With drivers out of cars due to injury, surgery and suspension, there have been plenty of subs needed in just the first two events of the year. At Atlanta Motor Speedway, four sub-drivers took to the track and in the end, it was a rookie topping them in performance.
Brett Moffitt would run solidly near the front all the day, just outside of the top 15. He was able to escape a pair of incidents in the final 69 laps to finish eighth.
“This is truly amazing,” he commented. “We showed good speed all weekend long. We just couldn’t bust off a quick lap on fresh tires and we kept adjusting on the car during the race. It wasn’t where we needed it to start and I kept learning how to be more aggressive on the restarts and use other people’s air to benefit me. I can’t thank Michael Waltrip Racing, Toyota and Aaron’s enough for this opportunity. Definitely learned a lot out there. Wish I could be in the car more often.”
Moffitt added that he learned little things that led to being able to race around his fellow competitors all day without losing control.
“Atlanta has a lot of tire fall off, so being able to run the majority of a run – 40, 50 laps – and still be good at the end paid off a lot,” he continued. “Our car had great speed and I can’t thank Aaron’s and Michael Waltrip Racing enough for this opportunity.”
Regan Smith would finish 17th in his second straight start behind the wheel of the No. 41 Haas Automation Chevrolet. Whether Smith will continue to drive the car beyond Atlanta has yet to be announced by Stewart-Haas Racing.
David Ragan would finish 18th in his first race behind the wheel of the No. 18 M&MS Camry subbing for the injured Kyle Busch. Ragan ran up front early in the event, but faded during the second half.
“I was really thrilled,” Ragan reflected. “The first 100 laps of the race, our M&M’s Crispy Camry was fast, had speed and track position, means a lot at any race; we fell back a little bit and I think it was a snowball effect. We just really probably were a little behind on our adjustments and that’s probably just my inexperience with these guys and being a little timid on making a few adjustments. As the track rubbered up at the halfway mark of the race, we were just way too loose, so we had to take some pretty big swings to get back, but I was happy at the end of the race. We had some good speed, but we had lost too much ground. All in all, a good weekend. We learned a lot, brought the car back in one piece, but we can run better than that. I felt like we had a good, solid top-10 car and things just didn’t shake out.”
Ragan is expected to drive the car for the next couple of months before returning to Front Row Motorsports, and feels encouraged by the speed they showed today.
“Adam Stevens (crew chief) and these guys are great to work with,” he commented. “Our pit crew is outstanding and I think we made a bad selection on our pit box today – we couldn’t get out of our stall for anything. We’ve got some really good guys and so our first weekend – kind of knock the rust off all of us and I’ll be able to get back and debrief a little bit and hopefully have a little calmer week. These guys didn’t know who has going to drive the cars until Tuesday night. I think this week will go a lot smoother and looking forward to Las Vegas.”
Joe Nemechek wouldn’t have the day that he was looking for with Front Row Motorsports subbing for Ragan as he was tagged by Greg Biffle with 21 laps to go, resulting in heavy contact with the outside wall. As a result, he’d finish 33rd.