Despite a troublesome offseason, BK Racing is on the eve of competing in its seventh Daytona 500.
The question now is whether the organization will continue to have a guaranteed spot in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series field going forward.
On Thursday (Feb. 15), BK Racing team owner Ron Devine filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. He did so after having their court date postponed with Union Bank & Trust on Feb. 5 in the Western District Court of North Carolina.
Devine confirmed to Frontstretch he and the bank came close to a deal that would have salvaged a Chapter 11 filing. However, the two sides failed to reach an agreement as time ran out.
“It will get worked out with the bank,” Devine said, claiming the case will be “100 percent” resolved. “How? I’m not sure, but it will get worked out. Favorable or not favorable, I don’t know, but there will be a resolution.”
NASCAR reserves the right to take the No. 23 team’s charter away since Devine filed for Chapter 11. The sanctioning body added an attorney this week to serve its future interests in the case.
However, the BK Racing owner isn’t sure why NASCAR would want to take the charter. If the sanctioning body wants it, he said he’ll gladly hand it over.
“If NASCAR wants the charter, all they have to do is tell me to stop,” he said. “I’ll give it to them. You think I would try to hang around if they didn’t want me here? NASCAR has been great to work with and I still feel welcomed in this garage.”
After reaching out to NASCAR officials, they wouldn’t post additional comments past a statement put out Thursday (Feb. 15) following the bankruptcy filing.
“We have a clear process around charter member governance,” said the sanctioning body in a Thursday release. “It is incumbent upon charter members to be ready to race and compete at the highest level. BK Racing remains the holder of the charter.”
Toyota, meanwhile has no official comment on the matter. The manufacturer has tried to help BK Racing a bit behind the scenes but does not have the same major alliance as Joe Gibbs Racing and Furniture Row. It’s notable that the manufacturer referred to itself as a five-team program during its 2018 season-opening press conference Saturday afternoon.
Over the off-season, Devine told Frontstretch that Jay Robinson, owner of Premium Motorsports, was trying to “steal” the No. 23 charter. Robinson was one of several owners that supposedly reached out behind the scenes when Union Bank was trying to find a receiver for BK Racing’s spot. Holding its medallion as collateral would allow the bank to recover some of the $9.1 million owed.
Prior to the court case Thursday, Devine spoke out about Robinson and what his role was in regards to BK Racing.
“If it wasn’t for him, we would have had our issues with the bank resolved long ago,” he said. “They tried to go in there and snake us, and it failed. It failed miserably on their behalf, but it delayed us quite a bit.
“I’ll battle with that guy in public,” he added. “He can’t say it in the public; he has to do it in the shadows. Come out of the shadows and do battle with me, I’ll do anything you want in the sunshine.”
However, according to public court documents, there is no mention of Robinson’s name as a creditor. Frontstretch reached out to Robinson on Friday in Daytona, where he strongly denied any claims of charter or bank interference.
“I wasn’t involved in it at all,” Robinson said. “That’s laughable, but no. Nobody is trying to steal any charter. If the lending institution acquires assets for their debt, it goes up to the public, and I guess whoever can buy will buy. It’s from my understanding that to this point they don’t have it and BK is continuing on, but I certainly want no part of any lawsuit or to cause any harm to BK.
“I’m not battling him. There’s a lot of people listed in his filing, but I’m not one of them. It’s public. Anyone can read it, and I’ve never been any part of it. … He’s got a lot of problems, I suppose, and I’m not one of them.”
Robinson said that his relationship with Devine has always been cordial. He also said that having BK Racing in the Cup Series garage is beneficial to Premium, meaning that the more smaller teams there are, the better off each small organization is.
“I want Ron to be here,” he said. “On the day that you have one small team left, that small team won’t last long. When it’s six or seven of us, that helps all of us. The last thing I would want to see happen is him leave and a large team get his charter and we lose one out of the group.
“We certainly don’t want to see any small team go out of business. I don’t have the first clue why he would think it’s me going against him when he can see who is suing him and taking him to court and who is doing all these things.”
So while the court case drags on in the background (all sides plan to negotiate this week) BK Racing continues on. Gray Gaulding is expected to drive at Atlanta Motor Speedway next weekend, and Devine said there’s sponsorship to bring the No. 83 back on at least a part-time basis.
Why fight so hard when your back is against the wall financially? It might be easier, in hindsight, for Devine to jump ship and sell to the highest bidder. He’s been incredibly thankful to all his employees that have stuck through the process, but is trying to rebuild the right move?
“Nobody has ever described me as a dreamer,” he said. “I’m more calculated than a dreamer. I see something in the sport that I want to be a part of, and I see clearly the BK Racing situation, and I’m trying to figure out how to change that. I took it in a direction that however right as it might feel as the independent model, it’s very difficult to perform.
“We’ve had an enormous amount of patience, and we’ve invested a tremendous amount of money. We have to figure out how to guide this to a more successful platform, whether that’s an alliance now or something [different] that aims toward the future.”
Despite competing in the Daytona 500 this Sunday, Ryan Dubois, general manager at BK Racing, said that it’s hard to attract drivers to the organization because of the “nonsense.”
“The first thing they ask me is what numbers you are running, and that’s a hard question to dodge right there,” he said. “The second one is who is your driver, and it goes beyond that. People want to be competitive with the best package out there.”