NASCAR: Brett Moffitt to drive Brian Vickers’ No. 55 car at Atlanta

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Michael Waltrip Racing’s plans for its No. 55 Toyota Camry in the first two races of the 2015 Sprint Cup season are now fully realized.

While Brian Vickers is slated to return to the car at Las Vegas in March, team owner Michael Waltrip will drive it at the season-opening Daytona 500 on Feb. 22. And today during the NASCAR Media Tour in Charlotte, MWR announced that team test driver Brett Moffitt will take over the No. 55 the next week at Atlanta Motor Speedway.

Moffitt said following a team meeting that announced Waltrip’s involvement at Daytona, he was “a little bit down” because he wasn’t sure what direction things were going.

“They were trying to work everything out with Aaron’s and all of our partners at MWR,” Moffitt said. “But afterwards, [team executive] Ty [Norris] pulled me into his office and said, ‘Everything’s good. They want to give you this opportunity and we do here [at MWR] because we believe in you.’

That was probably one of the happiest days of my life, just being able to hear that. But from there, it transfers real quick to ‘All right, now I need to go out there and perform.'”

Moffitt drove the No. 66 car, a collaboration between MWR and Jay Robinson Racing, in seven Sprint Cup events last season. His best finish was a 22nd in his first race at Dover International Speedway in the spring. He also competed at Michigan, Bristol, Atlanta, Charlotte, Texas, and Homestead-Miami.

“He was the driver that everybody at Michael Waltrip Racing wanted to be in that car at Atlanta,” Waltrip said. “They believe in his ability and we know how much he’s helped us in our testing and preparation in getting to the race track.

“[No. 55 sponsor] Aaron’s is gonna reward him and Michael Waltrip Racing is going to reward him with the chance to drive a winning race car.”

Vickers, now with medical clearance to return at Vegas following corrective surgery in December to repair a hole in his heart, gave the move his blessing.

“He’s a great young man, he’s got a good head on his shoulders, and he’s a good race car driver,” Vickers said today in Charlotte. “I’ve been able to work with him a lot during testing, and I’ve been very proud of his effort.

“No one is more deserving of getting a shot at this car more at Atlanta than him. I think it was the right choice by everybody. There’s no doubt in my mind that he’s gonna go there and have a shot at winning that race.”

Red Bull’s Max Verstappen takes pole at Brazilian GP

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Red Bull’s Max Verstappen has taken pole position for Sunday’s Brazilian Grand Prix.

It’s the second career pole for the Dutch driver, who beat Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel by just 0.123 seconds.

Verstappen’s first pole was earlier this season at the Hungarian GP in August.

Six-time champion Lewis Hamilton of Mercedes will start from third position. The 2018 winner at Interlagos finished 0.191 seconds back.

Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc, Mercedes’ Valtteri Bottas and Red Bull’s Alexander Albon finished in fourth, fifth and sixth, respectively.

Hamilton was fastest in final practice earlier Saturday, 0.026 quicker than Verstappen.

The Brazilian GP on Sunday is the penultimate race of the season. Hamilton secured the season title, his sixth, in the previous race in the U.S.