NASCAR & Auto Racing

Driver David Ragan set to join Michael Waltrip Racing next month

Get a good look at the driver lineup for Saturday night’s Toyota Owners 400 at Richmond International Raceway, because it won’t remain that way much longer.

Yet another round of driver musical chairs is set to unfold as soon as next week as several Sprint Cup teams continue to deal with drivers with extended health issues this season.

David Ragan, who entered the season planning to run with Front Row Motorsports, is expected to move to Michael Waltrip Racing’s No. 55 Toyota beginning with the May 9 race at Kansas Speedway, multiple sources confirmed to the Observer on Friday.

Ragan has been driving Joe Gibbs Racing’s No. 18 Toyota in place of Kyle Busch, who was injured in a wreck in the Xfinity Series season opener at Daytona. He would replace rookie Brett Moffitt in the No. 55, who has been filling in most of the team’s races since the team’s regular driver, Brian Vickers, was sidelined once again with blood clots.

Ragan would remain with the team for the rest of the 2015 season, sources said.

Saturday’s race is expected to be the last for Moffitt with MWR in the Cup series, but the organization remains committed to obtaining sponsorship in order to run him in a third team and he remains under contract with MWR.

MWR officials would say only that Moffitt was always listed as week-to-week and team co-owner Michael Waltrip is driving the No. 55 next week at Talladega, Ala. A driver for Kansas has not yet been determined, officials said.

An official announcement is expected sometime next week, sources said.

Ragan’s move will require another fill-in driver for JGR in the No. 18 as Busch is not yet set to return to competition.

Sources said JGR will move Xfinity and Truck series driver Erik Jones into the No. 18 beginning with the Kansas race.

Jones, 18, made an impromptu Cup series debut last weekend at Bristol, Tenn., filling in for Denny Hamlin in the No. 11 Toyota. After a collective decision by his team, Hamlin elected not to continue the race after a four-hour red-flag for rain because of neck spasms.

An official with Joe Gibbs Racing said "nothing has been confirmed" thus far about any changes to their driver lineup.

"Erik has been doing an awesome job obviously in the Xfinity car and Truck and he's obviously got a lot of talent," said Matt Kenseth, last weekend’s race winner and Jones’ JGR teammate. "I think it's hard to judge him either way in what he did in Bristol in Denny's car.

"Man, that was a tough environment – not one lap of practice and even though he ran the race before, the Cup race is just so different to jump in there and go that fast and be surrounded by all those cars and everything."

With Ragan moving to the No. 55 for the remainder of the season, Front Row Motorsports will need to find a more permanent replacement for Ragan in its No. 34 Ford.

Roush Fenway Racing has been loaning Xfinity driver Chris Buescher to the team when the schedule doesn’t disrupt his run for Xfinity Series championship.

That arrangement could well continue, with other drivers used when Buscher’s schedule doesn’t allow double-duty, sources said.

A FRM spokesman said at this time, the organization was still expecting Ragan to return to the team whenever his tenure at JGR is completed.

Utter: 704-358-5113; Twitter: @jim_utter

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