Rick Ware Racing to field full-time team in 2017 NASCAR Cup season

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Veteran NASCAR Xfinity Series and Camping World Truck Series team owner Rick Ware announced Friday that he will field a new full-time team in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series for the 2017 season.

The Thomasville, North Carolina-based team will make its debut at next month’s 59th Daytona 500 and compete as an “open non-chartered” team. Sponsorship of the team will be announced at a later date, according to a media release.

In much the same way Rick Ware Racing has done with both its Xfinity and Truck teams over the years, there will a rotating roster of drivers that will pilot the No. 51 Chevrolet during the 2017 season.

Timmy Hill will be the first driver during Speedweeks and in the Daytona 500. Others slated to compete in subsequent races include longtime RWR drivers Stanton Barrett, Cody Ware and Kevin O’Connell.

Ware has purchased assets from Tommy Baldwin Racing including cars, pulldown rig and technology support.

In addition Ware has added Joe Lax, who will serve as crew chief of the No. 51, and Mike Hillman Sr., who will fill a newly-created role as a consultant.

“We’ve been eyeing our return to the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series since the end of last year,” Ware said in a media release. “We knew with the competition level stronger than ever, we needed to take the steps to make sure we could come to the track and be as competitive as possible, while focused on building our organization as the season presses on.”

RWR has just one prior start in NASCAR’s premier series, coming at Las Vegas in 2012 when Hill finished last in a 42-car field after being involved in a wreck 42 laps into the 267-lap event.

Hill, 23, will have to race his way into the Daytona 500 by qualifying performance. It will be Hill’s 49th career NASCAR Cup start — but his first at Daytona. In addition, because RWR is a non-charter team, it and whichever driver is behind the wheel will have to qualify on performance for every NASCAR Cup race it enters.

After a one-year hiatus, RWR will also return to the Truck Series with Spencer Boyd as its driver. It is not expected to field an Xfinity Series program due to the upgrade to NASCAR Cup.

Last season in the Xfinity Series, fielding rides for 22 different drivers. Veteran driver Jeff Green had the best overall finish: seventh in the summer race at Daytona.

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