Brett Moffitt wins Rookie of the Year after unexpected Sprint Cup experience


Brett Moffitt won an award Sunday night that he had no plans of pursuing 10 months ago.

But due to illness, injuries and other racing oddities, the 23-year-old native of Iowa won the Sprint Cup Series Rookie of the Year award for 2015.

That wasn’t an option when Moffitt began 2015 with only one scheduled race at Atlanta. Moffitt drove and finished eighth in the No. 55 substituting for Brian Vickers who was recovering from heart surgery before a return the following week at Las Vegas.

“We kind of got pressured into it in a way,” Moffitt said after finishing 31st in the Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway. “It’s a great reason, but having one race on my schedule I didn’t sign up for (Rookie of the Year), so my eighth-place (finish) in Atlanta didn’t count and then my next few races for Michael Waltrip Racing didn’t count towards Rookie of the Year.”

Moffitt thought his Aaron’s firesuit would find a place behind the glass of a shadow box, but he was wearing again three races later at Auto Club Speedway after it was announced Vickers would be out indefinitely due to blood clots. Moffitt would pilot the No. 55 for five races before David Ragan took over.

“Once we reached a point where I knew I was going to do at least seven races and wouldn’t be eligible in 2016 to run for Rookie of the Year, at that point we said, why not sign up for it and hope things work out?”

They did. In between his first two MWR starts, Moffitt drove the No. 34 for Front Row Motorsports. When his stint with MWR was up after the spring Richmond race, the No. 34 that had been driven by Chris Buescher in four races (subbing for Ragan) was his.

“That’s really where Bob (team owner Bob Jenkins) and everyone at Front Row Motorsports kind of made this happen,” Moffitt said. “They stuck their neck out on the line and hired a rookie, and it paid off.”

Where things started with just one race, Moffitt concluded 2015 with 31 more Sprint Cup races under his belt, on top of the seven he drove in 2014. Moffitt wouldn’t have believed anyone that told him he would be the Sprint Cup Rookie of the Year within the calendar year.

“I’m surrounded by a lot of optimistic people but I’m kind of a realist,” Moffitt said. “So when I was sitting on my couch last December, October … I had no clue what I was going to do. I had raced the (K&N Pro Series) East series for five years and had one Xfinity (Series) start that went well, and I thought that was going to take off to something, and it just didn’t.”

Moffitt went from the couch to winning an award that’s been won by Kyle Larson (2014), Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (2013) and Joey Logano (2009).

Now Moffitt hopes what he did in a season he wasn’t expecting will help out his future. Sitting in the Homestead media center, he said his “slate is empty” so far for 2016. If he doesn’t find a Cup ride at any point next year, he would join two of the last five ROTY winners –  Andy Lally in 2011 and Stephen Leicht in 2012 – in not competing in the series the year after winning the honor.

Leicht hasn’t competed in any NASCAR series since and Lally has only competed in three Xfinity races. Kevin Conway (2010) ran in three Cup races in 2011 but hasn’t been in any NASCAR race since.

“We’re working hard, but it’s hard to secure the funding to be able to run in any of the top three series,” Moffitt said. “If anything would come forward, I’d be more than willing to work with any series, whether it was Truck, Xfinity or another Cup ride.”

He has no plans yet, but Moffitt knows a thing or two about dealing with the unexpected.

Charlotte Cup race postponed to Monday by weather


CONCORD, N.C. — All-day rain Sunday forced the postponement of the Coca-Cola 600 NASCAR Cup Series race to Monday.

The postponement means that Charlotte Motor Speedway is scheduled to host 900 miles of stock car racing Monday. A 300-mile Xfinity Series race, originally scheduled Saturday and first postponed to noon Monday, has been rescheduled for 11 a.m. ET Monday (FS1, Performance Racing Network, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio). The Cup race is scheduled to start at 3 p.m. (Fox, Performance Racing Network, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).

Sunday’s Cup race was scheduled to start at 6:21 p.m. ET, but light rain was still falling at that time in the speedway area near Charlotte. Rain intensified a few minutes later and, despite an evening forecast that showed slight improvement, officials decided at 6:30 p.m. to postpone the race.

Monday’s forecast calls for a 34% chance of rain at the start of the Xfinity race and a 30% chance at the start of the Cup race.

William Byron will start the race from the pole after qualifying was washed out Saturday night.

RFK Racing gains sponsorship from submarine recruiting group


CONCORD, N.C. — NASCAR racing and submarines? Yes.

RFK Racing announced Sunday at Charlotte Motor Speedway that it has entered a partnership with BlueForge Alliance, which is involved in securing workers for the U.S. Navy’s Submarine Industrial Base (SIB) program. will be a primary sponsor for RFK drivers Brad Keselowski and Chris Buescher in 10 Cup Series races this year and in 18 races per season beginning in 2024.

The sponsorship will showcase the careers related to the submarine-building program across the nation.

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“I’m proud to support a cause of such vital significance to our country with this new partnership,” Keselowski said. “The synergies between a NASCAR team and our military’s needs to stay on track fast are countless. We hope to inspire the workforce of the next generation across the country when they see RFK race and hear our message.”

The sponsorship will support the mission to recruit, hire, train, develop and retain the SIB workforce that will build the Navy’s next generation of submarines, the team said.

“We are excited and grateful to be teaming with RFK Racing to drive awareness of the thousands of steady, well-paying manufacturing jobs available across the nation. Innovation, working with purpose and service to others are hallmarks of both of our organizations,” said Kiley Wren, BlueForge chief executive. “Together, we aim to inspire NASCAR fans and all Americans to pursue career opportunities that will support our national defense.”

Kyle Larson visits Indianapolis Motor Speedway to survey the scene


Former NASCAR champion Kyle Larson, who is scheduled to run the Indianapolis 500 in 2024 as part of an Indy-Charlotte “double,” visited the Indianapolis Motor Speedway garage area Sunday on Indianapolis 500 race day.

Larson said he wanted to familiarize himself with the Indy race-day landscape before he becomes immersed in the process next year.

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Larson later returned to Charlotte, where was scheduled to drive in the Coca-Cola 600 Sunday night. Next year, he’s scheduled to run both races.

“I love racing,” Larson told NBC Sports. “I love competing in the biggest races. In my opinion, this is the biggest race in the world. I wanted to be a part of it for a long time, and I finally feel like the timing is right. It’s pretty cool to have a dream come true.

“I wanted to come here and kind of experience it again and get to experience how crazy it is again before I’m in the middle of it next year. I kind of want as little surprise as possible next year.”

In the 2024 500, Larson will be one of four drivers with the Arrow McLaren team.

Earlier this month, Larson and Hendrick Motorsports vice chairman Jeff Gordon attended an Indy 500 practice day.

Larson said Sunday he hasn’t tested an Indy car.

“I don’t know exactly when I’ll get in the car,” he said. “I’ve had no sim (simulator) time yet. I’ve kind of stayed back. I didn’t want to ask too many questions and take any focus on what they have going on for these couple of weeks. I’m sure that will pick up after today.

“I look forward to the challenge. No matter how this experience goes, I’m going to come out of it a better race car driver.”




Jimmie Johnson: Building a team and pointing toward Le Mans


CONCORD, N.C. — These are busy days in the life of former NASCAR champion Jimmie Johnson.

Johnson is a co-owner of Legacy Motor Club, the Cup Series team that has struggled through a difficult first half of the season while it also is preparing for a switch from Chevrolet to Toyota next year.

Johnson is driving a very limited schedule for Legacy as he seeks to not only satisfy his passion for racing but also to gain knowledge as he tries to lift Legacy to another level. As part of that endeavor, he’ll race in the Coca-Cola 600 in Legacy’s No. 84 car, making his third appearance of the season.

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And, perhaps the biggest immediate to-do item on Johnson’s list: He’ll race June 10-11 in the 24 Hours of Le Mans, the world’s biggest endurance race and another of the bucket list races the 47-year-old Johnson will check off his list.

“I’m excited, invigorated, exhausted — all of it,” Johnson said. “It has been a really exciting adventure that I’ve embarked on here — to learn from (Legacy co-owner) Maury Gallagher, to be a part of this great team and learn from everyone that I’m surrounded by. I’m in a whole new element here and it’s very exciting to be in a new element.

“At the same time, there are some foundational pieces coming together, decisions that we’re making, that will really help the team grow in the future. And then we have our job at hand – the situation and environment that we have at hand to deal with in the 2023 season. Depends on the hat that I’m wearing, in some respects. There’s been a lot of work, but a lot of excitement and a lot of fun. I truly feel like I’m a part of something that’s really going to be a force in the future of NASCAR.”

Johnson is scheduled to fly to Paris Monday or Tuesday to continue preparations for the Le Mans race. He, Jenson Button and Mike Rockenfeller will be driving a Hendrick Motorsports-prepared Chevrolet as part of Le Mans’ Garage 56 program, which is designed to offer a Le Mans starting spot for a team testing new technologies.

“For me, it’s really been about identifying marquee races around the world and trying to figure out how to run in them,” Johnson said. “Le Mans is a great example of that. Daytona 500, Coca-Cola 600 — these are the marquee events.”

He said his biggest concerns approaching the 24-hour race are being overtaken by faster prototypes in corners and racing at night  while dealing with the very bright lights of cars approaching in his rear view mirrors.

At Legacy, Johnson has work to do. Erik Jones has a top finish of sixth (and one other top 10) this season, and Noah Gragson is still looking for his first top-10 run. He has a best finish of 12th – at Atlanta.

“I think Erik (Jones) continues to show me just how good he is,” Johnson said. “He’s been in some challenging circumstances this year and keeps his head on — focuses, executes and gets the job done. I’ve really been impressed with his ability to stay calm and execute and just how good he is.

“With Noah, from watching him before, I wasn’t sure how serious he took his job in the sport. I knew that he was fast, and I knew that he liked to have fun. I can say in the short time that I’ve really worked with him closely, he still has those two elements, but his desire to be as good as he can in this sport has really impressed me. So I guess ultimately, his commitment to his craft is what’s impressed me the most.”