BK Racing provides haven for former MWR employees looking for work

(Photo by Dustin Long)
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CHARLOTTE — Being laid off was nothing new to Kevin White, but the feeling this time was.

Twice before, the 22-year NASCAR veteran had been with teams that shut down — Ricky Rudd’s in 1999 and Andy Petree’s in 2004. Each time, White quickly found work with another organization.

But when Michael Waltrip Racing announced in August it would cease operations after the 2015 season, White, who had been a tire specialist, mechanic and worked on front suspensions in four years there, struggled to find another job in the sport. He wondered if his time in NASCAR was over.

“You don’t want to go out on their terms,’’ the 50-year-old said. “If I pick and choose to get out of it, I want it to be because I’m ready to get out not because I was forced out.’’

Monday — less than three weeks before the Daytona 500 — White began his first day at BK Racing. He’s not alone.

He is one of 11 former Michael Waltrip Racing employees at BK Racing, including driver David Ragan. On a team with about 75 people, including about 25 new hires since last year, the influx of MWR employees could make a significant impact on the growing team.

It already is in the parking lot. Tuesday afternoon all the parking spots in front of the 36,000-square foot facility were taken, forcing team members to park on a driveway next to the building and on the grass behind the shop.

“We’re busting at the seams,’’ Ryan Dubois, the team’s general manager said.

BK Racing also has not been able to keep up in distributing team apparel. That’s left White, Joel Cox, a fabricator, and Greg Schaefer, who oversees the assembly of the cars, among those in the shop working in their MWR garb.

They are among more than 80 former MWR employees — out of about 200 — who have found jobs with Sprint Cup teams since last year.

White admits this was the most difficult time to find another job after being laid off. It was easier years before when there were more teams in the Cup series. That number has dwindled, leading to reports that the 43-car Cup field will be cut to 40 this year when NASCAR and teams agree on a charter system.

New jobs used to be so easy to get that Cox got one by chance. Cox, who lost his job when a Nationwide team shut down in the middle of the 2006 season, took a friend to Michael Waltrip Racing shortly after that so the friend could drop off a resume. Cox walked into the shop, saw someone he used to work with and was asked if he needed work. Just like that Cox had a new job.

While not having a job since the end of last season was concerning, the time off allowed Schaefer to spend time with his father, Dick, who was hospitalized from October to mid-January. Schaefer spent about five weeks in Florida, time he likely wouldn’t have been able to have spent if he had a job.

With his father at home, Schaefer is back at work. In some ways, it is as if he didn’t leave MWR.

The team purchased 17 MWR cars and much equipment. With former Michael Waltrip Racing employees in the shop, there was a sense of familiarity not often associated when one starts a new job.

Ragan also feels that comfort with the familiar faces in the shop.

“It gives some confidence as a driver knowing that the inventory that I raced last year, which was competitive, that I’ll be starting the season with it and with a lot of the same guys that will be assembling the cars and working on the cars,’’ Ragan said.

There’s little free space in the team’s shop with all the cars and equipment packed tight. Hustle and bustle exude in the shop as the team prepares for the upcoming season and integrates its new employees.

One of the new things the team did this year, Dubois said, was offer contracts to all its employees.

“You stay with us, we stay with you,’’ Dubois said is the message the team is sending its employees by offering contracts. “This is our group moving forward. We want to be a family. We want to get rid of the turnover rate.

“We want people that want to drive a stake in the ground and say, ‘I’m going to make BK successful.’ We ask that commitment from the employees but also provide that same loyalty and commitment to them.’’

That’s comforting for White. He laughs about his luck in NASCAR after being with three teams that shut down and going through the mergers that saw Evernham Motorsports become Gillett-Evernham Motorsports and then Richard Petty Motorsports.

“I’m kind of scared for these guys,’’ White laughs, looking around at his new teammates at BK Racing considering his history with teams shutting down. “Hopefully, it’s not me.’’

NASCAR Awards: Scene on the red carpet

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The NASCAR community gathered at the Music City Center to commemorate the 2022 season and celebrate Joey Logano‘s second Cup title.

The event can be seen at 8 p.m. ET Saturday on Peacock.

Here is a look at the scene on the red carpet before Thursday night’s NASCAR Awards:

Joey Logano and Brittany Logano (Photo: Dustin Long)


Ryan Blaney and Gianna Tulio (Photo: Dustin Long)


Kyle and Samantha Busch (Photo: Dustin Long)


Chase Elliott (Photo: Dustin Long)


Alex Bowman and Crystal Marsh (Photo: Dustin Long)


Tyler Reddick and Alexa De Leon (Photo: Dustin Long)


Denny Hamlin and Jordan Fish (Photo: Dustin Long)


Daniel Suarez and Julia Piquet (Photo: Dustin Long)


Chase Briscoe and Marissa Briscoe (Photo: Dustin Long)


Christopher Bell and Morgan Bell (Photo: Dustin Long)


Austin Dillon and Whitney Dillon (Photo: Dustin Long)


Kyle Larson (Photo: Dustin Long)


William Byron and Erin Blaney (Photo: Dustin Long)


Kevin Harvick (Photo: Dustin Long)


Ross Chastain and Erika Turner (Photo: Dustin Long)


Austin Cindric (Photo: Dustin Long)


Kurt Busch (Photo: Dustin Long)


Harrison Burton and Jenna Petty(Photo: Dustin Long)
Mario Andretti (Photo: Dustin Long)

Chase Elliott wins NMPA Most Popular Driver Award


NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Chase Elliott won his fifth consecutive NMPA Most Popular Driver Award on Thursday.

The announcement was made during the NASCAR Awards at the Music City Center. The show will air at 8 p.m. ET Saturday on Peacock.

Elliott is one of only five drivers to win the award since 1984.

Bill Elliott won it from 1984-88, 1991-2000 and 2002. Dale Earnhardt won the award posthumously in 2001. Darrell Waltrip won it in 1989-90. Dale Earnhardt Jr. won it from 2003-17. Chase Elliott has won it every year since.

Noah Gragson was voted as the Most Popular Driver in the Xfinity Series. Hailie Deegan was voted as the Most Popular Driver in the Camping World Truck Series.

Kevin Harvick to make decision on future by Daytona in February


NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Former Cup champion Kevin Harvick says he’ll know by Daytona in February his plans beyond 2023.

Harvick’s contract with Stewart-Haas Racing ends after the upcoming season. 

Harvick said Thursday before the NASCAR Awards that “it could go either way at this particular point” on what he’ll do, but he affirmed that “going into Daytona, I’ll know what I’m going to do.”

The Daytona 500 is scheduled for Feb. 19. Harvick anticipates making an announcement by then.

“We’re at a point where everybody needs to know what’s going on,” Harvick said. “There’s too many tentacles to everything that happens. Whether it’s the race team, driver management company, every element needs to know. It’s not fair to anybody to have to start the season not knowing.”

Harvick turns 47 on Dec. 8. Next season will be his 23rd in Cup. His debut came a week after Dale Earnhardt’s fatal crash in the 2001 Daytona 500. Harvick was selected by car owner Richard Childress to drive for Earnhardt’s team. 

Harvick has gone to win the 2014 Cup championship and 60 races at Richard Childress Racing and Stewart-Haas Racing. He’s tied with Kyle Busch for ninth on the all-time Cup wins list.

Harvick won two races last season. His victory last August at Michigan snapped a 65-race winless streak. He followed that by winning the next weekend at Richmond. 

Harvick has won at least two races in nine of the past 10 seasons. He has scored 41 of his 60 Cup wins since he turned 37 years old.

“Kevin, I think, is probably the No. 1 leader of the drivers, as he should be,” two-time Cup champion Joey Logano said Thursday. “He’s been around the longest. He’s very accomplished. He’s very smart. He’s been through the ups and downs. He’s lived it. There’s wisdom in experience. It’s great to hear his opinion on where we are as a sport.”

Harvick’s business interests include a management company that represents Cup drivers Ryan Preece, Harrison Burton and Ricky Stenhouse Jr., along with other athletes. Harvick also has worked as a broadcaster on NASCAR Xfinity races for Fox Sports, earning positive reviews. 

Harvick’s son Keelan, who is 10 years old, races and has competed in karting in Europe. 

“He’s got one more race in Italy … and then we’ll start all over again,” Harvick said of his son.

Harvick went overseas after the season finale at Phoenix to watch Keelan race.

“I think he’s definitely matured a little bit since he’s been making these trips,” Harvick said. “I think it’s important to have that culturing aspect of life to be comfortable to do things like that anywhere in the world.”

The NASCAR Awards program airs at 8 p.m. ET Saturday, Dec. 3 on Peacock. To sign up for Peacock, go here.

BJ McLeod, Live Fast team move to Chevrolet


NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Driver/owner BJ McLeod and Live Fast Motorsports will race in Chevrolets beginning with the 2023 NASCAR Cup Series season.

Based in Mooresville, North Carolina, Live Fast has been a Ford team.

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Live Fast is owned by McLeod, Matt Tifft and Joe Falk. Jessica McLeod, BJ’s wife, is the team’s chief operating officer.

“Our team is excited to make this transition to Chevrolet,” BJ McLeod said in a statement released by the team. “Chevrolet Camaros have proven great success on the track, and Live Fast Motorsports is looking forward to becoming a part of this advance.”

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The team will use ECR engines.

McLeod had one top-10 finish in 29 starts in the Cup Series last season.