Currently subbing for the injured Kyle Busch, Ragan hopes to bring stability to embroiled MWR team.
David Ragan is taking over the driving duties for the No. 55 Aaron’s Toyota effective at Kansas Speedway next weekend and until the end of the season.
Michael Waltrip Racing officially announced the arrangement on Tuesday after the Charlotte Observer first broke the story last Friday.
Ragan, 29, replaces MWR development driver Brett Moffitt, who initially took over at Atlanta for Brian Vickers following his heart surgery in December. Although Vickers returned at Las Vegas, he was sidelined again for recurring blood clots prior to the Auto Club Speedway race on March 22.
Moffitt returned to the No. 55 car again. The team said in the release there is no timetable for Vickers' return.
Our original plans for the No. 55 team have been challenged since December and we felt it was important for our employees and our sponsors to solidify the remainder of the 2015 season.
“Life has thrown a lot at MWR the first part of this racing season, but our team has stood tall and worked through it,” said team owner Michael Waltrip in the release. “Our original plans for the No. 55 team have been challenged since December and we felt it was important for our employees and our sponsors to solidify the remainder of the 2015 season.
“The opportunity to bring David Ragan into the team is incredible for a number of reasons. He will bring experience, consistency and a lot of confidence based on how he has been running with our Toyota teammates at Joe Gibbs Racing.
"He also puts the No. 55 team and Aaron’s right back into the Chase for the Sprint Cup contention, which is a very positive turn of events for that team.”
A tumultuous time
As Waltrip said, the relationship Ragan has developed with JGR should offer insight to MWR, which has struggled this season. Ragan has subbed in the No. 18 M&Ms Toyota for seven of the first eight races in 2015 while Kyle Busch has been on the mend following his wreck at Daytona.
Given MWR’s lack of performance in the last two years, any bridge to Gibbs and Toyota Racing Development would be a bonus.
Second, Aaron’s is up for renewal this year. Aligning Ragan, a Georgia native with the Atlanta-based company, who has been associate with Waltrip since 2000, makes sense.
Ragan, who is currently 19th in the Sprint Cup point standings, will offer Aaron’s stability which is something the sponsor hasn’t had since David Reutimann left in 2011. The following year the team divided driving duties of the No. 55 Toyota between Mark Martin, Brian Vickers and Michael Waltrip.
While this combination brought success and exposure for Aaron’s – including Vicker’s last Sprint Cup win in 2013 – MWR’s Richmond debacle was a blemish on the team. While Aaron’s stood by MWR, the company lost NAPA and hasn’t recovered since.
It’s tough what’s happened to them this year but I hope I can come in and make 2015 something special.
“The only way I can repay all the people I have to thank for making this happen is to go out and win races and get MWR, Aaron’s and Toyota in the Chase,” Ragan said. “It’s going to be awesome knowing when I climb in the No. 55 at Kansas that car will be mine the rest of the season. I look forward to working with (teammate) Clint Bowyer, the crew and shop employees at MWR.
“It’s tough what’s happened to them this year but I hope I can come in and make 2015 something special.”
Ragan has two career wins, two poles, 15 top fives and 36 top 10 finishes in 299 starts. His 300th career Cup start will come this weekend with JGR in the No. 18 Toyota at Talladega, where he earned his second career victory – and the first for Front Row Motorsports in the 2013 spring race.
"We are grateful to David Ragan for his contributions to the growth of Front Row Motorsports and his commitment to our partners over the past three years,” said Front Row Motorsports team owner Bob Jenkins.
“He led us on our first trip to Victory Lane, and that's a moment we'll never forget. We wish him the best with his new team.”
Chris Buescher will drive the No. 34 Front Row Motorsports Ford this weekend. As for Moffitt, 22, who performed admirably for MWR under the circumstances, Waltrip says he will remain with the team.
“I’m really proud of the incredible job Brett Moffitt has done for us in the 55,” Waltrip said. “He has been a big part of this organization for the last couple of years and he will continue in that role.
"With the limited number of starts Brett has in this industry, he has proven that he has the talent to be a full-time NASCAR Sprint Cup driver and we are still committed to helping him get that opportunity.”