MWR founder and co-owner Michael Waltrip will make his 28th start in the Great American Race.
Cornelius, N.C. — The No. 55 Aaron’s Dream Machine team at Michael Waltrip Racing will wait until the third race of the season before its regular driver Brian Vickers climbs behind the wheel of the team’s Toyota Camry.
As Vickers recovers from December heart surgery, MWR founder and co-owner Michael Waltrip will make his 28th start in the Great American Race in Daytona where he has won twice. Rising star Brett Moffitt will drive the No. 55 at Atlanta Motor Speedway on March 1 before Vickers returns at Las Vegas on March 8.
Crew Chief Billy Scott said the disappointment of the team not having its regular driver is offset by a two-time Daytona 500 champion in the car.
No. 55 crew chief Billy Scott: “It’s pretty cool to have someone with Michael’s experience and success in Daytona with us. I’ve worked with Michael in more than 20 superspeedway races over the years and I know he’s one of the best in the business at Daytona and Talladega. I think he knows every trick in the book when it comes to this place.
“We can learn from him and have a chance to run up front. The No. 55 finished third with Mark Martin in 2013 and Brian (Vickers) came within a few feet of winning here in July. We have a lot of confidence in our Toyotas and in Michael.”
Michael Waltrip on racing in the Daytona 500: "It's amazing first of all, but it really hit home when they said, 'We've got your seat in the car. Come down and check it out.' Just to get to the car and see the crew guys come over and say, 'How is it? We're so happy you're driving our car.’ I’m honored. I'm obviously down to my last couple of Daytona 500s if not the last one and to be able to have that energy and have those boys be happy that I was climbing in their car it reminded me of back in 2001 when I went to drive for Dale (Earnhardt) -- how good that felt. I had that same feeling.”
Waltrip on Daytona importance: “Daytona probably means more to me than most. The ups and downs and just as a kid in Kentucky going there for the first time and seeing that track and how much it meant to me and now I felt that same way. I felt like that kid again the other day when I was sitting in that car and all of the crew guys were there to help me get fitted in and ready to go."
Brian Vickers on Las Vegas return
“The doctors say that I'll be as strong as or better than I was before. The way the patch was replaced, it's actually a better way to do it because it's using your own natural skin to patch the hole as opposed to an artificial device, which is always better. They feel really good about my heart, that I'm actually better off than before and as far as my sternum -- obviously cracking my sternum open -- again they keep telling me that when that bone grows back, it will grow back stronger than before.
Actually where it grows back together will not be the weakest link anymore -- it will be somewhere else. Not to mention it's like wired together. It's about the size of a coat hanger making loops around my sternum. My doctors have insisted on giving me enough confidence that I'll be healthy and ready to go and strong as ever.”
Michael Waltrip Racing