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(Photo: Nigel Kinrade / NKP)

2017 NASCAR Cup Team Review: Rick Ware Racing

The deaths of HScott Motorsports and Tommy Baldwin Racing following the 2016 season left a void in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series.

In 2016, only 40 cars showed up most weekends to compete. All of the sudden, three of them vanished and left the series with just 37 full time teams for 2017.

Rick Ware saw an opening and decided to act on it. The longtime XFINITY Series owner decided to pull out of that series and put his resources into running in the Cup Series instead. He bought assists from TBR and announced that the No. 51 Rick Ware Racing team would race full time in the Cup Series in 2017.

Ware used a variety of drivers throughout the season. Timmy Hill, who entered NASCAR with Ware back in 2011 and has raced on-and-off with the team throughout the years in XFINITY, couldn’t get the team into the Daytona 500. This was the only race RWR failed to qualify for last season, but they also either withdrew from or skipped six other races, generally when 40 or more cars were entered.

Rick’s son, Cody Ware, made both the organization’s and his own first start at Atlanta. Hill raced the next nine starts for the team before he left to go race for his XFINITY owner Carl Long, who started his own Cup team mid-season. Save for Josh Billicki’s start in the first Loudon race, Ware and B.J. McLeod split time in the seat before Ray Black, Jr. and Kyle Weatherman each raced in two of the last four races of the year.

The first season, from a pure results point of view, was not a success. At all. In fact, the No. 51 ended up finishing 42nd in owner points, ahead of only Carl Long’s No. 66 that only attempted 13 races, StarCom Racing which only raced twice in the last month of the season with Derrike Cope, and Gaunt Brothers Racing, which only raced in the Daytona 500.

Ware’s team mustered just three points per start on the strength of just three top thirty finishes. Hill finished 28th at Kansas in the spring and followed it up with a 29th at Charlotte the next race. B.J. McLeold finished 30th in the fall Kansas race after five drivers were taken out late in the race in a multi-car wreck.

Quite possibly the team’s lowest moment came following the Southern 500 in September. Cody Ware crashed out of the race, the only time that happened all season for the team, after a multi-car wreck. Ware complained on Twitter that AJ Allmendinger, who was also involved in the accident, shouldn’t have been out there due to crash damage from an earlier accident. Matt DiBenedetto replied and claimed that the accident was right in front of him and that Ware was the one at fault.

Ware tweeted in response verbatim: “Atleast I don’t cheat on my wife.”

Then he followed up by tweeting that “Everyone’s golden boy @mattdracing talking crap for no reason but at least I can sleep at night and not banging other chicks when Im married.”

It was a complete embarrassment for Ware and even though he deleted the tweets not long after (his whole account went down for a period of time), it will be a black mark against this young driver for years to come. DiBenedetto has denied the claims of adultery and, if that is the case, would have a pretty strong case of libel against Ware for his actions. Ware raced one more time for the team after Darlington, a DNF at Loudon for a mechanical issue.

After the season was over, Richard Petty Motorsports got back the charter it once used for its No. 44 team that it had leased out to Go FAS Racing. Due to RPM not wanting to expand to two cars or sell a charter and NASCAR rules stating that a charter can only be leased out every five years, RPM decided to lease out the charter it used for its own No. 43 car in 2017 to RWR for 2018 and use the No. 44 charter for the No. 43 charter. Like everything with charters, it has been an almost needlessly complicated process, but RWR ended up getting what it had wanted when it opened up the doors for the season: a charter for 2018.

The team will also only have one driver in its No. 51 entry next year instead of the hodgepodge of young talent that shared seat team this year. RWR told Frontstretch following the season’s conclusion that Black would be the full-time driver in 2018. Black drove full time in Trucks in 2015 and XFINITY in 2016 before driving a partial schedule in XFINITY and three races for RWR at the Cup level in 2017. His best finish in NASCAR national series competition came in 2015, when he finished fifth in Trucks at his home racetrack, Daytona. He didn’t have a great start to his Cup career-he was parked at Homestead in the final race of the season for failing to meet minimum speed- but at least it was a start.

The team will also be expanding to include a No. 52 car. It’s unclear as to who will drive this car, but it’ll probably end up looking like the No. 51’s lineup from this season sans Black and probably Timmy Hill.

The No. 51 was week-to-week the slowest car in the garage. Not only did it not have a lead lap finish, it didn’t even have a finish where it finished six or less laps down. But being competitive in 2017 was not the goal for this team; the goal all along was to establish a foundation for the team and to end up with a charter by year’s end. They accomplished this and will be looking to improve in 2018 and beyond.

 

 

About Michael Finley

Michael has watched NASCAR for 15 years and began covering the sport five years ago. He is a graduate of Salisbury University and a proud member of the National Motorsports Press Association (NMPA).

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