. "Everybody at Joe Gibbs Racing feels everything going and coming together as a whole. Even my teammates, we went to lunch the other day and everybody is just kind of gelling and happy. "Everyone is smiling and they're happy for me and the success that we've had at the 18-car but also the success that the company is starting to put together as well with a bunch of us finishing in the top 10 each and every week. "It's a lot of hard work, a lot of dedication. Adam Stevens and his group of guys on the 18 have really come together and come full circle. It actually started out real tough with them and they were down in the dumps maybe and really weren't sure what was going to happen or who the driver was going to be week-to-week. But Matt Crafton , David Ragan and Erik Jones did a fantastic job filling in for me. And once I've gotten back maybe it took a couple weeks to kind of knock the rust off a little bit, but since then it seems like we're running on all eight cylinders and just have done a fantastic job being able to get our M&Ms Crispy as well as our Skittles Camry into Victory Lane." FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule
Edwards the defending race winner at California road course RELATED: Full race results " Updated series standings With fewer than 30 laps left in Sunday's Toyota/Save Mart 350, Carl Edwards and David Ragan made contact that left both cars with significant damage and ruined their days at Sonoma Raceway. Edwards, the defending race winner, got loose coming into Turn 8 and his No. 19 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota got into Ragan's No. 55 Michael Waltrip Racing Toyota, sending both cars into the wall. Ragan would finish 39th and Edwards was behind him in 40th place. "We're just racing, and David and I race really well together, but it was just one of those deals where we came off of Turn 7 dead-even, and both of us wanted to see who would give first," Edwards said. "My left-rear hit his right-rear and it just … it was pretty small contact, but it bounced both cars sideways and ruined our day. Probably my fault. In fact, that part is my fault, but it's just frustrating because I love this race track and I was having fun. Just wanted to be out there racing and it's a tough one to have to sit out." Ragan was involved in an earlier incident when his contact with Martin Truex Jr . sent the No. 78 Furniture Row Racing Chevrolet into a tire barrier to bring out the second caution of the race. "It's tough," Ragan told reporters. "I mean obviously, I'm there, he's there, we're both racing hard. It's just a racing thing. I don't fault Carl. If his car would've given me some room, I would've been able to go. If I would've given Carl some room, I would've been able to take the spot or he would've been able to take the spot. That's just racing at Sonoma. It's tight back there and you've got to go -- 30-something laps to go, you don't have time to mess around." Edwards already has a win this year while Ragan is still looking for one to make his way into the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup . -- NASCAR.com's Zack Albert contributed to this report FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule
Carl Edwards and David Ragan get into each other and collide with the wall in the Toyota/Save Mart 350, leaving Ragan frustrated with some of the racing taking place.
Martin Truex Jr. gets sent into the tire barrier after making contact with David Ragan at Sonoma Raceway.