Rick Ware Racing is expanding its operations for the 2018 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series. In addition to fielding the #51 for the Rookie of the Year contender Ray Black Jr., the team will also field a part-time #52 car in 2018. The news was announced on Wednesday.
“I’m excited and it’s going to be a great learning year,” Black stated in an interview with Frontstretch.com. “We did the Xfinity Series full-time two years ago and it was a great lesson in life and in racing. To be able to get to this next level with the Monster Energy Cup Series, it’s going to be fun. I’m excited to do it.”
During the 2017 season, Black competed mostly in the Xfinity Series for SS-Green Light Racing, driving the #07 Chevrolet. After running the full 2017 schedule and finishing 19th in points, he scaled back to a 21-race slate for 2017 due to sponsorship issues. His best finish was 12th at Daytona in July, one of three top-20 finishes that year (18th at the February Daytona race and Richmond in the spring), as he finished 27th in the points standings.
Prior to racing in NASCAR’s second tier, Black drove for SS-Green Light in the Camping World Truck Series. After a part-time run in 2014, he moved into the #07 full-time for the 2015 Truck season, which started on a strong note when he finished 5th at Daytona. Although it was his only top-ten finish that year, he recorded top 20s in all but six races as he ended the season with an 11th-place points finish.
In September, Black made his Cup Series debut at the opening race of the playoffs in Chicagoland for RWR, where he finished 40th after starting 39th. Seven races later, he returned to the #51 at Texas, where he finished 34th, and later drove the car at Homestead. After qualifying 39th, he was parked for being too slow and finished 38th. 2017 was the first season for Ware’s Cup operation after competing in the Xfinity Series. Running a limited schedule, the car was shared by Black, Timmy Hill, Cody Ware, B.J. McLeod, Josh Bilicki, and Kyle Weatherman, with Ware, McLeod, Bilicki, Weatherman, and Black running their first Cup races in the car. The #51 ended the season 41st in the owner’s points.
“We’re very excited to have him,” Ware said. “He’s got a lot of experience in Xfinity and the Truck Series. He’s run really well with Bobby Dotter in past years and we’ve had a good relationship here in the few races that we’ve done.”
The #51 will be guaranteed a spot in all 36 races in 2018 after acquiring a charter. Additionally, the team will field a part-time #52 in 10–18 races. While drivers for the car have not been confirmed, Ware expects son Cody, Weatherman, and Xfinity Series part-time driver John Graham to drive. RWR will run all three manufacturers (Chevrolet, Toyota, Ford) in 2018.
“It’s huge because what it does is it allows us to sell a deal because now we know we’re in the Daytona 500,” Ware commented. “We know we can sell sponsorship and we know we’re going to be at all the races no matter what. It allows us to sell sponsorship, put together a budget because we know what races we’re going to be at. We know what our income is going to be. We know what our set expense is going to be. The charters are very expensive, but at least we know what we have to work with.”
Black’s first race for the new full-time team, the 2018 Daytona 500, will take place on February 18.
Featured image from NASCAR.com