CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — David Ragan will move to Michael Waltrip Racing next week and finish the season as the replacement driver for Brian Vickers.
Ragan has been filling in at Joe Gibbs Racing for Kyle Busch since the second week of the season. Busch is expected to return soon, and JGR has wanted to give 18-year-old development driver Erik Jones some seat time in a Sprint Cup car before Busch comes back.
That frees up Ragan, who will take over the No. 55 Toyota at Kansas Speedway. Team co-owner Michael Waltrip will drive the car Sunday at Talladega.
“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,” Ragan said. “It’s tough what’s happened to them this year, but I hope I can come in and make 2015 something special.”
Vickers missed the first two races of the season as he recovered from heart surgery. He returned for two races but was sidelined again in March with recurring blood clots.
No timetable has been set for Vickers’ return.
“Life has thrown a lot at MWR the first part of this racing season, but our team has stood tall and worked through it,” Waltrip said.
He added that the decision to use Ragan for the rest of the year was to give the team and sponsor Aaron’s some stability.
“There is absolutely no question about Brian Vickers’ ability, but there remains a question of his availability,” Waltrip said. “We are going to remain very close with Brian while he works on his plan to return.”
Vickers must take blood thinners, and he can’t race while on them because of the chance of uncontrollable internal bleeding if he crashed.
“We have told him that MWR is here when he has a clear picture about what the future holds, but we don’t need to add any timeline pressures,” Waltrip said. “He is working with a lot of medical advisers, and once he has established his plan, we will sit down and discuss next steps.”
Brett Moffitt has driven six races in place of Vickers this season. The 22-year-old is a development driver with MWR, and the team likely wants to see him in a steady Truck Series or Xfinity Series ride rather than rush him into a Sprint Cup seat. Moffitt’s best finish was eighth at Atlanta in March.
Ragan, meanwhile, has a fifth-place finish this year in Busch’s car, and he’ll drive it for a final time this weekend at Talladega, where he won in 2013.
Front Row Motorsports will use Chris Buescher this weekend at Talladega and work on filling Ragan’s old No. 34 Ford for the rest of the season.
“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 team owner Bob Jenkins. “He led us on our first trip to victory lane, and that’s a moment we’ll never forget.”
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