Friday 5: Passion on and off the track

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There’s been much to talk about this season but some of the conversation has centered more on what has happened off the track.

Maybe Kyle Busch can help return the talk to the track this weekend at Martinsville Speedway.

Admittedly, three of the first five races having a margin of victory of 2.6 seconds or more (last week Martin Truex Jr. won by 11.6 seconds) takes away some of the excitement for some even as Kevin Harvick won three races in a row.

Other than Harvick’s dominance, some of the buzzy topics this season has been Harvick talking about the need to build up grassroots racing, why Busch wasn’t interviewed on TV after last weekend’s race at Auto Club (and then his responses to Twitter trolls) and how Austin Dillon and members of his team got tattoos on their rear end after winning the Daytona 500.

All worthy topics to generate conversation, but the discussion on the racing hasn’t been as paramount to this point.

Martinsville comes just in time to change that. The series is back at the track for the first time since Denny Hamlin’s contact knocked Chase Elliott out of the lead late in the fall race and fans saw a level of emotion they hadn’t seen from Elliott. If you don’t recall, Busch went on to win that race.

Last spring had its excitement with Ricky Stenhouse Jr. bumping Busch out of the way to stay on the lead lap, opening the door for Elliott to win a stage. Later in that race, Brad Keselowski and Kyle Busch engaged in a spellbinding duel before Keselowski pulled away and went on to win. Busch finished second.

Right now, Busch is one of the main drivers who stirs the drink in a sport that has seen fan favorites Dale Earnhardt Jr., Jeff Gordon and Tony Stewart, among others, retire.

Even Earnhardt said as much on his podcast this week.

“The one thing that I’ve learned over the last several years … was the sport needs people like Kyle,’’ Earnhardt said on the Dale Jr. Download. “Even if you don’t like the guy, the sport needs all kinds of personalities, and we can’t have 40 heroes out there racing.

“We can’t have 40 Captain Americas out there competing against each other. You gotta have a Batman, you gotta have a Robin, you gotta have a Superman, you gotta have a Joker. You gotta have all of that to create storylines and create rivalries.”

The sport’s best rivalry is Keselowski and Busch. It’s one that simmers and then explodes, whether it is in their duel at Martinsville last year, their contact at Watkins Glen, Busch’s Twitter response to Keselowski after Keselowski’s comments about Toyota’s dominance entering the playoffs or Busch simply saying at the news conference before last year’s Miami championship race of Busch: “Sometimes you just don’t like a guy.’’

This weekend could be a chance for such feelings to bubble or maybe from somebody else. With an off weekend afterward, it would give fans something to talk about.

2. An impassioned defense

BK Racing car owner Ron Devine was combative at times, calling the procedure “nonsense” while on the stand for about 2 1/2 hours Thursday in federal bankruptcy court.

Devine, who turned to address the judge at times when answering questions from attorneys, was on the stand defending his right to run BK Racing despite millions of dollars in losses in recent years and unpaid bills.

Union Bank & Trust, which claims it is owed more than $8 million in loans from Devine, seeks to have a trustee put in charge of the team. Union Bank & Trust stated in documents filed in U.S. Bankruptcy court that BK Racing had lost about $30 million from 2014-16.

MORE: Court filing lists expenses, revenue for each race 

MORE: Rare peek into race purses, payouts

Devine said on the stand that the team had signed a sponsor agreement Wednesday with EarthWater for $3.6 million for the rest of the season. The amount is to be paid in cash, shares of stock and product. Devine said that if the judge ruled to have a bank-appointed trustee run the team, the sponsor would not remain, noting a line that in the agreement that the deal was null and void if Devine was not running the team.

Devine, who said his organization had “low teens” in terms of full-time employees, stated that those employees would quit if a trustee took over. Devine said the only reason the bank wanted a trustee was to sell the team’s charter. He accused the bank of soliciting bids for the charter.

Turning to the judge, Devine said of having a trustee run the team instead of him: “There’s no way he can operate the team. He has no knowledge and ability to operate my team.’’

Devine estimated he had spent half a million dollars of his own money since December to offset deficits at BK Racing. During the testimony, Devine confirmed that he sold one of the team’s charters before the 2017 season to Front Row Motorsports for $2 million.

“I can run this race team,’’ Devine said in court.

The matter has been continued until Wednesday.

3. West Coast review

While Kevin Harvick dominated the West Coast swing, winning two of the three races, Kyle Busch had the best average finish for the events at Las Vegas, Phoenix and Fontana.

Of course, Harvick’s 35th-place finish Sunday after contact with Kyle Larson ruined his average finish.

Here’s who had the best average finish for the three races:

2.3 — Kyle Busch

3.3 — Martin Truex Jr.

7.7 — Kyle Larson

8.0 — Erik Jones

8.3 — Brad Keselowski

Here’s who scored the most points in the three races:

147 — Martin Truex Jr.

146 — Kyle Busch

125 — Brad Keselowski

120 — Kyle Larson

115 — Kevin Harvick

Kevin Harvick, Kyle Busch and Martin Truex Jr. combined to lead 75.2 percent of the laps run on the West Coast swing. Harvick led 252 laps, Busch led 200 laps and Truex led 134 laps.

4. In case you missed it …

Only three drivers scored a top-10 finish in each of the three West Coast swing races: Kyle Busch, Martin Truex Jr. and Erik Jones.

5. Back in time

Jimmie Johnson has nine career Martinsville victories (in 32 starts for a winning percentage of 28.1 percent) but has two top-10 finishes — including a win in October 2016 — in the last seven starts there. He’s led only in two of those seven races. He once had a streak of 17 consecutive top-10 finishes there, including six wins.

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BK Racing court filing reveals expenses, revenue for each race

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Court documents filed Thursday show that BK Racing made a net income of $359,619 through the Phoenix Cup race.

The documents are part of BK Racing’s Chapter 11 bankruptcy case. The team filed Chapter bankruptcy Feb. 15.

COURT DOCUMENTS: Click here to view the BK Racing filing

MORE: Peek into race purses under charter system

A hearing Thursday afternoon in U.S. Bankruptcy Court, Western District of North Carolina, on a motion by Union Bank & Trust to have a trustee take over the team’s operations was continued until Wednesday. BK Racing car owner Ron Devine was on the stand for more than two hours.

The bank claims it is owned more than $8 million in loan payments and seeks to have a trustee oversee BK Racing’s finances “to an end to the Debtor’s years of mismanagement,’’ according to court documents from the bank.

In its motion to appoint a trustee, Union Bank filed documents stating that the team lost nearly $30 million from 2014-16.

The updated budget filed Thursday on behalf of BK Racing breaks down income and expense for each of the first four points races and anticipated income and expenses the rest of the season.

The document shows that BK Racing had $50,000 sponsorship for the Daytona 500, $10,000 sponsorship each for the Atlanta and Las Vegas races and $30,000 sponsorship for the Phoenix race.

BK Racing listed prize money as:

$29,946 for its qualifying race at Daytona

$428,794 for finishing 20th in the Daytona 500

$91,528 for finishing 36th at Atlanta

$98,754 for finishing 33rd at Las Vegas

$82,000 for finishing 34th at Phoenix

The high payout for the Daytona 500 has given BK Racing more than $350,000 in net income. For other races, though, the team’s net income has been small.

At Phoenix, the team listed a net income of $790.

The team had $120,250 in revenue for the Phoenix weekend. It was broken down this way:

$82,000 in prize money

$30,000 in sponsorship

$8,250 in other revenue

The team listed $119,460 in expenses that weekend. Among the team’s expenses for Phoenix:

$35,000 for its engine lease

$21,000 for salary and wages

$10,525 for airfare for team personnel

$9,000 for tires

$9,000 for contract payroll

Those expenses alone totaled $84,525, exceeding what the team made in prize money and showing how important sponsorship is in the sport.

BK Racing provided a budget for the remaining races. The team’s budgeted expense was more than $103,000 for every race. That included everything from engine lease and tire bills to hotels, meals, salary and wages, entry fees, insurance, payroll taxes and more.

The most expensive race is the Daytona 500 at $135,502, which included an engine lease of $50,000. Next listed was Auto Club Speedway at $125,606, which included $9,500 in airfare and $10,000 in tires.

BK Racing’s prize money estimates on remaining races is based on a 30th-place finish in each event.

BK Racing lists its sponsorship budget for future races as $50,000 per race, progressing to $100,000 and to $150,000 for the final 13 races. That would give the team a sponsorship budget of $3.505 million.

Court documents filed by Union Bank & Trust show that BK Racing collected $1.5 million in sponsorship in 2016 and $1.05 million in sponsorship in 2015.

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Rare peek into race purses, payouts under charter system

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A new filing before a Thursday bankruptcy court hearing for BK Racing provided a window into the payouts of NASCAR’s charter structure.

The system, which went into effect two years ago, guaranteed revenues and race attendance for 36 cars. Funding was based on four categories: entering a race, historical performance over the past three seasons, the traditional points fund (with extra cash) and race results. It was partly intended to help teams by providing more predictable revenue guarantees for budget projections.

MORE: Court filing reveals expenses, revenue for each race

Prior to the 2016 season, each race had a purse that paid out for finishing position and contingency awards (which rewarded the most competitive teams). Under the new system, money paid for results was based solely on finishing position, and NASCAR abolished publishing purse totals and race winnings in box scores.

The BK Racing document, which was filed in U.S. Bankruptcy Court, Western District of North Carolina, sheds some light on those now shielded numbers. It lists the total purse for every race during the 2018 season and also lists BK Racing’s prize money for each of the first four races in the No. 23 Toyota with driver Gray Gaulding.

–Daytona 500 (total purse $15.466 million): The team earned $428,794 for finishing 20th.

–Atlanta Motor Speedway (total purse $2.477 million): The team earned $91,528 for 36th.

–Las Vegas Motor Speedway (total purse $2.647 million): The team earned $98,754 for 33rd.

–ISM Raceway near Phoenix (total purse: $1.459 million): The team earned $82,000 for 34th.

Though the formula was different for structuring the purse and race payouts, here were the total purses and payouts for those positions in 2015, the last year that earnings were publicly made available.

–Daytona 500: Total purse $19.8 million; $348,803 for 20th

–Atlanta: Total purse $6.3 million; $101,370 for 36th

–Las Vegas: Total purse $6.5 million; $118,724 for 33rd

–Phoenix: Total purse $5.1 million; $74,805 for 34th

A hearing on the BK Racing bankruptcy case will be held in Charlotte at 2 p.m. Thursday.

Click here to view the BK Racing filing.

Overlooked stories from the Daytona 500

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The two defining stories coming out of the 60th Daytona 500 are Austin Dillon’s win and Darrell Wallace Jr.’s historic runner-up finish.

But there were 38 other drivers in the “Great American Race” with a few having career days at the 2.5-mile track.

Here’s a look at some of the overlooked stories of the race.

JTG-Daugherty Racing

The two-car team put both of its entries in the top 10 for the second year in a row.

A.J. Allmendinger brought his No. 47 Chevrolet home in 10th while Chris Buescher and his No. 37 Chevrolet finished fifth. It was Buescher’s seventh top 10 of his career.

Michael McDowell

In his first start with Front Row Motorsports, McDowell drove his No. 34 Ford to a ninth-place finish.

It is McDowell’s sixth top-10 finish in 250 Cup starts. It’s his second straight top 10 at Daytona after earning a career-best fourth-place finish last July.

It is FRM’s third top 10 at Daytona in 49 combined starts at the track.

Justin Marks

Though he didn’t finish on the lead lap, Marks still managed to earn the best finish of his four-race Cup career.

Driving the No. 51 for Rick Ware Racing and Premium Motorsports, Marks finished 12th. Previously he had finishes of 40th (Talladega, 2017) and 30th (Sonoma, 2013 and 2015).

Marks, 37, also led his first lap in Cup competition on Sunday.

Gray Gaulding

Driving BK Racing’s No. 23 Toyota, Gaulding made his first start in the Daytona 500 and finished 20th.

It capped off a week where Gaulding did not make a qualifying attempt for the race and BK Racing filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy the day of the qualifying duels.

Mark Thompson

A veteran of 100 ARCA Racing Series races, the 66-year-old driver from Cartersville, Georgia, made just his third Cup Series start on Sunday and his first in the Daytona 500. The race was also his final start in any racing series.

A Vietnam war veteran, Thompson drove the No. 66 for Carl Long to a 22nd-place finish.

Thanks to wrecks, Thompson finished ahead of Jimmie Johnson, Kyle Busch, Kurt Busch, William Byron, Kevin Harvick and Brad Keselowski.

His previous two starts, in 1992 at Pocono and last year at Talladega, resulted in DNFs.

Thompson, who won the pole for the 2015 ARCA race at Daytona, failed to qualify for the Pepsi 400 at Daytona in 1993 and the 1994 Daytona 500.

D.J. Kennington

Making his second start in the Daytona 500, the Canadian driver earned his career-best result in six Cup starts when he placed 24th.

It topped his 26th-place finish last November at Phoenix.

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BK Racing owner explains reason for filing Chapter 11 bankruptcy

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DAYTONA BEACH, Florida — BK Racing owner Ron Devine said his team filed Chapter 11 bankruptcy to keep Union Bank & Trust from taking control of the team’s charter and selling it.

BK Racing filed Chapter 11 bankruptcy Thursday afternoon in Western District Court of North Carolina. In its bankruptcy filing, BK Racing estimated the number of its creditors as 50-99. The team estimated its assets as more than 10 million and estimated liabilities of more than $10 million.

The filing came shortly before a hearing was scheduled Thursday in Mecklenburg County Superior Court on Union Bank and Trust’s request to have a receiver to oversee BK Racing’s collateral. Union Bank & Trust claims that BK Racing owes it more than $8 million in outstanding loans. Among the most valuable pieces of BK Racing’s collateral is the charter it has for the No. 23 car that Gray Gaulding will drive in the Daytona 500.

“I filed (Chapter 11 bankruptcy) because the bank wouldn’t stop trying to get a receiver (to oversee the team’s collateral),’’ Devine said. “The only reason they wanted to get a receiver was to push the charter off to their third-party offer. That’s where the problem was.’’

Devine said he felt that he and the bank came close to resolving their issues before time ran out. He plans to meet with the bank next week and continue discussions.

The Chapter 11 bankruptcy listed 20 creditors with the largest unsecured claims. The largest was to Race Engines Plus for $569,539.95. Devine said matters have been resolved for the team to use the company’s engine and race this weekend but more needs to be done.

“We’re either going to fix it or we’re going to have to change,’’ Devine said of the engine company. “I think the relationship is what has to be fixed between me and Joey (Arrington, founder of Race Engines Plus). Fixed or changed or something. I actually think (Chapter) 11 will help us be able to have a conversation.’’

So how does Devine, who has owned various businesses and been involved in commercial and residential real estate development for more than 30 years, find himself in a such a financial position with his race team?

“I think it’s a tough business,’’ he said. “I think it’s an expensive learning curve. You’ve got to decide where you are taking the company. I took it down a very independent route. Probably wasn’t the smartest. I think the right thing to do is get an alignment.

“If I had any inclination of getting out, I would have let them do the receiver and just gone quietly into the sunset. I still see in the last unpioneered sport in the country, that NASCAR is going to be one of the premier sports in this country and I want to be a part of that. I still believe that. I think it’s going to be spectacular. I think it’s going through a transition. It’s headed in the right direction.’’

How does he get his team to where he wants to be competitively?

“We got to stop the nonsense,’’ Devine said. “We’ve got to get this thing worked out with this bank. Then we’ve got to get ourself together and on a platform that we can run and race competitively.’’

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