Various situations have created a frenetic environment of driver transactions over the past few weeks, yet at the Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 the least heralded replacement stepped up the most substantially.
Making just his eighth NASCAR Sprint Cup Series start, Brett Moffitt finished eighth and certainly captured attention in his lone replacement start for Brian Vickers.
After the race, an emotional Moffitt opened up about his new career-best run.
“I’m trying not to cry right now. Honestly, I was tearing up out there. This is the biggest accomplishment I could have ever done,” Moffitt told Popular Speed after the race. “The way it all worked out – we went a lap down early and these guys kept fighting and we had a lucky caution there that caution came out just before we went another lap down during the green flag pit stops.”
Unlike some tracks such as super speedways and short tracks where chaos can create fluke results, Moffitt’s performance at Atlanta was a substantial one. The track had minimal grip early, tires were wearing dramatically over long fuel runs, and the new in-car track bar adjustment and rules package forced drivers to adjust in ways never seen before.
Amid the flow of 500 grueling miles, Moffitt worked his way from the 22nd starting spot (his previous career best finishing position), survived being swarmed by the field after a restart, and came from a lap down multiple times.
"From the first corner of the first lap, I was nervous for him because I really wanted him to showcase his talents," said Michael Waltrip Racing Executive Vice President Ty Norris.
"What an incredible story, for him to come out here and finish eighth.
And how he did it, he went three-wide and passed Carl Edwards, Ryan Newman and Kasey Kahne, then held off Brad Keselowski for the last 10 to 12 laps to do it. It wasn't like he just lucked into it, he earned it and I'm proud of him."
That performance on late restarts is what Norris says he hopes will have Moffitt’s phone ringing off the hook in the next few days. With three other substitute drivers in the field, in varying levels of equipment, Moffitt outperformed numerous Sprint Cup Series regulars as well as Regan Smith (17th), David Ragan (18th), and Joe Nemecheck (33rd).
For now, however, the series will pack up and Brian Vickers will return from heart surgery to his Michael Waltrip Racing team. In the meantime, the emotional Moffitt can only calm down and be prepared for the next step, wherever it is.
"I wish I was in it for the next 30-something weeks," Moffitt said post-race. "I'm sure something will come about and an opportunity will open up, so we'll see."