TriStar Motorsports will field its No. 72 Chevrolet in the Cup Series again this year with Corey LaJoie and Cole Whitt sharing seat time in the car, the team announced Tuesday.
LaJoie, who drove for BK Racing last year, will be the primary driver. Whitt, who piloted the No. 72 full-time last season, has elected to scale back his schedule to shift his focus.
The team has leased a charter from Front Row Motorsports, ensuring the No. 72 a starting spot in all 36 points races.
LaJoie, 26, is the son of two-time Xfinity Series champion Randy LaJoie. He will drive the No. 72 in the Feb. 18 Daytona 500. He enters the season with 34 Cup starts and a best finish of 11th in last year’s July race at Daytona.
“It’s such a great opportunity to work with TriStar Motorsports,” LaJoie said in a press release. “I hope to use the learning experiences from my 2017 rookie season and work hard for some great finishes this year. It’s my goal to continue building a successful team with (team owner) Bryan (Smith), while honoring the legacy his dad, Mark, left behind.”
Whitt, 26, has 148 Cup starts since 2011. Last year was his third full-time season in the series. His best finish last season was 12th in the Brickyard 400.
“I want to thank TriStar and the Smith family for allowing me to do something I feel is the right decision for me and my family,” Whitt said in a press release. “I am excited and a little nervous to say that I will be racing a limited schedule this year. I am looking forward to taking the next step in my life and trying to spend most of my time with my family. Stepping back from racing is a hard choice but I strongly believe this is the right path. TriStar has been an amazing blessing to me and my family and I look forward to what the future holds for both of us.”
The season will mark the team’s first full year since the death of former owner Mark Smith in July. His son Bryan Smith took over control of the team, which has competed in NASCAR since 1989.
“We are taking a different approach with our competitive platform for 2018 by utilizing two drivers,” Bryan Smith said in a press release. “It is an opportunity we feel is the best direction for this season and accommodates the goals of both drivers as well as the team. We are more than pleased with Cole’s efforts in 2017 and are extremely glad to have him back this season. He has been an integral part of our return to the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series and we appreciate his contributions to our team. We are equally as pleased to add Corey to our driver roster. His attitude, desire and ability are a welcomed addition and we feel he will be a great fit. We feel both drivers embody the core elements of who we are as a team and are confident each will contribute to the betterment of our program.”
TriStar will announce sponsorship and its plans in the Xfinity Series at a later date.