David Ragan has been contacted by Joe Gibbs Racing about driving the No. 18 Toyota while Kyle Busch recovers from a compound fracture in his right leg, multiple sources told NASCAR Talk.
JGR is considering a plan that would share the ride between Ragan and Camping World Truck Series driver Erik Jones, who is under contract to the team, while Busch recovers from his injury. There is no timetable on the return for Busch, who spent a third consecutive night in a Daytona Beach, Fla., hospital after being hurt in a crash during Saturday’s Xfinity Series season opener at Daytona International Speedway.
Sources said the plan would be for Ragan to drive the No. 18 for nine races (starting this weekend at Atlanta) and turn the car over to Jones for the May 9 race at Kansas Speedway. Ragan then would return to Front Row Motorsports (which hadn’t selected a driver yet for his proposed absence).
Ragan, 29, has driven the No. 34 Ford for Front Row Motorsports in the Sprint Cup Series full time since the 2012 season. He has two victories in Cup, at Daytona in 2011 for Roush Fenway Racing and at Talladega in 2013 for Front Row.
The Charlotte Observer reported that Ragan met with JGR officials Tuesday morning at the team’s Huntersville, N.C., headquarters. Team owner Joe Gibbs met Monday morning with Jones, who has four career victories in the Truck Series, about taking over the No. 18, but there are concerns about how it might impact the 18-year-old’s future sponsorship prospects if he struggled in Busch’s absence.
Jones races full time for Kyle Busch Motorsports in the Truck Series and is running 10 races in the Xfinity Series for JGR. He is a likely candidate to take over Busch’s part-time schedule in the No. 54 Toyota on the Xfinity circuit.
Among the plans being considered would be to put Ragan in the No. 18 for several races and then allow Jones some time behind the wheel after he has more Xfinity and Truck experience.
It wasn’t clear immediately how Ragan’s Ford relationship might be affected, but multiple sources said JGR had received approval from Ford and Roush Fenway Racing to put driver Elliott Sadler in the No. 18 for the Daytona 500 before electing to run truck series champion Matt Crafton.
Front Row Motorsports has notified Ford officials that Ragan is in discussions with JGR, but as of late Tuesday morning, the manufacturer hadn’t been told a deal was in place.
Requests for comment from Ragan and Front Row Motorsports hadn’t been returned Tuesday morning.