Categories
NASCAR Cup Series

BK Racing Rookies Embrace Opportunity as Cup Drivers

AVONDALE, Ariz. — With two rookies running the No.’s 23 and 83 for BK Racing in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series, the team knew 2017 would be a learning season for drivers Gray Gaulding and Corey LaJoie.

Entering this year, both racers only had two previous Cup starts and never competed full time in any of NASCAR’s three national series. But team owner Ron Devine gave them the opportunity run in stock car racing’s premier level and let them experience the career of a full-time NASCAR driver.

“Ron is a good supporter, and he knows we have a lot to learn,” Gaulding told POPULAR SPEED. “I know I’m here to work as hard as I can and show Ron I deserve to be in this car. I want to go out every week and give him the best finish possible.”

Gaulding said running at 1.5-mile tracks for the first time was “the most fun I’ve ever had behind the wheel,” particularly in Atlanta, which has an aged surface and tire fall-off is always a factor.

“That race was so fun because the tires get old and everyone is sideways,” he added. “In Vegas, we had a decent run. I felt like we could have finished in the 20s, which is a good run for our team, but I got two speeding penalties on pit road, which killed us under green. … It just comes with time and experience.”

LaJoie had a rocky start to the season. His No. 83 Toyota is unchartered, unlike Gaulding’s No. 23, so he had to race his way into the Daytona 500 in the Duel race.

He qualified for the “Great American Race,” and rolled off 31st, but made contact with the tri-oval’s outside wall on Lap 31 as he tried to slow down to pit road speed.

There was damage to the right front of LaJoie’s car, but he salvaged a 24th-place result in his first 500. Nevertheless, he was happy to make the show as 42 cars attempted Daytona with 40 spots available.

“It was a pretty big moment regardless, whether you were locked in or not, “LaJoie told POPULAR SPEED. “The Daytona 500 was pretty intense. I didn’t go there for a week to not make that thing.

“Obviously, the first three races weren’t quite how we envisioned them to go, but Daytona was cool because we made it.”

Looking ahead, LaJoie will run select events in the JGL Racing No. 24 Toyota in the XFINITY Series, including at Auto Club Speedway next week. He’s scheduled for 14 Cup races this year, and it there could be more if sponsorship is found.

Gaulding’s goal for his rookie season is to finish top 30 in the points standings. After competing in two of the first three Cup events this year, he sits 38th in the standings, two spots behind LaJoie.

EMAIL JOHN AT john.haverlin@popularspeed.com

FOLLOW ON TWITTER: @The5thJohnHav

The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or staff. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.

Categories
NASCAR Cup Series

Front Row Buys BK Racing Charter; Leases to TriStar

A day after Front Row Motorsports revealed the acquisition of one of its Charters by TriStar Motorsports, the organization has bought one of BK Racing’s two Charters for the 2017 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series season.

BKR’s No. 83 Charter now belongs to TriStar though because FRM is leasing it to the new Cup Series No. 72 team. BKR will compete in the upcoming season with only one Charter for the No. 23, which will be driven by Joey Gase and Gray Gaulding.

FRM’s two full-time cars will both remained guaranteed into all 36 points events for Landon Cassill and David Ragan because both entries are chartered. At the end of the 2017 season, TriStar’s Charter lease will end, and it will be returned to FRM, giving the Ford organization three Charters for 2018.

As the season gets closer and closer, the MENCS field is becoming more and more clear. To avoid any confusion, here is a list of all 36 Charter teams that will be guaranteed into every race this season:

  1. 1 Chip Ganassi Racing
  2. 2 Team Penske
  3. 3 Richard Childress Racing
  4. 4 Stewart-Haas Racing
  5. 5 Hendrick Motorsports
  6. 6 Roush Fenway Racing
  7. 10 Stewart-Haas Racing
  8. 11 Joe Gibbs Racing
  9. 13 Germain Racing
  10. 14 Stewart-Haas Racing
  11. 15 Premium Motorsports
  12. 17 Roush Fenway Racing
  13. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing
  14. 19 Joe Gibbs Racing
  15. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing
  16. 21 Wood Brothers Racing
  17. 22 Team Penske
  18. 23 BK Racing
  19. 24 Hendrick Motorsports
  20. 27 Richard Childress Racing
  21. 31 Richard Childress Racing
  22. 32 GoFas Racing
  23. 33 Circle Sport-The Motorsports Group
  24. 34 Front Row Motorsports
  25. 37 JTG Daugherty Racing
  26. 38 Front Row Motorsports
  27. 41 Stewart-Haas Racing
  28. 42 Chip Ganassi Racing
  29. 43 Richard Petty Motorsports
  30. 47 JTG Daugherty Racing
  31. 48 Hendrick Motorsports
  32. 72 TriStar Motorsports
  33. 77 Furniture Row Racing
  34. 78 Furniture Row Racing
  35. 88 Hendrick Motorsports
  36. 95 Leavine Family Racing

EMAIL JOHN AT john.haverlin@popularspeed.com

FOLLOW ON TWITTER: @The5thJohnHav

The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or staff. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.

Categories
NASCAR Cup Series

BK Racing Still Trying to Secure 2017 Plans Around Youthful Driver Lineup

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.”

Your prediction?

Will Gaulding have a successful rookie season in NASCAR’s top series? Will BKR have two full-time cars this year?

EMAIL JOHN AT john.haverlin@popularspeed.com

FOLLOW ON TWITTER: @The5thJohnHav

The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or staff. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.

Categories
News

Gase and BK Racing Announce Partnership for 2017 Season

Joey Gase continues to climb the NASCAR ladder as BK Racing announced on Tuesday that Gase would drive the No. 23 Best Home Furnishings Toyota for the team in multiple Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series races next season starting with the 59th running of the Daytona 500.

The 23-year-old Cedar Rapids, IA native has competed in 13 career NASCAR Cup Series races with a best finish of 32nd coming at Phoenix last season.

“I cannot put into words how thankful I am for the opportunity everyone at Best Home Furnishings and BK Racing has given me,” said Gase. “Racing in the Daytona 500 and the Bristol night race has been a dream of mine since I can remember. It’s very exciting to share this experience with everyone at Best Home Furnishings and those who have helped me get to this point in my career.”

Gase has ran the full XFINITY Series schedule the past three seasons for Jimmy Means Racing, posting a best finish of fifth at Talladega Superspeedway in 2015.

“We’re thrilled to have Joey and Best Home Furnishings, one of the largest furniture manufacturers, join us for the Daytona 500 in February, said BK Racing team owner Ron Devine. “It is the largest race of our series and a wonderful event for Joey to debut his BK Racing relationship. We’ve been watching Joey’s growth for quite some time and looking forward to seeing what he can do behind the wheel of a BK Race car.”

Best Home Furnishings will serve as primary sponsor for Gase and the No. 23 car. Best Home Furnishings is becoming one of the largest furniture manufacturers in the world and has five locations in the United States.

“We are thrilled to be partnering with BK Racing and Joey Gase,” said Glenn Lange, CEO of Best Home Furnishings.  “Joey is a young, energetic and up-and-coming driver who has shown to be competitive from an early age.  His heavy involvement with the non-profit, Donate Life exemplifies our shared values and passion to exude excellence in all facets of our business and personal lives.”

“Our family has been involved with the collection of classic and sports cars for decades. To have our company’s name as a primary sponsor on a Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series car is a dream come true,” said Lange.

The decision for Best Home Furnishing to enter the sport of NASCAR was quite simple.

“NASCAR has some of the most loyal, passionate fan bases amongst the major U.S. sports scenes,” Lange said. “The cross section of this fan base also happens to align with our desirable furniture demographic.”

EMAIL JUSTIN at tuckerjustin65@yahoo.com

FOLLOW ON TWITTER: @JustinTuckerWeb

The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.

Categories
Editorial

Ward Burton Strives for Jeb’s Success

Every weekend, Ward Burton gets to be a proud dad. The man who has plenty to be proud of – including a Daytona 500 win and his successful Ward Burton Wildlife Foundation – gets to sit back and watch his son Jeb Burton compete in the Sprint Cup Series.

It hasn’t always been easy, and it’s sometimes tough to watch. Several times this season, Jeb has failed to qualify for a race and his team has had to head home early. He doesn’t have the best equipment under him, and keeping a ride the last several years has been a struggle. Nothing has ever been guaranteed for him, so he does the best with what he has and tries to make a name for himself.

At the end of the day, Ward is still proud getting to watch his son do what he loves most.

The start of Jeb’s NASCAR career seemed to be the ideal situation for any father who wants to see their son succeed. Not only did he have the ability, but his on track performance was backing it up.

“I saw it at an early age that Jeb had what it takes to make it in racing; not only driving abilities but the mental toughness that it takes and the dedication and the sacrifice that it takes,” Ward said. “When Jeb drove for Mike Hillman in 2012 and was sponsored by State Water Heaters, Jeb did a great job in that car. Then the following year we got with Turner Motorsports and Jeb just sailed. They were providing him really great vehicles, his crew chief Mike Hillman Jr. and him had a great relationship, and they still do.”

“That kid was on his way to being a force to be reckoned with.”

The following season, Jeb would be able to contend for a title and Ward was sure he would be in the mix. At the worst time possible, his sponsor Arrowhead Cigarettes defaulted on their payments and Turner Motorsports was forced to close the No. 4 team.

There wasn’t much time to question what was next for Jeb because he landed on his feet quickly with Duke Thorson at ThorSport Racing. After garnering two top-fives and seven top-10 finishes for ThorSport in 2014, his hiccup with Turner Motorsports seemed to be only a minor bump in the road. Before the beginning of the 2015 season, however, Jeb was once again without a sponsor and left searching for a ride.

Before Speedweeks commenced this year, BK Racing’s Ron Devine decided to take a chance on Jeb and gave him his shot at the Sprint Cup Series.

“Jeb owes a lot to Ron Devine for picking him up with BK Racing because Jeb has learned a lot and is doing the best he can,” Ward said. “The problem with racing now is – this sport has become so technology-driven, and it costs so much and it has so much to do with technology, we just don’t have those resources right now. And Ron is trying to survive and build his organization but we’re just not there performance wise.”

Ward attributes the problems the team faces mostly to the funds that it takes to keep up with the technology side of the sport. He says between Ron Devine, the partners, and all of the employees, they’re putting in plenty of hard work just to get the team to the track.

The Burtons are very thankful for everything that Ron Devine has done for Jeb, given that he’s mostly spending his own money to field cars on a weekly basis. Ward and Ron Devine talk on a regular basis about how the team can improve and constantly make strides, which could in return attract new sponsors. The team is working extremely hard to find the right sponsorship for the team so that BK Racing can become more competitive and strengthen their program.

“The conversation about the franchising, which would give the car owners some value, is a great idea because it will help all of the car owners to now have a business that is worth something,” Ward added. “It in return could bring in private investors, some new people to the sport, which will overall make the sport healthier. The smaller teams could strengthen their position and start to close the gap on the competition.”

It’s not uncommon for a driver like Jeb who hasn’t necessarily had his opportunities just given to him to have to deal with these kind of woes. The future is uncertain, and no one knows how their career will turn out; Ward learned that during his time in NASCAR. He has no doubt that if Jeb gets in a competitive ride in any series, he’ll make himself out to be a top driver and compete for a championship. Until then, they’ll have to wait and try to attract a sponsor with the hopes that Jeb can not only race but be a contender.

“There’s so many things that I owe the sport and a lot of people that have helped me,” Ward said. “At the same time, it literally breaks my heart – I could start crying right now – that I have not been able to help my son more, or him help himself more. It’s just the state of the sport, and some of it is in their control, and some of it is out of their control. If we can attract the right kind of partner, nobody would work harder on activation and doing the honest effort the way Jeb and I have.”

EMAIL JOEY AT joey.chapman@popularspeed.com

FOLLOW ON TWITTER: @Joey_Chapman