In an unusual swap between teams and manufacturers, David Ragan will replace injured Kyle Busch in the No. 18 Toyota in Sprint Cup starting this weekend at Atlanta Motor Speedway.
A release from Joe Gibbs Racing indicated Ragan would drive the Camry for “the next several weeks” and eventually return to driving the No. 34 Ford for Front Row Motorsports this season. Multiple sources have told NASCAR Talk that the plan would be for Ragan to drive Busch’s car for nine races before turning the ride over to Erik Jones for the May 9 race at Kansas Speedway. Jones is under contract to JGR and is running a 10-race schedule in the Xfinity Series for the team. He also will replace Busch in JGR’s No. 54 Toyota for Saturday’s Xfinity race.
Busch was released Tuesday morning from Halifax Health Medical Center in Daytona Beach, Fla., and transferred to a hospital near his home in the Charlotte, N.C., area for further treatment. He suffered a compound fracture of his lower right leg and a fractured left foot. No timetable has been determined for Busch’s return.
A JGR spokesman said the team would re-evaluate the situation when Ragan’s term ends if Busch isn’t ready to be back in the car by then.
A Front Row spokesperson said an announcement on Ragan’s replacement isn’t expected tonight.
Ragan, 29, has two victories in 291 starts through eight full-time seasons in NASCAR’s premier series.
“We appreciate being able to work with Front Row Motorsports and (sponsor) CSX for David’s availability,” JGR owner Joe Gibbs said in a release. “We are fortunate to be able to have someone of David’s caliber behind the wheel while Kyle recovers.
“Erik is a big part of our future at JGR and we will be increasing his schedule in the XFINITY Series beginning this weekend in Atlanta and seeking the earliest opportunity to provide him Cup experience. We appreciate all the support we have received from the NASCAR community including our fans and we look forward to getting Kyle back in the car as soon as possible.”
Ford issued a statement, expressing its support for Ragan in this move: “We at Ford understand this is a very unusual situation, and we are supportive of our teams, sponsors, and drivers making the best decision, given the circumstances. We have a great relationship with both David and Front Row Motorsports, and thus will be supportive of their actions.”