As Speedweeks at Daytona International Speedway inches closer and closer, Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series organization BK Racing still has not finalized all of its 2017 plans. The No. 23 entry appears set for the upcoming season, but the No. 83’s situation isn’t entirely clear.
Here’s what we know:
The team’s two full-time drivers from 2016 have not returned for this year. Matt DiBenedetto and crew chief Gene Nead join GoFas Racing for the upcoming season, and David Ragan returns to his former team Front Row Motorsports to drive the No. 38 Ford.
In late December, Joey Gase was announced as the driver of the No. 23 Toyota for three races in 2017, starting with the season-opening Daytona 500. He’ll also be in the car at Kentucky Speedway in July and Bristol Motor Speedway in August.
Earlier this week, BKR announced a 35-race deal with 18-year-old Gray Gaulding, who will drive the No. 23 for 33 races starting at Atlanta Motor Speedway and two more races in another car. Also, Corey LaJoie will drive the No. 83 on a part-time basis beginning with the Daytona 500.
What we don’t know:
The number of races LaJoie will compete in is undetermined at this point. And since he’s a part-time driver, the No. 83 will probably have at least one other face behind the wheel if the team will continue full time. A crew chief is yet to be announced as well.
Also, Racer.com reported on Wednesday the No. 83’s charter potentially could be on the market shortly. The team’s lack of security stems from questions about sponsorship, a need for crew chief, and a need for more drivers.
The No. 23 will definitely be full time with a charter, but the No. 83 will likely become a part-time entry if BKR decides to sell its charter.
What we want to know:
If the No. 83 keeps its charter, who else will be in the car? Of the trio of drivers that will compete with BKR, LaJoie is the oldest at 25. The organization has served as a stepping stone for young racers such as Landon Cassill, Alex Bowman, Ryan Truex and Jeb Burton since its inception in 2012, so it would only make sense if another up-and-comer gets his feet wet in NASCAR’s premier level. Who that could be is anyone’s guess.
And, is Gaulding ready for the Cup Series? He turns 19 next month and has only participated in 17 races across NASCAR’s top three series – 13 of them in the Camping World Truck Series, two in the XFINITY Series, and two in Cup. That’s not much experience. But if you ask him and team owner Ron Devine if he’s ready, they’d say yes.
“A lot of people might say I’m not ready. I’m too young. I feel like I’m physically and mentally ready,” Gaulding stated in an interview with CBS 6 Richmond. “I’m definitely going to feel some bumps in the road, but that’s part of being young. That’s part of being a rookie.”
Devine told CBS 6, “I think he’s earned the right to run at this level. He’s been successful at all the other levels, and that’s what you look for. You look for guys that can run up front at any level and then have good car control. He has great car control, and he’s fast.”
Will Gaulding have a successful rookie season in NASCAR’s top series? Will BKR have two full-time cars this year?
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