Michael Waltrip Racing announced Thursday that team founder and co-owner Michael Waltrip will race in the Geico 500 May 3 at Talladega Superspeedway.
Waltrip will replace 22-year-old Brett Moffitt in the No. 55 Aaron’s Dream Machine Toyota Camry. Moffitt has driven the No. 55 since Brian Vickers stepped aside before the March 23 race at Fontana, Calif., because of a recurrence of blood clots.
“Talladega is a place where I know we will be very competitive,” said Waltrip, whose four career Sprint Cup victories all have occurred on restrictor-plate tracks, including his most recent in September 2003 at Talladega.
There also is a sentimental reason for Waltrip to return behind the wheel for the 780th start of his Sprint Cup career, which began 30 years ago.
“This will be my 58th Sprint Cup start at Talladega,” Waltrip said in a team release. “So believe me when I tell you Talladega is some of the best racing in the world and I’m glad I’ll get to be part of it again in the Aaron’s Dream Machine.”
A two-time Daytona 500 winner in 2001 and ’03, Waltrip’s last full-time season on the Sprint Cup circuit was 2009.
Since then, he’s competed in 20 one-off races, with 10 starts at Talladega, 8 at Daytona International Speedway and once apiece at Bristol Motor Speedway and Kentucky Speedway.
His best finishes during that stretch were a fourth and a fifth at Talladega during the 2013 season.
The 500-mile race at the 2.66-mile oval will mark Waltrip’s second start this year. He finished 26th in the season-opening Daytona 500 on Feb. 22.
Waltrip also will race an MWR car in the Oct. 25 race at Talladega.
That leaves nine spots for 13 drivers to compete for.
If there is a new winner, the following drivers could clinch by being ahead of the 10th winless driver in the standings.
– Joey Logano – would clinch with 7 points: 51 points ahead of the Round of 12 cutoff. Logano has finished third in the last two playoff races (at Darlington and Richmond). Has made 23 starts at Bristol posting one pole, two wins, six top fives and 10 top 10s. Logano’s average finish is 15.3.
– Martin Truex Jr. – would clinch with 20 points: 38 points ahead of the Round of 12 cutoff. Earned 22nd-place finish at Darlington and second-place finish at Richmond. Has made 29 series starts at Bristol posting two top fives and three top 10s. His average finish is 20.6.
– Austin Dillon – would clinch with 21 points: 36 points ahead of the Round of 12 cutoff. Dillion has a runner-up finish at Darlington and a fourth-place result last weekend at Richmond. Has 13 starts at Bristol posting one top five and three top 10s. His average finish is 17.3.
– Chase Elliott – Would clinch with 30 points: 28 points ahead of the Round of 12 cutoff. Elliott finished 20th at Darlington and fifth at Richmond. Has made nine starts at Bristol and has one pole, three top fives and four top 10s. Average finish is 12.6.
– Alex Bowman – would clinch with 31 points: 27 points ahead of the Round of 12 cutoff. Bowman placed sixth at Darlington and ninth at Richmond. Has made nine series starts at Bristol with one top five and two top 10s. His average finish is 22.6.
– Kyle Busch – would clinch with 40 points: Just 18 points ahead of the Round of 12 cutoff. Has seventh-place finish at Darlington and a sixth-place finish at Richmond. Has made 30 Cup starts at Bristol posting two poles and a series-leading eight wins among active drivers.
– Aric Almirola – would clinch with 51 points: Seven points ahead of the Round of 12 cutoff. Finished ninth at Darlington and eighth at Richmond. Has made 22 starts at Bristol with one top five and two top 10s. His average finish is 25.0.
– Kurt Busch – would clinch with 51 points: Seven points ahead of the cutoff sport. Almirola holds the tiebreaker of best finish in the current playoff round. Busch has finished eighth at Darlington and 13th at Richmond. Has 39 Cup starts at Bristol with one pole, six wins, 12 top fives and 21 top 10s. Average finish is 14th.
– Clint Bowyer – would clinch with 55 points: Three points over cutoff. Finished 10th at Darlington and Richmond. Bowyer has made 29 Cup starts at Bristol with eight top fives and 16 top 10s. Average finish is 13.6.
– William Byron (-3 points from cutoff; would need help to clinch): Finished fifth at Darlington and 21st at Richmond. Five Cup starts at Bristol with one top 10. Average finish of 17.2.
Cole Custer (-8 points; would need help to clinch): Finished 12th at Darlington and 14th at Richmond. Finished 25th in lone Bristol Cup start.
Matt DiBenedetto (-25 points; would need help to clinch): Finished 21st at Darlington and 17th at Richmond. Eleven Cup starts at Bristol with one top five and one top 10. Average finish of 19.1.
Ryan Blaney (-27 points; would need help to clinch): Finished 24th at Darlington and 19th at Richmond. Ten Cup starts at Bristol with one top five and three other top 10s. Average finish of 20.7.
Chase Briscoe took the lead with six laps to go and won Friday night’s Xfinity Series race at Bristol Motor Speedway, which marked the end of the regular season.
Briscoe passed Austin Cindric to assume the lead and went unchallenged to the checkered flag. The victory is his series-leading seventh of the season.
“I was so mad after last week (at Richmond),” Briscoe told NBCSN. “I told all the guys there ain’t no way we’re getting beat today. I was so mad after how we ran last week and I get on the internet all the time and see guys count us out after one bad race and I know what this team is capable. … I finished second here the last two races and I wanted to win here so bad and it’s awesome that I can actually celebrate it with all these race fans.”
Allgaier dominated the early portion of the race, leading 126 laps and winning the first two stages. But he lost the lead for good in the pits during the Stage 2 break.
Brandon Brown finished 12th and clinched the 12th and final playoff spot.
STAGE 1 WINNER: Justin Allgaier
STAGE 2 WINNER: Justin Allgaier
WHO HAD A GOOD RACE: Ross Chastain led three times for 117 laps, but had to settle for his fifth runner-up finish of the season without a win … Austin Cindric earned his 13th top-10 finish in the last 14 races … Harrison Burton earned his 13th top five of the season.
Spectators will be not be allowed for any of the NASCAR playoff races next weekend at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, the track announced Friday night.
A press release said only essential personnel will be allowed to attend the Cup, Xfinity and Truck playoff races there.
“To say we’re disappointed that we will conduct the South Point 400 playoff weekend without fans would be a gross understatement,” said Las Vegas Motor Speedway President Chris Powell. “Our staff has been working – many of them remotely – since the February Pennzoil 400 to prepare the speedway for our playoff tripleheader.
“But we must adhere to Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak’s directive that limits gatherings due to COVID-19. While we disagree with this policy, we have no choice but to oblige. We certainly regret this situation for the thousands of race fans who won’t be able to attend our NASCAR-weekend events.”
Nevada’s re-opening plan does not permit fans at sporting events, concerts. Groups are limited to 50 or fewer people.