NASCAR: Brett Moffitt set for Sprint Cup debut this week at Dover

Leave a comment

Michael Waltrip Racing test driver Brett Moffitt will suit up for his inaugural Sprint Cup race at a track that he knows well.

The 21-year-old Iowan, who has three NASCAR national series starts to his name, is scheduled to drive the No. 66 Jay Robinson Racing Toyota in this weekend’s FedEx 400 benefiting Autism Speaks at Dover International Speedway.

“If you ask around the garage, you will learn he’s one of the most respected young men in the sport who just hasn’t had a chance at a full-time ride,” Robinson said to The Des Moines (Iowa) Register. “We think he has a lot of talent and will show it at Dover.”

Moffitt is a previous two-time winner at the “Monster Mile” in the K&N Pro Series East. More recently, he filled in for MWR and the ailing Brian Vickers in a test session last fall at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

“I’m honored Jay asked me to drive his car at Dover,” Moffitt said in a release. “The Monster Mile is a tough, but fun track and I can’t wait to get there. I won the 2009 and 2010 K&N East race at Dover so I think I’ll feel comfortable there, but Sprint Cup racing is a whole new world.

“I appreciate all the support I have received from Jay Robinson, TRD [Toyota Racing Development] and everyone at Michael Waltrip Racing for making this happen. My goals are to qualify well and learn all I can during the race.”

The No. 66 Toyota is run as part of a partnership between the MWR and Robinson camps; Waltrip (two races) and NBC Sports’ own Jeff Burton (one race) have raced it under the MWR banner this year, while veteran Joe Nemechek has been its primary driver for the Robinson side.

A former member of the NASCAR Next project, Moffitt was one of the K&N East series’ most consistent drivers in his five-year run from 2009 to 2013.

He collected nine wins, 10 poles, 33 Top-5s, and 44 Top-10s in that span. While he was unable to win a series championship, he finished second in the standings twice, and third three times; last year, he lost the title by 33 points to current Nationwide Series driver Dylan Kwasniewski.

As far as his national series work is concerned, Moffitt finished ninth in a Nationwide race two years ago on home ground at Iowa Speedway. Last year, he made two Camping World Truck Series starts at Kentucky (14th place) and Michigan (17th).

Sebastien Ogier in driver’s seat for sixth straight World Rally Championship title

Sebastien Ogier leads the way in the WRC title chase. Photo: Getty Images
Leave a comment

COFFS HARBOUR, Australia (AP) — Thierry Neuville finished the sixth stage of Rally Australia on Friday without a rear left tire, damaging his chances of catching five-time defending champion Sebastien Ogier for the World Rally Championship title.

The Belgian driver entered the rally just three points behind Ogier in the closest title fight in 15 years.

He held the upper hand on his French rival, building a near-10 second gap through the first five stages at Coffs Harbour before hitting a chicane and finishing the stage with only three tires on his Hyundai.

Neuville was fortunate the puncture occurred late enough in the day to finish all six forestry stages and avoid a retirement. But the mistake cost him 40 seconds and gave Ogier, who is 33 seconds ahead of him, a clear run at his sixth straight championship.

In his last start with Ford before a move to Citroen next year, Ogier struggled as the first to drive the dusty, slippery forest routes.

“I pushed like crazy, I was on the limit over the jump and everywhere, I can’t do (any) more,” Ogier said. “I was on the limit.”

With Ogier on sweeping duties the back markers flourished, and Mads Ostberg took the lead in his return to the series.

Ostberg was forced to miss the previous round in Spain to make way for rally winner and nine-time world champion Sebastien Loeb, who was making the last of his three guest appearances for Citroen.

Now back in the seat, Ostberg leads Jari-Matti Latvala by 6.8 seconds in the Australian rally, with sixth-stage winner Craig Breen in third.

Ogier was seventh, 38.2 seconds off the pace, but only needs to finish ahead of Neuville to claim the championship title. Neuville is in 10th place after six stages.

Roles will reverse on Saturday, with Ogier to start further back in the field and do his best on cleaner roads to make up the day-one deficit before Sunday’s final stages.

Andreas Mikkelsen, the 2016 Rally Australia champion, was an early dropout after rolling into a ditch in his Hyundai. Mikkelsen had only just avoided a tractor that had found its way onto the course.

Former winner Molly Taylor and co-driver Malcolm Read were also forced out of their event when their Subaru hit a hay bale at high speed on the morning’s second stage. Both reported soreness but suffered no serious injuries.

The 24-stage rally totals 319 kilometers (197 miles). Ten stages are scheduled Saturday with the final six on Sunday, most of them through forests on the New South Wales state’s north coast about 530 kilometers (325 miles) north of Sydney.