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Bristol was 'sixth-place victory' for DiBenedetto, BK Racing
CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Matt DiBenedetto 's best day in NASCAR's top series nearly ended with the ultimate buzzkill. Driving back Sunday from Bristol Motor Speedway after salting away a career-best sixth-place finish and becoming the provisional leader for feel-good story of the season, the 24-year-old driver saw flashing blue lights not far from his home in Hickory, North Carolina. "Ah, dang, that sucks after a good day,' " DiBenedetto recalled thinking as he pulled to the side of the road. But DiBenedetto didn't think he was over the posted speed limit, a notion that was confirmed when law enforcement approached him. "The cop comes up to me and says, 'Hey, I have one question for you: I just want to know why you were going so darn slow?'" DiBenedetto said. "So then I realized it was a prank." The best of pranks as it turns out. The second-year driver for BK Racing drove the rest of the way with a police escort and with his parents following him home, where he expected a small, muted observance of his stirring Sunday drive. That didn't happen, either, not with the secretive planning of sponsor and close chum Constantine "Cosmo" Kogan, who rallied DiBenedetto's circle of friends into a boisterous welcoming committee, complete with party favors and uncorked bubbly. "There were probably 30-40 people out in our neighborhood," DiBenedetto said with a smile Monday from his BK Racing shop in north Charlotte. "Silly string everywhere. My car was covered. Champagne, the little party popper things -- it was out of control. It was absolutely hilarious. Only my friends, that's just cool to see how much they care and they were all so excited." DiBenedetto's hard-fought sixth-place finish made its own viral turn Sunday, thanks not only to the underdog rooting interest for one of the circuit's smaller teams but also for the unabashed emotion that the driver showed in post-race interviews. As he watched his family wipe away tears off camera, the tremble in his voice became more pronounced. "I couldn't quite hold back the emotion," DiBenedetto said. "I would be lying if I said that I was fighting off the tears, but unfortunately just couldn't hold it back. That was a dream come true for me. I know it wasn't a first-place finish, but for us that was like a win to finish up there in sixth in the Cup Series, which I've dreamed of racing in since I was 5 years old. Just to be here in the first place is a dream come true." Living dreams Making it to the sport's big leagues seemed like destiny, but so often fate takes the curvier road. DiBenedetto seemed earmarked for stock-car racing glory early on as part of the first NASCAR Next class in 2011, then called the NASCAR Next 9. What followed after a successful first season in the K&N Pro Series was a hodgepodge of spot duty in the XFINITY Series, sitting in the driver's seat one week and out the next. "It seem like it's all kind of gone by in a blur," DiBenedetto said. "I was racing K&N, part of the NASCAR Next and then thought my career was done five times in between then and now. It's been so up and down so many times. For me to be here, it's still surreal to think back." Opportunity for DiBenedetto meant pounding the phones and knocking on doors. His big break came shortly before the 2015 season in the form of a race-to-race agreement with BK Racing owner Ron Devine. DiBenedetto said Devine took a substantial chance in hiring a driver without Sprint Cup experience, but the risk was modestly rewarded -- the week-to-week deal turned into a full season with just one DNF and a return invitation for 2016. "Being a rookie in Sprint Cup is way tougher than I gave it credit for," DiBenedetto said of the learning experience. "It's just a whole different level of racing . You have to be so perfect at every single thing you do, down to the level of not losing a half-second on pit road. You have to drive your tail off every single lap of the race to make sure you stay on the lead lap -- everything." Driving his tail off makes for a suitable description of Sunday's spirited drive at Bristol. Carl Edwards captured the checkered flag and punctuated his celebration with his trademark backflip, but he was also head over heels about DiBenedetto's accomplishments, saying, "They finished sixth? Man, that's unbelievable. That's probably tougher than what we did." The driver of the No. 83 Toyota wasn't about to draw a direct comparison with Edwards' feat, but was quick to spread the credit for a banner day among his BK Racing shopmates. "To win in the Sprint Cup Series among the 40 best is incredibly difficult and that takes an amazing amount of talent like Carl Edwards has," DiBenedetto said. "I don't know if I want to say it was harder than what he did, but we're definitely proud of what we did. I'm more proud of all the guys that work on the team, proud of my crew chief … I'm just more proud of my guys, not myself. They're the ones that deserve that good of a finish. They're the ones that are working late nights and dedicating their lives to doing best job they can and putting a good race car underneath me. "It is lot of hard work like Carl did say. That's a total team effort. That's a lot of hard work by my guys. I was just happy to be the one holding the steering wheel and able to drive it up there for them." The camaraderie among the tight-knit group is what made BK Racing 's post-race cheer all the more jubilant with hugs all around. That celebration spread to the shop Monday, with DiBenedetto springing for pizza during the team's lunch break. "A lot of that emotion is shared by this whole team," said Ryan "Frenchie" Dubois, in his second year as BK Racing 's general manager. "We work really hard here and face a lot of obstacles that a lot of other teams aren't faced with. For us to overcome those obstacles and come out of there with a sixth-place victor-, er, sixth-place finish, it's like a victory for the team right now and what we're trying to do for the future." Dubois caught himself, but "sixth-place victory" has a certain ring to it. "To jump to sixth was great," he added. "If we can back that up next week, that'll be a Cinderella story for sure. We just want to be consistent, do everything right. We've got fast cars this year, that's the positive thing. We've got the right people in place, and it's about putting everything together. Once we do all that, we'll get those outcomes more often than not." It's an opinion shared by veteran crew chief Gene Nead, who began working with DiBenedetto in the second half of last season and was atop the pit box for nine Camping World Truck Series victories with Ted Musgrave at the wheel from 2002-05. "It's a definite David and Goliath story, you know what I mean, for a team this small without enough proper funding," Nead said. "You walk out in the shop, there's 60 people. You go into Gibbs', there's 600. It's pretty hard to do what you did with 10 percent of their people." Basking in Bristol Fittingly enough, DiBenedetto was savoring the moment before ever turning a lap Sunday. The California native decided to have some fun with Bristol Motor Speedway 's unique system of drivers selecting their own music for pre-race introductions, taking a page from his wedding reception last August. During his reception, each member of the wedding party selected their own entrance music. His father's comedic take, entering to ZZ Top's "Sharp-Dressed Man" in full beard, hat, sunglasses and guitar, clearly resonated. With his dad's permission, DiBenedetto reprised the role Sunday with gusto, donning the full costume and earning some of the biggest pre-race laughs. "You've got to enjoy it every step of the way, you've got to do fun stuff," DiBenedetto said. "That's what the fans want to see and to get them riled up before the race. That's what it's about." That spirit has been contagious, one that's extended to all corners of the BK Racing shop and that's helped boost the team's morale. "With Matt, for one his attitude is always positive," Dubois said. "He's a very humble driver and very appreciative of the opportunity that he has. We've seen from the beginning with him that he's constantly improved. He's not plateaued like some other drivers have and so we're constantly building with him. We think he's the future of our team and yesterday was a perfect example of what we see, and hopefully everybody else was able to see that, too." Plenty did, based on the outpouring of support on social media and the congratulations he's received privately from well-wishers. DiBenedetto pulled out his phone to show 202 text messages he hadn't had time to respond to, part of the 300-plus pings he estimated he'd accumulated in less than 24 hours. This season's most improbable finish at one of the series' toughest tracks gave DiBenedetto more than TV time, a police escort and a silly-string serenade. It also gave him the rewarding feeling that comes with taking a dark-horse team into the stratosphere usually reserved for the sport's heavyweights. That's why sixth on Sunday meant so much. "Just because we've worked so hard to get here," DiBenedetto said. "To do this without any major funding behind me or family money or anything of that nature, to do it just based on hard work and what teams thought I could do behind the wheel, that's nearly unheard of. To fight that hard and to get here makes you appreciate it that much more."
Get history of BK Racing and full crews
DiBenedetto returns to No. 83 for BK Racing
RELATED: Driver Tracker " Offseason moves HUNTERSVILLE, NC (January 25, 2016) - After making his NASCAR Sprint Cup debut with BK Racing in 2015, Matt DiBenedetto will return to pilot the No. 83 Toyota Camry in 2016. Veteran crew chief Gene Nead will return atop the pit box for the 83 team. "Last year I learned a lot from everyone here at BK Racing and I'm looking forward to having a full notebook heading into the season," DiBenedetto said. "Ron, Gene and the team have put in a lot of work over the offseason and we are all looking forward to Daytona." "We're excited to have Matt back with us for 2016," said Devine. "We were very pleased with the progress he made throughout his rookie season and we look forward to continuing down that path." Dustless Blasting Returning to BK Racing for 2016, Dustless Blasting will sponsor Matt DiBenedetto and the No. 83 car in the upcoming Daytona 500 and for multiple races this season. Known as the fastest, most cost effective surface preparation tool on the market, Dustless Blasting's system can remove virtually any type of coating from most substrates very quickly and without creating heat or a dust plume. Benny LeCompte, owner of MMLJ, Inc. is proud to say "this is our third year working with BK Racing through sponsoring key races, like the season opener at the Daytona 500 , for the number 83 car and Matt DiBenedetto ." Dustless Blasting is an MMLJ Inc. Company. The original manufacturer of blast equipment, and still the only to offer lifetime warranty on tank assemblies. Built in America with quality. Cosmo Motors Returns Cosmo Motors returns to the 83 for multiple races in 2016. A family owned and operated business in Hickory, North Carolina, Cosmo Motors is well known for their large selection of high-end vehicles. "We at Cosmo Motors are beyond excited to rejoin BK Racing and Matt DiBenedetto as a sponsor on the No 83 Toyota again for the 2016 race season," said Cosmo Kogan, owner of Cosmo Motors. "We're a smaller family run car dealership in Hickory, North Carolina and are very humbled by the ability to be a part of such a great sport, team, and driver. "Last year was our first year sponsoring a car in NASCAR. It was an amazing experience. Not just working with the team and the driver but overall the entire experience was on a whole other level. We are really looking forward to the upcoming season as we embark on another extraordinary season with Matt and BK Racing ."
Daughter of BK Racing crew chief passes away
Stephanie Rembert, the daughter of BK Racing crew chief Joe Williams, was killed Saturday in a car accident. According to multiple reports, Rembert was involved in a crash near Asheboro, North Carolina, then later airlifted to an area hospital where she passed away. The tragedy was described as "a freak car crash" by Roy Gangdal, a BK Racing team member who established an online fundraising campaign Sunday to support the family. Click here to donate to that fund. On behalf of everyone at BK Racing , our thoughts and prayers are with Crew Chief Joe Williams and his entire family! — BK Racing (@BKRacing_2383) December 20, 2015 Asking our @NASCAR family to help support our #23 crew chief Joe Williams during this difficult time https://t.co/mVqbSBdncp — Matthew DiBenedetto (@mattdracing) December 21, 2015 My thoughts are with my crew chief and his family. There's been an account setup to help cover expenses. https://t.co/VJxlOs9wBt — Jeb Burton (@JebBurtonRacing) December 21, 2015 Williams served as crew chief for BK Racing 's No. 23 Toyota for the majority of 2015, splitting time with drivers J.J. Yeley and Jeb Burton .
David Ragan lands with BK Racing
RELATED: Driver Tracker " Offseason moves David Ragan has landed a ride with BK Racing for the 2016 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. The team announced the news Monday afternoon after the veteran driver had confirmed his move to FOX5 in Atlanta earlier in the day. EXCLUSIVE: Hear @DavidRagan talk about his new ride with @BKRacing_2383 #NASCAR @NASCARONFOX pic.twitter.com/M7O7wfOZWL — FOX 5 Sports (@FOX5Sports) January 25, 2016 Ragan will pilot the No. 23 Toyota for the team, which will field two full-time entries in 2016. Ragan told SiriusXM NASCAR Radio's Dave Moody that Patrick Donahue will be his crew chief. Earlier in the day, BK Racing announced that Matt DiBenedetto would drive the No. 83 Toyota with Gene Nead as the crew chief. "I'm happy to be part of something that has so much growth potential," Ragan said in a team release. "(Team owner) Ron (Devine) has steadily built his program over the last five years. "He's made an even greater commitment in 2016 with new cars, equipment and additional personnel. I feel that we'll be in a position to bring the team to the next level. I'm looking forward to the season." Ragan will carry sponsorship from Dr. Pepper for multiple races in 2016 and the soft drink will also be an associate sponsor on the team's cars throughout the season. Additional sponsorship for the No. 23 team will be announced over the coming weeks, according to the team release. Jeb Burton finished out the 2015 season in the No. 23 Toyota and indicated on Twitter that he is working on his 2016 plans. pic.twitter.com/fUOlAONTvR — Jeb Burton (@JebBurtonRacing) January 25, 2016 Last season, Ragan started all 36 races in the sport's top series, but was a super-sub of sorts. He started the year in the No. 34 Ford for Front Row Motorsports but after one race shifted over to the No. 18 Toyota of Joe Gibbs Racing to fill in for the injured Kyle Busch for nine races. He then finished out the season's last 26 races driving for Michael Waltrip Racing in the No. 55 Toyota. In 2015, Ragan recorded one top 10 and finished 27th in the point standings. In his Sprint Cup career, Ragan has two wins in 326 starts over 10 years. His last win came in May of 2013 at Talladega Superspeedway for Front Row and was also the organization's first -- and, to date, only -- Cup win. "We're very excited to have a driver of David's caliber join our team," Devine said in a team release. "In addition to being a race winner, I feel that his input and leadership qualities will benefit the team on many levels. Our entire organization is energized to work with him."
BK Racing unveils Jeb Burton throwback, driver swap
MORE: Burton discusses throwback scheme and more on "Dirty Air Podcast" When Jeb Burton decided to join the wave of throwback paint schemes for Labor Day weekend at Darlington Raceway , he didn't have far to look for inspiration. BK Racing announced Tuesday that Burton's BK Racing entry for the 66th running of the Bojangles' Southern 500 will pay tribute to the career of his father, Ward Burton, a two-time winner at NASCAR's oldest superspeedway. But the tradition-rich race will also feature another notable switch: The Ron Devine-owned team also announced Tuesday that it will make an intrateam driver swap starting at Darlington, with Burton taking over the No. 23 Toyota from J.J. Yeley, who will drive the No. 26 Toyota. RELATED: See all the throwback looks for Darlington The change in driving duties puts the younger Burton that much closer numbers-wise to the Bill Davis Racing No. 22 that his father campaigned during his heyday from 1999-2003. The yellow-and-black paint scheme for team sponsor Estes Trucking -- with its similar corporate colors to his father's longtime sponsor Caterpillar -- leans heavily on his family's racing tradition. "I saw all the throwback stuff and Estes has the same colors as Dad had, so I just thought about the idea and I got the PR team to come up with a design," Jeb Burton said. "I saw it and I thought it'd be a cool idea so we went on with it." Ward Burton caught his first glimpse of the car's vintage look ahead of last weekend's race at Bristol Motor Speedway . The resemblance -- both in colors and its similarly styled numbers -- is uncanny. "It's really cool," the 53-year-old Burton said. "We had a lot of success at Darlington, but more importantly I really appreciate Jeb thinking about me." Ward Burton flew the Caterpillar flag for his most prominent wins in NASCAR's premier series, foremost among them the 2002 Daytona 500 . The yellow-and-black look was also front and center for Burton and crew chief Tommy Baldwin Jr. when the Davis-owned team found a sweet spot at Darlington, yielding two victories at the 1.366-mile track, including the 2001 Southern 500. "Tommy and I'd hit a set-up at Darlington. For about three years there, we were on the top of the board whenever we showed up," Burton said. "Rain got us twice, a wreck got us one other time, a lug nut got us another, but we had the car to beat many times. I liked that place ever since I went there." Jeb Burton , 23, hopes the knack for the "Lady in Black" doesn't skip a generation as he prepares for his first Darlington start. His uncle, Jeff Burton , also won twice at Darlington, sweeping the season's two events there in 1999. The younger Burton got his first taste of driving the treacherous egg-shaped oval in an open test for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series on June 10. "Darlington is its own animal," Burton said. "We went there and tested, and I struggled a little bit and was running the track a little wrong. Right there at the end of the session, I got behind Joey Logano and learned a lot, followed him and actually kept up with him. I thought that was really good, and our team did their best." BK Racing aims to jump-start its performance with next weekend's driver shakeup. Burton's Sunoco Rookie of the Year candidacy has been a rocky path thus far, with the No. 26 missing seven races and cracking the top 30 just twice this season. He ranks 39th in the driver standings. Yeley has run 23 of 24 in the Sprint Cup Series this season but is eligible for championship points only in the NASCAR XFINITY Series. (The team made a driver switch at Richmond with Burton in the No. 23 instead of Yeley.) The No. 23 team stands 39th in the car owner points; BK's No. 26 sits 44th after Bristol. Patrick Donahue will remain the crew chief on the No. 26 team, while Joe Williams will remain the crew chief on the No. 23 team. It's all been a learning process for Burton, who made the jump to Sprint Cup this year after two solid seasons in the Camping World Truck Series. "Coming into it, I didn't think it'd be as tough as it was because I had somewhat success," Burton said, "but in the Truck Series and the ( XFINITY ) Series, the competition level is high up front, but it's … one through 43 in the Cup Series is the best of the best. The best people, the best drivers, the best teams. You've got to be on it and our guys are working hard as a low-budget team. We're getting better every week."
Maxim Magazine partners with BK Racing
Deal also includes a partnership with Maxim Fantasy Sports Play: NASCAR Fantasy Live " Vote: Ultimate Daytona Challenge Maxim Inc. and Maxim Fantasy Sports have partnered with BK Racing for the 2015 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season, the team announced Friday. "We couldn’t have a better sponsor for the Daytona 500 and the 2015 season," said BK Racing co-owner Anthony Marlowe. "Maxim Magazine and Maxim Fantasy Sports App are leading the pack in sports media along with other entertainment, and delivering a truly new and exciting experience." Maxim is one of the most recognizable magazines internationally, reaching millions of readers every month across print and digital platforms. The agreement includes several races during the 2015 Cup season, with Maxim branding displayed on various BK Racing cars. J.J. Yeley's No. 23 Toyota Camry will feature them as primary sponsors at the season-opening Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway. The Maxim branding will then debut on the BK Racing ’s No. 26 Toyota Camry with Sunoco Rookie of the Year hopeful Jeb Burton behind the wheel for the Folds of Honor Quik Trip 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway. “We are thrilled to sponsor the BK racing team and look forward to an exciting 2015 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season," said Maxim COO Robert Price. FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule
Ryan Truex opens up about end of BK Racing run
Rookie has developmental deal with Richard Petty Motorsports RELATED: Play NASCAR Fantasy Live " Sign up for RaceView today Ryan Truex 's rookie season in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series has not gone as he would have liked, and the 22-year-old has found himself out of a ride at BK Racing . Truex told The Press of Atlantic City , a newspaper in New Jersey, that he has parted ways with the team for which he drove the No. 83 Toyota in 23 races this season. He was on the initial entry list for this weekend's AAA 400 at Dover International Speedway but has since been replaced by Travis Kvapil , as he was last weekend at New Hampshire Motor Speedway . "I gave it my best effort and they gave me my first full-time Sprint Cup ride, and I'll always be grateful for that," Truex told the newspaper during an appearance at an annual fan event put on by his brother, Martin Truex Jr .'s, foundation. "But we decided it was time to part ways and move toward the future." In his 23 starts , Truex had an average finish of 35.6. His best result was a 20th-place finish in August at Pocono Raceway . "It's been an up-and-down season for sure," Truex said. "It was my first full season in any of the top three series ever, so it's been a learning curve for me. Being a rookie and being out there and getting the experience was the biggest thing." What's next for Truex? He does have a developmental deal that he inked with Richard Petty Motorsports last year. The two-car organization has an opening in its Sprint Cup garage following the announcement earlier this month that Marcos Ambrose was leaving the team. "That's a long deal, it's a multi-year deal," Truex said. "Hopefully we can do something with it. There's a lot of things going on. I think I have a solid future with them." MORE: READ: Latest Chase news PLAY: Monitor your Chase Grid Game picks WATCH: Latest NASCAR video FOLLOW LIVE: Get RaceView FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule
David Reutimann, BK Racing agree to part ways
Reutimann ran one Sprint Cup Series season for BK Racing
Tommy Baldwin Racing , Bowman part ways
About seven months after picking up Alex Bowman 's 2016 contract option, Tommy Baldwin Racing has changed course and is parting ways with the driver of their No. 7 Chevrolet. The news was announced Thursday via a team press release "As NASCAR transitions to different business and competition models, teams have to make decisions accordingly," said team owner, Tommy Baldwin. "We appreciate what Alex contributed during 2015 and wish him the best in the future." Bowman qualified for 35 of 36 races last season and had a best finish of 16th place in the spring race at Talladega Superspeedway . In Bowman's only other Sprint Cup season he drove for BK Racing for 36 races in 2014.