David Ragan talks about filling in for an injured Kyle Busch and his new deal to drive for Michael Waltrip Racing.
Stewart-Haas Racing driver paces both sessions at Charlotte RELATED: Final practice results " See all 43 cars at Charlotte Kurt Busch topped final practice for Sunday's Coca-Cola 600 (6 p.m. ET, FOX, PRN, SiriusXM) at Charlotte Motor Speedway . Busch led the 50-minute session with a fast lap of 188.653 mph. The driver of the No. 41 Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet also topped Saturday's earlier practice session. Kasey Kahne placed second in the session at a speed of 187.052 mph. The driver of the No. 5 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet has four wins at Charlotte with three coming in the Coca-Cola 600 . Paul Menard (186.987 mph) was third, followed by Greg Biffle (186.942 mph) and polesitter Matt Kenseth (186.780 mph) rounded out the top five. MORE: Kenseth starts on pole Erik Jones spent the latter half of final practice logging laps in the No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota. Jones will be on standby for Kyle Busch on Sunday night in case he can't go the full distance. Busch is making his first points-paying start in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series since suffering a compound fracture of the right leg and a broken left foot in a crash in the NASCAR XFINITY Series opener at Daytona International Speedway in February. Jones made his Sprint Cup debut at Kansas Speedway two weeks ago; he also logged laps in relief of Denny Hamlin at Bristol Motor Speedway in April. The No. 18 Toyota was 17th in final practice. The standby plan was mentioned on Jones' Twitter feed. Erik will be on standby duty this weekend for @KyleBusch . As a precaution Erik will finish out happy hour on the 18 cup car. — Erik Jones (@erik_jones) May 23, 2015 Sunday's 600-miler is the longest race of the season in the Sprint Cup Series. Second practice " RELATED: Practice 2 results Kurt Busch topped the first of Saturday's two NASCAR Sprint Cup Series practice sessions at Charlotte Motor Speedway for Sunday's Coca-Cola 600 (6 p.m. ET, FOX, PRN, SiriusXM). Busch paced the 55-minute practice session with a fast lap of 192.644 mph. The Stewart-Haas Racing driver has just one win at Charlotte, a Coca-Cola 600 victory in 2010. Polesitter Matt Kenseth placed second in the session with a fast lap of 191.680 mph. Kenseth's first premier series win came in this race in 2000. Jimmie Johnson (190.813 mph) came in third, followed by David Ragan (190.550 mph) with Brad Keselowski (190.496 mph) rounding out the top five. Johnson is the defending race winner and has seven career wins at Charlotte, the most all-time. All three of Johnson's wins this season have come on intermediate tracks. Ragan went for a spin off Turn 4 late in practice, making no contact with the wall but going through the grass. The driver of the No. 55 Toyota suffered no real damage to the car and is set to start seventh in Sunday's race. Kyle Busch , who will be making his first points-paying Sprint Cup Series start of the season, finished the session sixth. Points leader Kevin Harvick , who has finished in the top two in all four races at intermediate tracks, placed 30th on the chart. AJ Allmendinger had his share of issues during the practice. The driver of the No. 47 appeared to scrape the wall and was fighting a loose car during the session in which he placed 33rd. FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule
Driver will be on call in case 'Rowdy' can't go full distance at Charlotte Making his first start in a points-paying NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race in the sport's longest event, Kyle Busch will have a backup plan for Sunday's Coca-Cola 600 (6 p.m. ET, FOX, PRN, SiriusXM). Erik Jones will be on standby for Busch at Charlotte Motor Speedway should the driver of the No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota not be able to go the full 600 miles. Erik will be on standby duty this weekend for @KyleBusch . As a precaution Erik will finish out happy hour on the 18 cup car. — Erik Jones (@erik_jones) May 23, 2015 Jones even went out and logged some laps during final practice on Saturday but Busch's intent is to run the full race just three months after suffering a compound fracture of the right leg and a broken left foot in a crash during the NASCAR XFINITY Series opener at Daytona International Speedway in February. The fact that Jones will serve as a standby driver for Busch comes as little surprise. In his conference call with reporters last week to discuss his return to action ahead of a sixth-place showing in the Sprint All-Star Race, Busch said the 18-year-old would be on standby to fill in as necessary. Three drivers took turns filling in for Busch in the 11 races he missed. Jones made one start at Kansas, while two-time defending NASCAR Camping World Truck Series champion Matt Crafton climbed in the No. 18 Toyota at Daytona and David Ragan made nine starts. Jones got some seat time as well at Bristol, filling in for Denny Hamlin , who suffered neck spasms and decided as a precaution not to return to the race after a lengthy rain delay. Sunday's 600 mile race is the longest of the season and the 12th race on the Sprint Cup Series schedule. FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule
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
Drivers give their takes on California dustup Vote: Who will win at Martinsville? " Play: NASCAR Fantasy Live MARTINSVILLE, Va. – Jeff Gordon said he felt he had run out of options. David Ragan said he thought he could hold Gordon off. The result was a spin by Ragan during last weekend's Auto Club 400 at Auto Club Speedway that brought out the day's first caution less than 25 laps into the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races. Ragan , filling in for the fourth consecutive week for the injured Kyle Busch in the Joe Gibbs Racing No. 18 Toyota, said Friday at Martinsville Speedway that "at the end of the day, I certainly got the bad end of the deal." "I was in the preferred line but Jeff was a little faster than me at the time," Ragan said before heading out to take part in the day’s lone practice at the 0.526-mile track. "Looking back at it, I probably would have just let him by knowing that I was going to be the one that was coming off Turn 4 backwards." The two were battling for seventh place when Gordon's Chevrolet drew close enough to the left-rear of Ragan's car to send it into a spin. The move came after Gordon had shot underneath, only to see the JGR driver flash back by on the high side of the 2-mile track. "We were moving forward at that time – both me and (teammate) Jimmie (Johnson)," the four-time Sprint Cup champion said. "We caught David . He was definitely struggling and trying to hang on until the pit stop where they could make some adjustments. He was letting off real early in the corner." Johnson cleared Ragan and had driven away when Gordon made his initial move to the inside. While he could have moved up the track and in front of Ragan , Gordon said he thought "I'm not going to do a slide job on the guy this early in the race. We'll see if he wants to race me hard or not.” And that, Gordon said, is what transpired. "He raced me hard on the outside," the Hendrick Motorsports driver said. "A couple laps later I got inside him again, and this time I crowded him a little bit more. He got all over my door; got me loose and so I basically said at that point that I was going to have to do it the hard way. "I know on the radio I said I may have to use the bumper, and I would have if I could have gotten to him and tapped him a little. But I didn't have to. I just got up to him and he was already pretty loose. I just took the air off of him to just get him to lift, but he didn't lift. He stayed in the gas and spun out." Ragan said he didn't give Gordon the spot because he felt "maybe once I got my track bar adjusted a little bit and kind of got my rhythm I felt like I might could pull away from him. "I did feel like once I could get my car going in the top lane that I could be a little better. Jeff was a little impatient. He didn't do anything wrong, he just didn't give me a break. And I didn't give him a break either. "What I can learn from that is it was early in the race, that one spot didn't matter. I could have had a little bit of give and take and the 24 could have had a little bit of give and take. It's one of those things that at the end of the day I got the bad end of the deal and that's sucked. I learned from it and moved on." The two spoke briefly after the race, the fifth of 36 that make up the 2015 Sprint Cup Series schedule and the final stop of a three-race West Coast swing that began in Las Vegas and moved to Phoenix before wrapping up at Auto Club "I don't expect somebody to just let me go by them, but when you're that much faster than somebody else, you have to make a choice: 'How do I want to race at this point and this stage in the race? Is it worth it to me?'" Gordon said Friday. "In my opinion and on a track that was that difficult to pass on, I was going to get up behind him. I never touched him, but I definitely took the air off of him." "Jeff's obviously a champion and a smart racer and you've got to give him some respect," Ragan said. "I raced him like I would anybody else. But at the beginning of a race we both have to have some give and take; he's lucky that he didn't get collected somehow. If I would have spun a little earlier in the corner and he couldn't turn down, he very well could have been collected too and it would have been a bad deal for both of us." Gordon eventually finished 10th while Ragan was 18th. He finished 17th in the season-opening Daytona 500 while driving for Front Row Motorsports , and has finished 18th, 22nd, 21st and 18th since taking over for Busch. "I feel like the last couple of weeks have been good," Ragan said. "I'm disappointed that we haven't gotten a good finish to show for (it), I think we've had some pretty good cars. "I think we've had a top-10 car every week besides Phoenix, and that's disappointing when you don't finish where you think you should – for several reasons, from mistakes on my behalf to just poor racing luck to situations like we had last week. "We could win one of these things, break off with two or three top-fives in a row and it wouldn't surprise me. But we've just got to put a whole weekend together." 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
Joe Nemechek taking over at Atlanta while Ragan subs for Kyle Busch
KFC will be on the No. 34 Ford in the Daytona 500 Play: NASCAR Fantasy Live Front Row Motorsports announced Friday that David Ragan will return to its No. 34 Ford team in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series with sponsorship from KFC for the season-opening Daytona 500 on Feb. 22 (1 p.m. ET, FOX). Ragan -- entering his fourth year with team owner Bob Jenkins and his ninth full season at NASCAR's top level -- is a two-time Sprint Cup winner, including a victory in July 2011 at Daytona International Speedway. Nearly two years later, he gave Front Row its only premier series win at Talladega Superspeedway. That success prompted a one-race deal with KFC last May at Talladega, a pairing that will be renewed Feb. 22 in the Daytona 500. "It's great to have KFC back on our No. 34 for another superspeedway race," Ragan said in a release provided by the team. "We had fun with the partnership last year, we got them lots of attention running up front, and we look forward to doing that again in Daytona." Ragan struggled last season, logging just one top-10 finish as the No. 34 team limped to a tie for 32nd place in the final Sprint Cup standings. But the Statesville, North Carolina-based team has solidified its driver roster in the offseason by re-signing veteran David Gilliland and adding 23-year-old Cole Whitt to a full-time third team. FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule
Hendrick Motorsports teammates Johnson, Kahne rounded out top three Related: Practice 1 results Carl Edwards soared to the top of the leaderboard late in Thursday's opening practice for the Coca-Cola 600 (Sunday, 6 p.m. ET, FOX, PRN, SiriusXM) at Charlotte Motor Speedway , propelling his No. Joe Gibbs Racing 19 ride at 192.273 mph to snag the premier spot. Reigning Coca-Cola 600 champion Jimmie Johnson -- one of the first to head onto the track for practice -- sat on top of the leaderboard for most the the afternoon, with a high speed of 191.673 mph. He settled into the second-place slot after Edwards' late run knocked him off the top position. Johnson's Hendrick Motorsports teammate Kasey Kahne came up third-fastest in the field with a high speed of 191.639 mph. Kahne was also one of the first drivers to wheel his No. 5 ride onto the track for practice. Rounding out the top five were 2014 Sprint Cup champion and Stewart-Haas Racing 's Kevin Harvick (191.442 mph) and Michael Waltrip Rac ing 's David Ragan (191.435 mph). Following his 11-race absense from Sprint Cup racing, Kyle Busch returned to the race track last weekend for the Sprint All-Star Race and will be making his first Cup start in a points race this season at Charlotte. The Joe Gibbs Racing driver posted the 21st-fastest speed (190.081 mph) in his No. 18 Toyota during opening practice. Making his third Sprint Cup start this weekend, part-time Hendrick Motorsports rookie Chase Elliott posted the 27th-fastest time in the field, wheeling his No. 25 car at 189.142 mph. The current XFINITY champion will compete in the series' Hisense 300 on Saturday (2:30 p.m. ET, FOX, PRN, SiriusXM) at Charlotte. The Sprint Cup Series is back on track at 7:15 p.m. ET for Coors Light Pole Qualifying with coverage on FOX Sports 1. SHOP: Carl Edwards gear FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule
Jeff Gordon spins David Ragan after battling for the 7th position at Auto Club Speedway.
Jeff Gordon goes into detail about why he helped spin-out David Ragan at Auto Club Speedway.