Team Preview: BK Racing
By: Robbie Mays - @robbiemays | MRN.com on February 4, 2017 | 9:30 A.M. EST
Joey Gase, Corey LaJoie and Gray Gaulding are set to compete for BK Racing in 2017. (Photo: BK Racing)
BK Racing’s driver lineup will undergo a major facelift for the 2017 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series, putting a trio of young drivers in its Toyota fleet starting with the season opener at Daytona International Speedway.
With the departure of 2016 full-time drivers David Ragan and Matt Dibenedetto, BKR scales back its full-time effort to two cars from three; and will use drivers Joey Gase, Corey LaLoie and Gray Gaulding. Gase will drive the No. 23 entry in the Daytona 500 on February 26th with LaJoie driving the No. 83 Camry. Gaulding, who isn’t eligible to drive at Daytona, will take over the No. 23 machine starting at Atlanta Motor Speedway in March.
"BK Racing has given many talented young drivers the chance to compete in the Cup Series and make a name for themselves," said team owner Ron Devine.
The three BK Racing drivers have a combined 17 starts over the last three years at NASCAR’s top level, with Gase starting 13 of those. Despite a lack of Cup experience, Gase has made 142 career starts in the XFINITY Series since 2011.
"Only 40 drivers every year get to race in the Daytona 500," Gase said. "I’m very excited to say I’ll be one of those drivers. With the (Charter), we’re locked into the field. But we’ll be putting a big effort into it."
And with extended practice leading up to the "500," Gase is optimistic about gaining as much experience as possible.
"We get about a week-and-a-half of practice," he said. "Learning the small changes NASCAR has made to the cars is something we’ll be doing."
"We’ve been watching Joey’s growth for quite some time and look forward to seeing what he can do behind the well of our car," Devine said.
Along with the Daytona 500, Gase is slated to run at Kentucky Speedway and the Bristol night race in August.
LaJoie, a third-generation driver and son of two-time XFINITY Series champion Randy LaJoie, has won six K&N Pro Series East races and three ARCA Racing Series events. He's only made two starts in the Cup Series, both in 2014, with a best finish of 35th. For the Daytona 500, LaJoie will have sponsorship from Dustless Blasting and will drive the No. 83 entry in multiple races this season.
"For Ron Devine to take a chance on a hungry kid means the world," LaJoie said. "I’m going to work hard to be the best driver I can be."
"When I look at Corey and his racing career, I see a young man with a bright future and a lot of talent," Devine said. "He's raced against a lot of these Cup drivers before and had success."
At 18 years old, Gaulding is the youngest member of the BK Racing stable. He's not been approved by NASCAR to run at Daytona, so he will take over the reigns of the No. 23 Toyota beginning with the second race of the season at Atlanta Motor Speedway. Like LaJoie, Gaulding is a former winner in the K&N Pro Series. He's scheduled to run the majority of the season in 2017, building off his experience gained running at Martinsville Speedway and Phoenix Raceway last fall.
"When I first walked into the BK Racing shop, I felt at home," Gaulding said. "It has the perfect mixture of corporate America and the old-school feeling of a race shop. Everyone was elbows-deep preparing for Daytona, Atlanta, Las Vegas and the entire season."
Atlanta will be a big test for the Colonial Heights, Va., native who's never run on a track bigger than 1.25 miles in length. Nor has he run a race distance anything close to the 500 miles he’ll face his first race of this season.
"I’ve been in the gym doing a lot of bike riding trying to get my endurance up," Gaulding said. "I’m physically and mentally ready for Atlanta."
Gaulding may have never run the 1.5-mile layout at Atlanta Motor Speedway but has raced Bandoleros on the quarter-mile track at the facility. He's relying on technology and fellow competitors to help him prepare.
"I’m gonna be watching a lot of You Tube videos on Atlanta, some in-car camera stuff and try to talk to some drivers about what to expect, what lines to run and stuff like that," Gaulding said. "The best thing I can do is go out there behind someone who knows the track, learn the line and learn the throttle points."
Gaulding will be competing for Rookie of the Year honors in 2017, adding to a tough group of rookie competitors this season.
"The rookie class this year is unbelievable," Gaulding said, "myself, Ty Dillon, Erik Jones and Daniel Suarez. All of us are out there to run up front and hopefully, get the respect of our peers."
See Also: BK Racing Sells Charter
Daytona International Speedway will open for NASCAR teams on Friday, Feb. 17, with the season-opening Daytona 500 scheduled for Sunday, Feb. 26. Motor Racing Network - "The Voice of NASCAR" will have live coverage of "The Great American Race" beginning at 1 p.m. (ET), with live streaming at MRN.com and on the MRN App.
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