RELATED: Full results from Bristol " Updated standings BRISTOL, Tenn. -- After the tumultuous week that was for Michael Waltrip Racing , the embattled team was neatly set up for a double ray of Saturday night sunshine in the sport's most prestigious nighttime event. The much-needed shot in the arm wound up being a split decision at Bristol Motor Speedway, owing to a doubly unfortunate late-race collision between the organization's two teammates. Clint Bowyer 's determined drive in Saturday's Irwin Tools Night Race wrapped up a fifth-place finish, the No. 15 Toyota team's fourth top-10 effort in the last five events and a solidifying boost to his Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup playoffs footing. Teammate David Ragan -- poised to join his teammate in the front-running quintet -- exited early, catching the worst of the Lap 371 tangle that dented both MWR entries. RELATED: See what happened to Ragan "Damn, you hate to have two good cars and the last person you want to get into and have trouble with is your teammate," Bowyer said. "I've been sick to death about that. We had two top-five cars and MWR really needed that run." Michael Waltrip Racing announced Wednesday that it would cease its full schedule of Sprint Cup participation at season's end, granting Bowyer his release. But in the same announcement, team co-owner Rob Kauffman stressed that "MWR will race hard and compete for the remainder of the 2015 season." RELATED: MWR won't field full-time entries in 2016 Both Bowyer and Ragan clearly took the "race hard" portion of the statement to heart, putting both cars into the top 10 of the starting lineup. Ragan moved as high as third in the running order, picking up six spots on a long green-flag run after the 500-lapper's midway point. That charge placed him right behind Bowyer, who stormed into the top five after a series of early gains. The high hopes went haywire, though, just four laps after a Lap 368 restart. Bowyer and Ragan bottled up on the low side of Jimmie Johnson 's No. 48 Chevrolet, which forced the two MWR cars to make contact in a three-abreast clash at the exit of Turn 2. Ragan's No. 55 Toyota spun low, resulting in severe contact with the inside retaining wall. Bowyer righted himself and continued, but made contact with Brad Keselowski 's No. 2 Ford at the end of the straightaway, looping the No. 15. From there, Bowyer was able to stay on the lead lap and methodically rally again, edging Keselowski for the last spot among the top five. "We desperately needed a solid run right there," Bowyer said. "I mean, obviously, you're hungry for a win with this organization giving everything it had. I drove my ass off. It just ... we just came up short. I’m really proud of all of these guys on the 5-hour Energy Toyota. They're digging, man. It's fun to be a part of this. It's fun to be a part of a group that can answer the call when you gotta dig down and reach down a little bit more to get in that Chase and be a part of that elite group. These guys are up for the challenge." The outcome was more disheartening for Ragan , who was closing in on his first top-five or top-10 since joining Michael Waltrip Racing as an interim driver in May. "It's uncalled for to get wrecked and to be involved in a wreck like that but all in all just one of those racing things," Ragan said. "… Anytime you're in that top five or with a chance to win, it's disappointing. This is one of my favorite races and we did the best we could." MWR's silver lining, though, came from Bowyer, who improved his grip on the 16th and final berth in the provisional Chase grid. His top-five allowed him to increase his margin from 23 to 35 points over nearest challenger Aric Almirola , Saturday night's 17th-place finisher. Though the No. 15 team is mindful of what it needs to become playoff-eligible in the remaining two regular-season races, crew chief Billy Scott said the crew hasn't let it alter their strategy or outlook. "We try to put that on the back burner," Scott said. "Until Richmond, it really doesn't matter. All you can do is look after yourself and get the best finish we can right now. When we get down to the last few at Richmond, it might matter with your strategy a little bit to keep an eye on where they are, but if we keep doing what we need to, it'll take care of itself."
RELATED: MWR won't field full-time teams in 2016 MORE: Kauffman: 'Made sense to not go forward' The week it was announced Michael Waltrip Racing would not field full-time teams in 2016, Clint Bowyer 's No. 15 and David Ragan 's No. 55 MWR Toyotas were running in the top five with 125 laps to go when they wound up with damage at Bristol. Bowyer had been running as high as second in the Irwin Tools Night Race , needing a win to give him a secure spot in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup . He entered the weekend 16th in Chase Grid standings, 32 points behind Jeff Gordon . The No. 48 of Jimmie Johnson came down on Ragan's No. 55, spinning his car and sending him into the interior wall, also clipping Bowyer and causing minor damage. Only 12 cars were on the lead lap at the time. Ragan took his wounded machine to the garage and finished 40th. Bowyer recovered and finished fifth, just behind Johnson. Bowyer was able to gain ground on Gordon, who finished 20th in the No. 24 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet, and Aric Almirola , who sits behind him in the Chase Grid standings. After Bristol, Bowyer is 17 points behind Gordon and 35 poitns ahead of Almirola.
A three-wide battle between David Ragan , Jimmie Johnson and Clint Bowyer sends Ragan into the inside wall at Bristol Motor Speedway.
Photo credit: @MW55 MORE: Buy tickets for Darlington " Enter sweepstakes for Darlington weekend SHOP: Darlington gear When David Ragan takes the track at Darlington Raceway for the Bojangles' Southern 500 on Sept. 6 (7 p.m. ET, NBC, MRN, SiriusXM), he will be honoring his father, Ken Ragan . The No. 55 Michael Waltrip Racing Toyota for Darlington will have a paint scheme similar to what Ken Ragan's cars looked like when he drove in the sport's top series. RELATED: Darlington throwback looks revealed so far "My Dad and guys like my Dad put a lot of heart and soul in this sport back in the 1970s and 80s and this is my way of honoring the guys that built what all of us enjoy today," David Ragan said in a team release "I want to thank Aaron’s for allowing us to recognize my Dad and all the racers from that era at Darlington this year." Ken Ragan ran 50 premier series races is his career, including five starts at Darlington. The No. 55 Toyota will carry a red and white paint scheme similar to what the elder Ragan piloted in 1987. "I was too young to really ever remember watching Dad race on the track," David Ragan said. "But he's been a big part of my career and I know he has a lot of friends in the garage who will remember seeing him in this car." Photo of Ken Ragan's car courtesy of Michael Waltrip Racing
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
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
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
Before the Irwin Tools Night Race at Bristol Motor Speedway (7:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN, PRN, SiriusXM), the NASCAR Sprint Cup pilots came out during driver introductions to songs they chose. Check out the list below in the order they were introduced, starting with last-place qualifier Mike Bliss and ending with Coors Light Pole Award winner Denny Hamlin . 43rd place) Mike Bliss - "Hells Bells" by AC/DC 42nd place) Matt DiBenedetto - "I Love Rock 'n Roll" by Joan Jett 41st place) Timmy Hill - "Watch Me (Whip/Nae Nae)" by Silento 40th place) Tony Stewart - "Smoke On The Water" by Deep Purple 39th place) Landon Cassill - "Smooth" by Santana 38th place) J.J. Yeley - "Devil in Disguise" by Elvis Presley 37th place) David Gilliland - Kickstart My Heart" by Motley Crue 36th place) Alex Bowman - "Bring Me The Horizon" by Throne 35th place) Michael Annett - "Bernie Lean" by Bernie Dance 34th place) Josh Wise - "Dixieland Delight" by Alabama 33rd place) Cole Whitt - "Armor For The Lord" by Blake Whiteley 32nd place) Danica Patrick - "Hot Blooded" by Foreigner 31st place) Aric Almirola - "I Can't Drive 55" by Sammy Hagar 30th place Michael McDowell "Nothing I Can't Do" by Tedashii 29th place) Paul Menard - "Symphony of Destruction" by Megadeth 28th place Casey Mears "Fuel" by Metallica 27th place) Brett Moffitt - "Cowboy" by Kid Rock 26th place) Sam Hornish Jr . - "Touch of Grey" by Grateful Dead 25th place) AJ Allmendinger - "Tainted Love" by Marilyn Manson 24th place) Jeff Gordon - "E.I." by Nelly 23rd place) Martin Truex Jr . - "La Grange" by ZZ Top 22nd place) Trevor Bayne - "Back Where I Come From" by Kenny Chesney 21st place) Jamie McMurray - "Walk This Way" by Aerosmith 20th place) Dale Earnhardt Jr . - "Eminence Front" by The Who 19th place) Kasey Kahne - "Cherry Bomb" by John Mellencamp 18th place) Ryan Newman - "Good Ol' Boys" by Waylon Jennings 17th place) Greg Biffle - "Wild Side" by Motley Crue 16th place) Austin Dillon - "Move" by Ludacris 15th place) Ryan Blaney - "Even Flow" by Pearl Jam 14th place) Justin Allgaier - "Ready Set Roll" by Chase Rice 13th place) Matt Kenseth - "Stife" by Trivium 12th place) Kyle Larson - "Saturday Night's Alright (For Fighting)" by Elton John 11th place) Kurt Busch - "Party Up (Up In Here)" by DMX 10th place) Jimmie Johnson - "Renegades" by X Ambassadors 9th place) Clint Bowyer - "Going Through the Big D" by Mark Chesnutt 8th place) Ricky Stenhouse Jr . - "The Stroke" by Billy Squier 7th place) Kevin Harvick - "Real Life" by Jake Owen 6th place) Brad Keselowski - "Drop It Like It's Hot" by Snoop Dogg 5th place) Joey Logano - "I'm Shipping Up To Boston" by Dropkick Murphys 4th place) David Ragan - "Only In America" by Brooks and Dunn 3rd place) Carl Edwards - "Juke Box Hero" by Foreigner 2nd place) Kyle Busch - DJ Barry 1st place) Denny Hamlin - "Heart Upon My Sleeve" by Avicii