After experiencing chest pain on a flight out to Los Angeles last week, Brian Vickers visited a west coast hospital where they found small blood clots in both of his lungs. Add this to the unfortunate list of blood-health problems Brian Vickers has experienced over the course of his racing career.
The latest health scare puts him on blood thinners for three months, meaning he’s likely to miss a minimum of 11-12 races. While everyone in the garage is obviously sympathetic, NASCAR is in fact a business. At what point does Michael Waltrip Racing have to make the tough call on the future of the No. 55?
I’ve had the awesome opportunity to hang out with Brian Vickers (at the 2014 Coca Cola 600 in Charlotte), and he is one of the few drivers to ever reply back on Twitter to me. He’s the nicest guy, and it just goes to show how unfair the universe is. There’s no karma or explanation for such a roller coaster of health problems to plague this driver, and I’ll continue to be a life-long fan.
But that being said, at some point, Michael Waltrip Racing, as a business has to look for stability in the No. 55 — especially in its current state of being a two car team (down from 3 prior to Martin Truex, Jr. leaving for Furniture Row Racing).
MWR has goals to eventually go back to three cars in the Sprint Cup Series, but before that, it’s got to bring some stability (and hopefully some wins) back to both its current teams. Through no fault of his own, Vickers has only been able to race two races in 2015, and missed races last year as well. Brett Moffitt, despite hitting the wall in qualifying last week at Auto Club Speedway, overall has done an admirable job of taking care of his cars, and finishing well. If MWR is willing and able to, you may see Moffitt filling in for the next 90 days as the No. 55 driver, sponsors allowing.
But long term for the remainder of 2015 and into 2016? Does the No. 55 team need a permanent driver week to week? That could be Moffitt, but it’s too early to tell.
This is kind of out there, but I know there’s a desire for Regan Smith to get a full-time ride back in the Cup Series. While his deal with Chevy and JR Motorsports probably would keep him from racing the No. 55 Toyota in 2015, Smith is in a one year contract.
Consider this: Regan Smith returns to the Cup Series as a full-time driver in 2016. Michael Waltrip Racing spins back up a third team (56 or 66) as a platform for Brian Vickers if he can stay healthy, but have Moffitt as a contingency for that spot. Obviously, the big question mark there would be sponsorship dollars, but as a fan of both Smith and MWR, I would love to see Smith back in the Cup Series driving for MWR. Thoughts? I know it’s out there, but at the same time, I could see it happening next season.