Ray Black Jr.

Photo courtesy Rick Ware Racing

Rick Ware Racing acquires NASCAR Cup charter for 2018, will also field ‘open’ car

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Rick Ware Racing (RWR) announced Friday that it has acquired a NASCAR Cup Series charter for the 2018 season.

However, RWR did not identify which Cup team it acquired the charter from.

As a result, RWR will be able to compete full-time in the Cup Series with the No. 51, beginning in the 60th Daytona 500 on Sunday, Feb. 18, 2018.

The team will also field an “open” team – one that will not have a charter and will have to qualify for every race it enters – sporting the No. 52 car number.

In addition to not identifying where it acquired the Cup charter, RWR is not identifying at this time what manufacturer it will field for either car in the upcoming season.

In a media statement, however, it did say that will be both be building and acquiring cars both during the off-season and in-season, including Chevrolet Camaros, Ford Fusions and Toyota Camrys.

The Thomasville, North Carolina-based organization is also increasing the amount of personnel, updating equipment, adding engineering support on and off the road, as well as upgrading its 20,000-square-foot shop.

The team said it will finalize its driver lineup for both the No. 51 and No. 52 “in the immediate future,” it said in a media release.

Six drivers drove a combined 29 races for RWR in the 2017 NASCAR Cup season: Timmy Hill (9 races), B.J. McLeod (8 races), Cody Ware (5), Ray Black Jr. (3), Kyle Weatherman (2) and Josh Bilicki (2).

The team’s two best finishes were both by Hill: a 28th-place showing at the spring race in Kansas, followed the next week by a 29th-place finish at Charlotte.

The team also entered three Camping World Truck races, with 2 starts by Jordan Anderson and one by Spencer Boyd. It also competed in one Xfinity race.

Report: Richard Petty Motorsports, Richard Childress Racing to align

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Richard Petty Motorsports will switch from Ford to Chevrolet, be aligned with Richard Childress Racing and relocate to the RCR campus in Welcome, North Carolina, according to a report Thursday by SportsBusiness Daily.

Spokespersons for Chevrolet, Richard Petty Motorsports and Richard Childress Racing told NBC Sports on Thursday they had no comment on the report.

Petty confirmed the move to RCR’s campus to Kickin’ the Tires on Thursday at the Performance Racing Industry show in Indianapolis.

“We are in the process of moving from where we are now to closer to home, over in Lexington from Mooresville,” Petty told Kickin’ the Tires. “We are off in the corner up at RCR. When you first come in you go by the museum and we’ve got the first building up there, so … we’re on the campus but we’re really not on the campus. We are on the corner of the campus. I guess he (Richard Childress) done that so he could kick us out if we get to causing too much trouble up there.”

On the manufacture switch, Petty told Kickin’ the Tires: “We’re switching to something. Yeah, yeah, you know, It’s a pretty foregone conclusion what is going on, right now.

“We’ll probably be working off of him (Childress), sort of, like we did off of Roush with Ford.”

Richard Petty Motorsports is in the midst of significant change. The team announced Oct. 25 that Darrell Wallace Jr. would drive the No. 43 car next season. He will take over for Aric Almirola, who left after this season to join Stewart-Haas Racing.

RPM stated Aug. 28 that it would vacate the race shop it leased in Mooresville, North Carolina, after the season.

The organization continues to look for sponsorship. Smithfield had been a primary sponsor the past six years. Smithfield will sponsor Almirola at Stewart-Haas Racing next year but also is expected to stay on in some form with RPM, according to a SportsBusiness Daily report in October. Richard Petty Motorsports announced Nov. 3 that Click n’ Close will sponsor the car in at least three races next year, including the Daytona 500. STP announced Nov. 13 that it would sponsor RPM in two races in 2018

The pairing of Richard Petty Motorsports and Richard Childress Racing makes sense because RCR appears to have room at its facility. Richard Childress Racing, which has run three full-time Cup teams the past six seasons, has not announced plans for the No. 27 Cup team. That ride was left in question after Paul Menard and sponsor Menard’s announced in July that they would move to the Wood Brothers for 2018.

Richard Childress Racing, which has three charters, has announced only Cup entries for next season for Austin Dillon and Ryan Newman. Richard Petty Motorsports has two charters (it leased one last year) but is only expected to field the No. 43 for Wallace.

Petty told Kickin’ the Tires that the team is leasing a charter for the 2018 season to Rick Ware Racing for the No. 51 car with Ray Black Jr.

By partnering, it would allow RPM to have access to the engineering support Richard Childress Racing can supply. By adding RPM, it would allow Earnhardt Childress Racing Engines to offset the loss of the No. 27 team if it doesn’t run next season.

Also, a move by Wallace and RPM to Chevrolet would mean that half the 14 Chevrolet Cup drivers who have been announced with rides for next season would be age 25 or under to start the season. Wallace is 24 and would join William Byron (age 20), Chase Elliott (22), Alex Bowman (24), Kyle Larson (25), Ty Dillon (25) and Chris Buescher (25) in the Chevrolet roster with such a move.

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Ray Black Jr. to race full-time in Cup in 2018 with Rick Ware Racing

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Ray Black Jr. will race full-time for Rick Ware Racing in the Cup Series next year and compete against William Byron for Rookie of the Year honors

Black, 26, will make the move from the Xfinity Series to Cup to drive the No. 51.

Rick Ware told frontstretch.com his team purchased a charter for next season, guaranteeing the No. 51 a starting spot in every race. Ware did not disclose which team he purchased the charter from.

Black, native of Flagler Beach, Florida, made his Cup debut this year in the No. 51 at Chicagoland Speedway. He qualified 39th and finished last, 16 laps down.

He made two more starts, at Texas Motor Speedway (finished 34th) and Miami, where he placed 38th after being parked by NASCAR for not meeting minimum speed.

Black has 55 Xfinity starts since 2015 with a best finish of 12th in last July’s Daytona race. In 31 Camping World Truck Series starts his only top five and top 10 was a fifth-place finish in the 2015 season opener at Daytona.

Black was one of six drivers to pilot the No. 51 in 2017. Rick Ware Racing has fielded 418 Xfinity starts since 1995, but only made 30 Cup starts, its first coming in 2012 at Las Vegas with Timmy Hill.

The team didn’t make another Cup start until this season.

Ware also told fronstretch.com he would run a part-time No. 52 car with the expectation of it being driven by BJ McLeod, Cody Ware, Kyle Weatherman and John Graham.

Spencer Boyd will compete in Xfinity full-time in 2018 for SS Green Light Racing

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SS Green Light Racing announced Thursday Spencer Boyd will compete full-time for it next season in the Xfinity Series.

Boyd will drive the No. 76 Chevrolet sponsored by Grunt Style, a veteran-owned lifestyle brand.

Boyd, 22, has made four starts for the team this year in the No. 07 Chevrolet, which has primarily been driven by Ray Black Jr.

“This is the day I’ve been waiting for my whole life,” Boyd said in a press release.  “I’ve been racing something since I was 5 years old with the dream of making racing my career. Grunt Style has made my dreams come true.”

A native of St. Louis, Missouri, Boyd has 12 starts between the Camping World Truck Series and Xfinity Series. In six Xfinity starts, including the four this year, his best result is 27th at New Hampshire.

Jason Miller will serve as the crew chief on the car that is owned by Bobby Dotter. Dotter has fielded cars in 116 races in the Xfinity Series since 1995 and 305 Truck Series entries since 2004.

“(Spencer) is one of the hardest working drivers I’ve seen,” Dotter said in the press release. “He is at the shop everyday helping with the cars and making the guys laugh.  Our organization is better because the team believes it when he says this is a team sport.  We are looking forward to a great 2018 season.”

Kyle Busch wins pole for Cup playoff opener at Chicagoland

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Kyle Busch won the pole for the Cup Series race at Chicagoland Speedway on Sunday, which is the opening race of the playoffs.

It is the seventh pole of the season for Busch, who claimed the spot with a speed of 187.963 mph.

The starting top five for the race is Busch, Denny Hamlin, Martin Truex Jr., Kevin Harvick and Brad Keselowski.

“It’s because I’m in a Toyota, that’s why, right?” Busch joked with NBCSN, referring to the Twitter exchange between him and Keselowski earlier in the day. “Just great adjustments right there. We were kind of a little bit free those first couple of runs and just trying to get the balance right and obviously the last round the balance was way better. Really able to attack and get the most out of it and that’s all she had.”

Also starting in the top 10 will be Kyle Larson (sixth), Chase Elliott (eighth), Austin Dillon (ninth) and Matt Kenseth (10th).

Ryan Blaney did not make a lap in the final round after he ran out of gas and will start 12th.

Five other playoff drivers made it to the second round.

Jimmie Johnson (14th), Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (15th), Ryan Newman (16th), Kurt Busch (17th)  and Jamie McMurray (19th).

“A step in the right direction,” Johnson told NBCSN. “Starting in the seventh row is a lot better than where we’ve started here recently. If we can move forward like we typically do in the race, get in the top 10, top five, it can completely change the outcome of the race and get momentum going the right way for us. We’re digging deep. I think we’ve improved some. … It’s time for this 48 to get hot.”

Dale Earnhardt Jr. will start 20th in his last Chicagoland start.

Erik Jones did not make a lap in the second round after he spun exiting Turn 4 with about six minutes left in the round.

Kasey Kahne was the only playoff driver who failed to advance out of the first round. He will start 25th in the postseason opener.

“We were missing rear grip, we didn’t have any,” Kahne told NBCSN. “We were terrible in practice. We were terrible in qualifying. Tomorrow’s a new day and we’ll do everything we can to be much better. But today was awful.”

Ray Black Jr. qualified 39th for his Cup Series debut. He is driving the No. 51 for Rick Ware.

Click here for qualifying results.