BK facing turmoil?

Will BK Racing be around when it comes to the 2018 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series season? In recent weeks, the future of the organization is up in the air. Ryan Sieg was in the car at Michigan that was driven by Gray Gaulding. Alon Day, the first Israeli driver to compete in Cup, will replace Gaulding at Sonoma this weekend. Gaulding and Sieg went to social media last week before Michigan to discuss what is going on. At Dover, Sieg was in the car for Corey LaJoie

Over the past couple of weeks, the organization has also reorganized their crew chiefs. Randy Cox moved from the No. 83 team and take over duties as the No. 23 crew chief. Doug George has been named as crew chief for the No. 83 Toyota. Patrick Donahue was relieved from his duties as crew chief for Gaulding after Pocono.

BK Racing has been the joke of many fans and drivers alike because the organization tends to bring out a caution each week.

Ron Devine told "The Pit Stop" on the Speedway Digest Radio Network earlier in the year that they would remain consistent with two drivers throughout the season no matter what and use a third car, if needed, for a rotisserie of drivers.

BK Racing only has one charter in 2017. In 2016, they had two, but over the offseason sold the charter to Front Row Motorsports then leased out to TriStar Motorsports. Because of the charter setup, Front Row will either have to start a third team or sell the charter they acquired.

On the preliminary entry list, BK Racing only has the entry for Alon Day at Sonoma.

Truck count at Gateway

Only 30 trucks in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series made their way to Gateway Motorsports Park this past weekend. At Texas Motor Speedway, the truck count was 28.

When the Truck field is paired with the Cup Series, the field is at capacity or teams are being sent home from the event.

Many fans and media were worried about the truck count. However, it is going to be ok. Many standalone events do not have a high enough purse for many teams to even consider showing up. It would usually be cheaper for a team to sit out of an event that doesn't pay well, than to show up and wrecking the vehicle. 

GMS Moves to Cup?

News broke early Saturday evening that GMS Racing could potentially field a team in the Cup Series. According to a report by Motorsport.com, that decision couple come within the next month.

This move would be welcomes as the Cup field has struggled to have 40 or more cars arrive at every single race. Although NASCAR deems a full field as 36, it is concerning that only a couple of "open" teams show up on a given weekend.

Last week, GMS Racing hired on Mike Ford to help run the Xfinity Series program. Ford was a Cup crew chief for Denny Hamlin and Bill Elliott resulting in 21 Cup wins.

With the lose of Stewart-Haas Racing, Chevrolet and Hendrick Motorsports lost a key player in the Cup series. The addition of GMS Racing would allow more information to be shared among teams at Chevrolet.

Because sponsorship and charters are crucial in Cup today, GMS and Maurice Gallagher are looking at running one car. However, if the move to Cup happens, the organization will use Spencer Gallagher for a test run.

It is also interesting to note that just a few short years ago, GMS Racing was a team that would be sent home for failing to qualify in Truck competition. Now, they are a power house in that series as well as a strong dark horse in the Xfinity series.

Standalones

It is a love hate relationship when it comes to standalone events in NASCAR’s top-three national divisions. In 2017, the Truck series will have a stand alone event at Texas, Gateway, Eldora, Canadian Tire Motorsport Park, and Las Vegas Motor Speedway. The NASCAR Xfinity Series has standalone events at Kentucky, Iowa, Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, and Road America.

In 2018, the Las Vegas Motor Speedway standalone for Trucks and the Xfinity standalone at Kentucky will be no more.

Standalone events have become more cost consuming for many teams. The Xfintiy Series has been called “Cup Lite” because of how many races they run with Cup. The viability of these series is contingent on the performance and presence of drivers in the Cup series.

The slogan for the Xfinity Series is “Names are Made Here”. That slogan is true in the fact that when an Xfinity regular is able to run alongside and compete against a Cup regular it shows that they can beat and compete against the “best of the best”.

The crowd at Gateway was one of the best that has been seen at a standalone event in quiet some time. However, not many Trucks arrived at Gateway.

NASCAR should look at potentially moving the Trucks away from contingent weekends with Cup and Xfinity, but look at ways to help promote the K&N Series at some of their own tracks. This could help NASCAR get reconnected with the grassroots of the sport, something that has been lost as NASCAR has become more corporate.

Debris cautions. 

Debris cautions have been a hot topic after the FireKeepers Casino 400 from Michigan International Speedway. The third to last caution was thrown for debris within the final 20 laps of the event. After that caution, the caution flag flew a total of two more times to do incidents on the restartL Tony Stewart went to Twitter to explain his frustrations:

NASCAR threw the caution for a trash bag on the racing surface, but did not throw the caution for debris due to a straw hat on the racing surface.

Scott Miller, NASCAR’s Senior Vice President of Racing Competition, went on SiriusXM’s “The Morning Drive” to discuss this situation.

"We use all the resources that we have to try to identity what it is that is out there - that being camera, turn spotters and the communication that we've got around the race track to different people who may be able to see it," Miller said.

"If we are actually able to identify what it is and feel like it's something that is OK to leave out there, then we'll do so. But if we can't identify what it is exactly and it could pose something dangerous, then we'll usually, or almost always, error on the side of caution and safety and put the caution out in those circumstances. Sometimes it's untimely and a little bit unfortunate, but we do have to do our job and make sure that everybody is safe."

NASCAR needs to work with its TV partners to show why the caution was flown for debris. This will help clear the air of the black helicopters that encompass debris cautions.

Since instituting the “crash damaged vehicle” policy in 2017, the number of cautions for debris is at 12, while the number of debris cautions in 2016 were at 21.

 

Late Wednesday evening, BK Racing announced that SunFrog, an apparel printing company, would hop on board with Gray Gaulding in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series (MENCS), beginning this weekend at Phoenix International Raceway.

SunFrog was currently in a partnership in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series with Brandon Brown and Brandonbilt Motorsports. This sponsorship began this season at Daytona International Speedway with SunFrog having the option to sponsor more races, if they so choose.

The announcement was a shot to the heart for Brandon Brown and Tommy Joe Martins, who is involved with Brandonbilt Motorsports through a partnership announced over the offseason with Martins Motorsports. Both drivers went to social media to express their frustrations with the announcement.

Speedway Digest (SD) reached out to Martins, but was declined comment due to the concerns already expressed on Twitter.

Brown exclusively told Speedway Digest that there was no indication to him that SunFrog would be jumping over to Gaulding. "This means a limited schedule and a lot of hard work to find some more funding and partners, but I'm really bummed out they left a team that they could have built a long lasting relationship and we could have built on each others success both on and off the track," said Brown to SD. "For me I really look to my partners as people to help grow as they help me both on and off the track, allowing us to make progress at an accelerated pace. But I do hope they find success with gray. I just wish I had family funding to put me at the level he is to try and gain partners but I'm very blessed with what I have to work with and I will always be thankful for my opportunities, I just really want to make the most of every single chance because in this sport there's always a chance it could be the last"

Speedway Digest also reached out to BK Racing for comment about the frustration on Twitter, but was declined comment.

Brandonbilt Motorsports continue their search for more sponsorship following the announcement.

Finding a sponsor is hard to come by for many drivers in the top ranks of NASCAR.

However, it is the grind many drivers have to face when it comes to racing.

The 2016 NASCAR Xfinity Series season for Roush Fenway Racing was not one of great acclaim for the team. The team fielded two full-time drivers in Darrell Wallace Jr. and Ryan Reed, while having part-time entries for Trevor Bayne, Gray Gaulding, and Ricky Stenhouse Jr.

 

Bayne completed at Watkins Glen for Roush-Fenway. He started seventh and finished in the fifth position.

 

Gaulding completed in the second events at Bristol and Richmond. At Bristol he started 21st and finished 13th. At Richmond, he started 11th and finished 13th.

 

Stenhouse Jr. competed at Phoenix in the fall. He started 13th and finished third.

 

For Wallace Jr, the season started off with a sixth place finish at Daytona, but at Atlanta he finished 18th. His first DNF came at Las Vegas Motor Speedway where he was involved in a crash. However, he was able to have three consecutive top-20 finshes. At Bristol, he received a 25th place finish. Over the next three weeks, he had top-20 finishes with his best finish of second coming at Dover. Wallace did not find his mojo at Charlotte, which resulted in a 27th place finish. As the season entered the summer months, Wallace had seven consecutive top-20 finishes with his best coming at Kentucky. At Iowa and Watkins Glen, Wallace finished 27th and 29th, respectively. Going into the inaugural playoffs in the Xfinity Series, Wallace had six consecutive top-20 finishes with the best coming at Bristol.

 

In the opening round of the playoffs, Wallace opened at Kentucky with an eighth place finish. At Dover, he finished 11th. At Charlotte, he finished 20th. Those finishes allowed him to advance into the next round.

 

The next round was not as nice for Wallace. He suffered two DNF’s at Charlotte and Phoenix. At Texas, he finished in the 11th position. The two DNF’s served as his Achilles Heel to advance into the final four at Homestead. Wallace finished the season at Homestead with an 11th place finish.

 

2016 was Reed’s third full-time season in Xfinity competition. He started out Daytona with a 16th place finish. He went into the next five races with consecutive top-20 finished with the best coming at Las Vegas Motor Speedway with a 13th place finish. At Bristol, he finished 21st, but was able to rebound for an 11th place finish at Richmond. At Talladega, Reed finished 31st, but backed it up at Dover and Charlotte with an 18th and 19th place finish. His first DNF of the season came at Pocono, where he was involved in a crash that resulted in a 33rd place finis. However, Reed went on a streak of three consecutive top-15 finishes with his best being a sixth place finish at Daytona. Kentucky was not one his stronger tracks, but he went on a tear of five consecutive top-15 finishes with the best coming atWatkins Glen where he finished ninth. At Bristol, he finished 35th, but leading into the playoffs, Reed had four top-15 finishes. In the final race of the regular season, he finished 32nd due to a crash, but was able to make the inaugural playoffs.

 

When the playoffs began, Reed knocked a seventh place finish at Kentucky, a 10th place finish at Dover, and a 15th place finish at Dover to advance to the second round.

 

The next round saw consistency from Reed, but that was not enough to advance to the final four at Homestead. Reed finished 16th at Kansas, 12th at Texas, and sixth at Phoenix. At Homestead, he closed out the season with a 16th place finish.

 

2017 is not looking bright for Roush-Fenway’s Xfinity Series program. Wallace Jr. only has sponsorship for the first six races of 2016. Wallace knows that his job in the first six races is to win and run up front to help with the sponsorship deal. Reed will continue to have the sponsorship of Lilly’s Diabetes in 2017. Just like in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series, 2017 is a crucial year for Roush-Fenway’s future.

BK Racing announced at Richmond International Raceway that 18 year old, Gray Gaulding, will be joining the team for 35 races beginning at Atlanta Motor Speedway.  Gaulding will pilot the No. 23 Toyota Camry.

“When I first walked into the BK Racing shop I felt at home, it has the perfect mixture of corporate America and the old-school race shop feeling” said Gaulding. “Everyone was elbows deep preparing for Daytona, Atlanta, Las Vegas and the entire season. Ron Devine has invested a lot of time, effort, and equity into BK Racing and it shows as you walk the shop floor. To be back with Toyota is great, I’ve kept a great relationship with them and they’re a great technical partner. I can’t wait to get behind the wheel and represent everyone at BK Racing and our partners that allow us to be at the track.”

Sponsorship for Gaulding will be announced at a later date.

However, there is a conflict with the scheduling of the No. 23 ride. Joey Gase is scheduled to drive that car with Best Home Furnishings at Daytona, the Bristol Night Race, and Kentucky.

Gase went to Twitter to explain what would happen.

For all those asking how the announcement made by @BKRacing_2383 today affects me ??? pic.twitter.com/KqI6Cjicmx

— Joey Gase Racing (@JoeyGaseRacing) January 24, 2017

Gaulding ran two races in 2016 at Martinsville and Phoenix, but the performance was not there with a 39th and 37th finishes due to mechanical issues, and failed to qualify for Homestead. 

He’s the grandson of a legend. He’s determined like everyone else. However, this man believed he had hung up his helmet for the final time. Now, this man is back in NASCAR thanks to a second chance that he never believed he had coming.

Chase Pistone, 30, might be older than the other Rookie of the Year competitors in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series, but that hasn’t slowed him down. Entering 2014, Pistone had not raced competitively in a racecar since November 2007 in what was previously known as the Hooters Pro Cup Series (now the X-1R Pro Cup Series). Then, in late February, the life which he has known for nearly a decade took quite the detour.

“It is kind of odd. I got this call about two weeks before our first race. Dwayne Gaulding, who crew chiefed and took Gray (Gaulding) racing in the legend car stuff, I have had a relationship with for quite some time. I found out he was over there and he put a deal together for me quick. We had two weeks, and we tested I think a week before Martinsville. I didn’t know until late February that it would be possible. It was a rush deal, but I think we have made the most of it for sure,” Pistone said via a telephone interview.

In March, NTS Motorsports announced that Pistone will be racing 14 of the 22 events in the Camping World Truck Series. Prior to entering a Chevrolet Silverado for NTS, Pistone had just one Truck Series start under his belt, and that one track was Martinsville – his first scheduled event of the season. Moreover, his journey to get this ride was rather unorthodox.

During his time away from NASCAR competition, Pistone gave up his dream. Instead, he was helping others accomplish their dreams. He opened up Chase Pistone Incorporated – a company designated to help people race in Legends Cars, Super Late Models and other developmental divisions.  With Pistone’s help, Gaulding , 16, began to get noticed by then NASCAR team owner, Kevin Harvick. As he now attempts to chase his dream for the second time, Pistone has taken the back seat to the business which he built from the ground-up.

“It is hard. I have my brother over here – trying to help me with the legend car stuff. I have a good group of guys that goes (to the races) with my customers on the weekends. All of my customers understand that my business has kind of taken a backseat,” he said about dealing with his business and racing. “So far, we are still having a lot of success with the late model races and the legends. If I can make it work and hire the right people, I am definitely not going to let it interfere with the driving side. My sponsors have done a lot for me, and I am grateful for that. “

So far, the transition back into a racecar has gone well for the North Carolina native. In his first two starts in the Truck Series, Pistone finished 13th and ninth, respectively. At Gateway, he was quickest in one of the practice sessions, and his ninth-place finish was good enough to be given the Sunoco Rookie of the Race crown.

 Preceding the race at Gateway, Pistone also had the opportunity to jump back into a Nationwide Series car for the first time since his lone start in the division during 2006 – a year in which he also earned his lone ARCA Series top-10 finish. Turner Scott Motorsports had an opening when Kyle Larson could not run the race at Iowa Speedway due to a conflict with his Sprint Cup Series schedule. Dylan Kwasniewski, the regular driver of the No. 31 Chevrolet, moved over to the No. 42 – handing Pistone one of the best opportunities he has ever had in a racecar.

“I think it was a good opportunity to run Iowa because the No. 31 became available because the driver that drives the No. 42 (Kyle Larson) is at a non-companion weekend. There are no Cup Series drivers. It’s good for me because it gives me a chance at winning and running well, but I don’t mind when the Cup Series drivers are in there because it gives you an opportunity to learn for sure,” he said.

“The trucks were off for so long that I wanted to be in something. I had spoken with them about racing trucks earlier in the year. I was pleased with that organization and likewise, I think they were with me also. Anytime I can get in the seat after being out of the seat for so long, it helps me.”

After running inside of the top-15 for the majority of the 250 lap spectacle at Iowa, Pistone might have some additional opportunities with Turner Scott Motorsports as well. Larson will be out of the No. 42 Chevrolet five times this season – leaving Kwasniewski behind the wheel. Pistone said that he believes he is going to be racing for the team once again at Iowa (August) and Kentucky (September).

However, he has also begun to figure out his plans for next season. After being on a seven year hiatus from NASCAR racing, Pistone had two kids, and now he is able to share his passion with them. Unfortunately, achieving his dream has also made him spend less time with his children – something he hopes to change if he can get a full-time deal in 2015.

“Hopefully, once I figure out what I am going to do next year, I can start bringing them to the track with me. While I’m splitting time in my life between racing and my business, that side of my life has kind of been neglected. It is good and bad. It is good for me because I have a lot of pride in it and they get to watch it on TV and stuff like that. But again – it just takes me out of their life a little bit,” he said.

That opportunity might just come. He believes that he will be racing in either the Nationwide Series or Camping World Truck Series next year. If he races the Nationwide Series, it likely won’t be the entire schedule. However, if he were to race in the Truck Series, he would be racing the full season – enabling him to contend for a championship.

Until he got the official word from Gaulding, Vice President of Operations for NTS Motorsports, Pistone was content with the lifestyle he had created. Now, he has a second chance at becoming what he had always dreamed of.

“I haven’t raced anything competitively since 2007. I had already done that in my mind. It was a tough decision when I got this opportunity. I had to make sure everything made sense that I could make a living doing this. I don’t know if I deserved to, but he had to make it that way so I could focus on the racing side of things because it takes me away from the business.”

As he continues to adjust to the competition and long races, Pistone understands he needs to improve his physical fitness. Entering this second opportunity, he was worried that he didn’t have enough stamina to contend well late in races. However, with perseverance, he has been able to prove himself wrong.

“It has been a lot easier than I thought it was going to be. I wasn’t planning on racing again. I wasn’t in bad shape by any means, but that was the biggest thing. We haven’t raced when it is 100 degrees either, but every race has been a learning experience for sure. On the physical side – that was the one thing I was worried about, but everything has been fine so far,” he said about his physical condition.

Moving forward, Pistone wants to show his children what their father’s true passion is like. Although he seldom works with his grandfather, legendary racer, “Tiger” Tom Pistone, he wants to bring the once synonymous name back into NASCAR, and for a long time.

“I have had a lot of support to get our name back into racing. There are people that like it and people that hate it. At this time, I hope that I can bring it back in a positive way. I think so far, we are doing a good job – kind of flying under the radar and not causing any issues, just getting valuable seat time and learning.”

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