Bankruptcy judge appoints trustee to manage BK Racing

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CHARLOTTE, North Carolina – A U.S. Bankruptcy Judge assigned a trustee to take over BK Racing and replace car owner Ron Devine as the team’s financial decision maker Wednesday evening.

“It’s a sad day for BK,” Devine said after leaving the federal courthouse.

Said NASCAR in a statement: “We have a clear process around charter member governance. It is incumbent upon charter members to be ready to race and compete at the highest level.”

The judge’s decision allows the team to continue to race. One of the roles of the trustee will be to determine if the team remains a viable business and can make money. If not, an option would be to sell the team’s assets, including its charter.

“I think it’s in everyone’s best interests that this business continue in the short run,” Judge J. Craig Whitley said in making his ruling.

The team ranks 35th in car owner points after Gray Gaulding‘s 36th-place finish Monday at Martinsville Speedway.

Matthew Smith, managing director of The Finley Group, will oversee the BK Racing’s finances.

“The goal is to find a way to race as long as we can,” Smith said on the stand Wednesday.

Smith, a member of the North Carolina Motorsports Advisory Council for three years, noted that it was not clear how much cash BK Racing has, citing incomplete records and documents not filed in court.

Union Bank & Trust claims it is owed more $8 million. The IRS states that the team owes more than $2 million. Creditors have until April 26 to file claims.

BK Racing filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy on Feb. 15. Devine said on Feb. 16 that he filed for bankruptcy “because the bank wouldn’t stop trying to get a receiver (to oversee the team’s collateral). 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.’’

BK Racing has not shown a profit since debuting in 2012. Court documents show that the team lost nearly $30 million from 2014-16.

A former employee and a current employee of the team both testified Wednesday of paychecks that bounced last year. Former tire specialist Jason Postma testified he had a BK payroll check bounce in September 2017 and had BK payroll checks bounce in November 2017 and December 2017 before leaving the team.

“We need someone to step in temporarily and stop this from snowballing,’’ testified Jeff Lemons, who runs the machine shop at BK Racing, on having a trustee appointed.

The team sold one of its charters before the 2017 season to Front Row Motorsports for $2 million. Devine, who spent five hours on the stand over two days, stated in court and he thought the bank’s goal is to sell the charter to recoup some of money owed.

“I’m disappointed, obviously,” Devine said of Wednesday’s decision. “We’ll see. The judge made his ruling. I respect that. We’ll talk about if there’s a next step, an appeal or anything like that.”

Devine said he planned to talk to sponsor EarthWater, which had signed an agreement last week to sponsor the team for the rest of year. The contract is valued at $3.6 million and can be paid in cash, EarthWater stock and product. There is a clause in the contract that the contract is null and void if Devine is not operating the team.

The judge encouraged Devine and BK Racing’s employees to work with Smith, the trustee, to help the team recover from its financial debt. Devine said he was unsure if he would do so.

“My sense is that he probably just wants me to get out of his way,” Devine said.

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Ryan Blaney thankful for support after Daytona 500 incident

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Ryan Blaney said he didn’t want to talk to many people the night of the Daytona 500 after contact with Ryan Newman triggered Newman’s horrific last-lap crash.

But when Blaney got home, his parents were there.

“That was nice of them to be there,” Blaney said Friday at Auto Club Speedway, the first time he’s talked to the media about the Daytona 500 since that night.  

Blaney was ashen when he spoke briefly to the media after the season-opening Daytona 500. As he spoke, an ambulance drove by on the frontstretch, taking Newman to the hospital.

Blaney was intent on pushing Newman, a fellow Ford driver, to the victory when it became clear to Blaney he could not win the race. But as he pushed Newman coming to the finish, the contact unsettled Newman’s car and it turned right into the outside wall. Newman’s car went airborne and was slammed in the driver side area while upside down by Corey LaJoie.

Newman walked out of a Daytona Beach hospital two days later. Newman said last weekend in a statement that he suffered a head injury but did not disclose any details. He has since been to Roush Fenway Racing to see team members and also did a video for one of the team’s sponsors that day. Newman will not race this weekend, missing his second consecutive race but said in his statement he looks forward to racing again.

MORE: Ryan Blaney talks to Ryan Newman, looks forward to seeing him at track

Blaney said several people helped him in the aftermath of Newman’s accident. All that was known the night of the race was that Newman was in serious condition with a non-life-threatening injury.

Blaney said close friend Bubba Wallace spent time with him the day after the Daytona 500.

“We talked about some stuff,” Blaney said Friday of what he and Wallace did. “I stayed off social media and all that stuff. You have people that aren’t even involved and have never even watched the sport that have their own opinion on bad things.

“The outreach I got from the calls from former drivers and current drivers that week was pretty remarkable. Their support was good. Even though it is unintentional and it is racing, it still takes a toll on you when it is off of your nose. You never want to see anyone get hurt in this sport. We are all competitors, but we are also a big family.

“Ryan and I have gotten along really well and that was just a bad circumstance and it is great that it worked out for the best. It was nice to have the friends and family and drivers and teams (offer their) support. That really helped me out.”

Blaney cited a couple of former drivers whose calls were impactful.

Jeff Burton and Bobby Labonte called me, people that I looked up to a lot as a kid,” Blaney said. “It was neat that they called me and gave me their peace of mind. That was good.”

Friday also marked the first time for Blaney to speak publicly since last weekend’s race at Las Vegas. Blaney led but a late caution changed the race. He and Alex Bowman, running second, were among drivers who pitted. Joey Logano, running third, did not pit, inherited the lead and went on to win. Blaney finished 11th.

Blaney said Friday it took him 10 minutes to get over how that race ended.

“Yeah, it was over,” Blaney said. “Moving on. I went and stayed in a teepee and forgot about it.”

About his experience staying in a teepee, Blaney said:

“I already had that planned no matter what happened. I like camping. I was out on a ranch in the middle of the desert for a couple days and just hanging out and all that stuff. It was fun.”

As for what he did, Blaney said: “Go hiking a little bit. Cook by the fire. Clear your head. It is just relaxing. I have always kind of been that way. It was nice to get out there. I was out there. I had to be out there for Tuesday night anyway and figured I would stay somewhere other than the (Las Vegas) Strip. I can’t do the strip for very long. I wanted to stay somewhere opposite to the Strip.”

Alex Bowman fastest in final Cup practice at Auto Club Speedway

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Alex Bowman completed a sweep of Friday’s Cup Series practice sessions at Auto Club Speedway by posting the top speed in final practice. He was also fastest in first practice.

Bowman’s top speed was 176.626 mph. He recorded 32 laps in the session.

The top five was completed by Ryan Blaney (176.186 mph), Bubba Wallace (176.177), Kurt Busch (175.816) and Christopher Bell (175.695).

Bowman also had the best 10-lap average at 175.317 mph.

Kurt Busch recorded the most laps with 47.

The only incident in the session was defending race winner Kyle Busch brushing the wall in Turn 3 after his car got away from him on the bumps in the corner. Repairs were made to the car and Busch returned to the track with 17 minutes left in the session.

Click here for the speed chart.

 

Alex Bowman tops field in opening Cup practice at Auto Club

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Alex Bowman posted the fastest lap in opening Cup practice Friday at Auto Club Speedway. Bowman ran a top lap of 179.439 mph.

Bowman was followed by Kyle Larson (177.703 mph), Tyler Reddick (177.607), Kurt Busch (177.375) and Matt DiBenedetto (176.609).

Click here for full practice report

There were no incidents in the session.

Final Cup practice is scheduled from 5:35-6:25 p.m. ET today. Qualifying will be Saturday.

Xfinity practice report at Auto Club Speedway

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Harrison Burton was fastest in the final Xfinity Series practice session Friday at Auto Club Speedway.

The Joe Gibbs Racing driver recorded 22 laps and posted a top speed of 174.474 mph in the 25-minute session.

The top five was completed by Noah Gragson (173.779 mph), Austin Cindric (173.775), Chase Briscoe (173.578) and Brandon Jones (173.578).

Burton also had the best 10-lap average at 170.422 mph.

Gragson recorded the most laps in the session with 25.

There were no incidents in the session.

Click here for the practice report.

First practice

Noah Gragson led the way for the Xfinity Series in the opening practice session that saw more than half the 50-minute period under caution at Auto Club Speedway

Gragson ran a top lap of 177.139 mph. He was followed by Austin Cindric (176.022), Daniel Hemric (175.400), Brandon Jones (175.366) and Harrison Burton (175.187).

Click here for full practice report

Alex Labbe brought out the caution when an oil line came loose and he put oil down on the track. The cleanup took about 20 minutes.

Tommy Joe Martins brought out the caution late in the session with smoke coming from the car and then a small fire in the right front of the car.