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.”

Andretti ‘getting closer’ to re-signing Alexander Rossi in IndyCar

INDYCAR Photo by Joe Skibinski
INDYCAR Photo by Joe Skibinski
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TORONTO – Team owner Michael Andretti told NBCSports.com that contract negotiations with both Alexander Rossi and Honda Performance Development are progressing positively with hopes of reaching a conclusion “within the next week or two.”

Andretti spoke to NBCSports.com and to NBCN’s Robin Miller Sunday at the Honda Indy Toronto.

“I think things are getting there,” Andretti said. “We’re not there yet, but we’re close. I can’t comment, but I think things are going in the right direction.

“Honda has been great. They’ve been really good to work with. I’m hoping we can put something together there, too. We’ve been part of Honda for so long. I think we are getting real close there.

“I’m hoping to have this resolved in the next week or two.”

Rossi, who is in the final year of his contract, finished third in the race, one position ahead of championship rival Josef Newgarden of Team Penske.

That leaves Rossi just four points behind Newgarden heading into Saturday night’s race at Iowa Speedway.

Rossi’s agent is his father, Pieter.

NBCSports.com spoke to Pieter Rossi before the race, and he also expressed optimism that a deal will be reached soon for his son as the star driver, 27, enters the prime years of his career.

Andretti had separate meetings with Honda Performance Development officials and with Pieter Rossi in the hours leading up to Sunday’s Honda Indy Toronto.