TriStar leases charter from Front Row for 2017

TriStar Motorsports driver Cole Whitt will have a spot in the Daytona 500, as the team will lease a charter from Front Row Motorsports in 2017.

Front Row announced Friday that it had purchased the No. 83 charter from BK Racing and plans to expand to three teams in 2018. Teams are allowed to lease out a charter -- NASCAR's version of a franchise -- for one year and then must use it or sell it.

At the start of last year, NASCAR awarded 36 charters to teams that had been full time for at least three seasons. A charter team is guaranteed a spot in the 40-car field and is guaranteed a certain amount of purse money for the season, based in part on its performance the past three years and about three times more for participating in a race than a team without a charter.

"I'm proud of the way this team has grown since we first joined the sport, and we're here to stay," Front Row Motorsports owner Bob Jenkins said. "Now we're taking the next step that will strengthen our foundation as a team and help us build more meaningful, lasting relationships on all levels."

BK Racing has announced plans for two cars in 2017. Joey Gase and Corey LaJoie are the team's drivers for the Daytona 500, with Gase in the No. 23 car, which has the guaranteed spot. Gray Gaulding will drive for the team primarily in the No. 23 after Daytona and will have the charter in most of the events. Gase and LaJoie are signed for additional races throughout the year.

The No. 83 team ranked 34th among the 36 charter teams last year, and its primary driver, Matt DiBenedetto, left for Go FAS Racing during the offseason. A charter's history follows it with a sale, and NASCAR can -- but doesn't have to -- revoke any charter that has been among the three worst charter teams in the standings for three consecutive years.

BK Racing owner Ron Devine said he sold the charter to help allocate resources to one car that will run full time. He will run the second car part time and could run a third car on occasion.

"I believe operating with one charter will allow this team to focus our resources in a way that will make us more competitive on the racetrack," Devine said in a statement. "I have the utmost confidence that we will give both Joey Gase in the No. 23 and Corey LaJoie in the No. 83 the equipment they need to give us a strong run in Daytona.

"I plan for this to be BK Racing's most competitive year ever."

A couple of legal filings and judgments over the past two months indicate Devine could benefit from a sale of his charter. He owes engine builder Joey Arrington $1.479 million after an arbitrator ruling in a dispute over payment and performance of engines in 2013 and 2014. (Devine did receive some engines as a part of the arbitration.) He also was sued in December by the former owners of BAM Racing for allegedly missing his November rent payment of $14,500.

Devine said Friday night that those legal issues -- he said the motors he got from Arrington had a worth of $3.5 million -- did not spur the charter sale. If he had two charters, he would have had to field two cars for every race or risk losing one.

"This was really twofold -- [that charter being] in the bottom three and us trying to focus on one car," Devine said. "It had nothing to do with that judgment. ... I promise you It had absolutely nothing to do with that."