Races that Starter is scheduled to be primary sponsor in 2017:
Daytona - 2/26
Contract Status: Sponsors: ?; Drivers: ?
Some details on #33 Circle-Sport/TMG team: Joe Falk is partnering this year with fellow Chesapeake businessman Curtis Key, merging to create the #33 Circle Sports/The Motorsports Team, to race in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series. Key brings a shop in Mooresville, N.C., that he calls three to fourtimes a day from his Indian River plumbing office - Falk checks in once daily from his used car lot - to direct and monitor work done by their 15 employees. The team has 16 cars and 11 engines. Falk cut a deal with Jeffrey Earnhardt to drive the #33 Chevy, and the driver also brought a sponsor - Starter sporting apparel - for the first four races. Other Falk deals include one with Richard Childress Racing for restrictor-plate motors and engineers for Daytona and Talladega (at about $80,000 per race); and one with the Hendrick organization to provide a trained pit crew and manager each week. Falk also brings potentially the most valuable asset to a team looking toward the future: one of the 36 charters NASCAR hands out. It's what guarantees a spot in every race's 40-car field and with it a revenue stream, if not a profit. Key recognizes the value of the charter from experience.(The Virginian-Pilot)(2-12-2017)
Jeffrey Earnhardt to Circle Sport/TMG ride? UPDATES: indications on the Twitter feeds of Jeffrey Earnhardt and #33 Circle Sport/TMG owner Joe Falk that Earnhardt will be the new driver of the #33 Chevy for the 2017 season. No word if it is a full-time deal or part-time. The team also plans to run some races in the #30-Chevy, an Open team (no Charter). The #33 team has a Charter and is guaranteed to run all the 2017 races. Supposedly an announcement could be made on Wednesday.(1-23-2017)
UPDATE: Circle Sport/TMG tweeted Monday evening, "@CSTMG3330 welcomes [Jeffrey Earnhardt]. Will make first @DISupdates 500! [Starter Black Label] returns [as sponsor] in 2017".(1-30-2017)
UPDATE: Jeffrey Earnhardt, a grandson of NASCAR Hall of Famer Dale Earnhardt and nephew of Dale Earnhardt Jr., will make his first Daytona 500 start later this month, as he has secured a ride as the primary driver of the Circle Sport-TMG #33 car. The 27-year-old has 24 NASCAR Cup Series starts with a best finish of 26th last October in Charlotte. Veteran crew chief Pat Tryson will guide the team. Sponsorship was not announced.(ESPN.com)(2-3-2017)
UPDATE: Earnhardt tweeted that the deal is not full-time, but they are working towards that. "I know a lot of you have been askin is this deal is full time. Thats the goal but gotta get more sponsors involved for that. #fingerscrossed".(2-6-2017)
Circle Sport and TMG merging, using #33 Charter? UPDATE: hearing Circle Sport #33 team owner, Joe Falk has a controlling interest in TMG Motorsports and that the team is making changes to their crew and personnel. Supposedly Pat Tryson will be the crew chief, the team could change to Toyota (ran Chevy in 2016) but no driver has been named. Falk has a Charter from his #33 Circle Sport team and leased it in 2016 to the #95 Leavine Family Racing team. Some of the personnel could come from that team (12-24-2016)
UPDATE: Joe Falk of Circle Sport (CS) and Curtis Key, Sr., of The Motorsports Group (TMG) announced that it will combine resources and participate in the 2017 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series (MENCS). The team will be led by Circle Sport owner, Joe Falk, utilizing manufacturer Chevrolet and participate in the full 2017 season under the number thirty-three (#33). The managing partnership of the two Chesapeake, VA business men merged to increase sponsorship opportunities and enhance their performance on the track. TMG owner Curtis Key has obtained a percentage of Circle Sport NASCAR Charter in the deal. The Charter will give the #33 guaranteed entries into all 2017 MENCS events. "It's great to join forces with Curtis Key, I've known him for a very long time and know we share the same feelings about racing", said Falk. CS/TMG will be housed out of the facility that has been the home of The Motorsports Group in Mooresville, NC. In the off season, the facility and equipment has been upgraded including purchase of updated cars.
Pat Tryson has been named Crew Chief of the team. Tryson, a veteran Cup Series crew chief will return to the TMG shop after heading up TMG in 2015 during its transition from the Xfinity Series into the Cup Series. "It's great to have Pat back with us, he was instrumental when we got started with our Cup program and we look forward to his insight in 2017", said Key. Gary Showalter, a tenured employee of TMG will serve as the team's General Manager. Showalter started with TMG in the Camping World Truck Series in 2005 and was a in TMG's climb from the Truck Series to the Cup level in 2015. He will oversee the day to day race facility duties as well as race team personnel.
CS/TMG has yet to name a driver the #33 Chevy but officials are adamant to that an announcement will come in the next few weeks. Also, released today is the revamped logo combining the two teams' monikers. "The Circle Sport w/ TMG logo was necessary to rebrand the team into one entity rather than the using two logo's side by side", added Falk. The #33 Chevy will debut at Daytona International Speedway for Speedweeks in February. There are several sponsorship opportunities available for associates as well as primary partners. The #30 car may be available to enter events on a part-time basis.(CS/TMG)(1-6-2016)
Gray Gaulding returns to the #30 Chevy at Homestead; Full-time in 2017? UPDATE on the team: Eighteen year old Gray Gaulding with 17 starts in NASCAR's national touring series will make his debut at a 1.5-mile speedway in Sunday's Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway in the #30 Feed the Children TMG Chevy. Last week at Phoenix a fuel pump failure neglected Gaulding to a 37th place finish (GGR Enterprises)
AND Add Gray Gaulding to the list of drivers who will compete full-time in NASCAR's premiere series in 2017 and a candidate for rookie-of-the-year honors. "Our plan is to run full-time in the Cup Series," Gaulding said. "I'm really excited about [it]. We'll probably announce in the next couple weeks, the sponsor and the manufacturer, so got a lot of good things rolling, but you should see me full-time next year in the Sprint Cup Series." Gaulding said "the plan right now" is to run the #30 car next season for The Motorsports Group.(The Racing Experts)(11-18-2016)
UPDATE: from the TMG website: "Season Greeting from The Motorsports Group. We want to thank all the fans, friends, family and partners for all the support this past season. 2017 brings in a lot of changes, including some key team changes and a new title sponsor. We look forward to our participation in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series".
AND hearing Circle Sport team owner, Joe Falk has a controlling interest in TMG Motorsports and that the team is making changes to their crew and personnel. Supposedly Pat Tryson will be the crew chief, the team could change to Toyota (ran Chevy in 2016) but no driver has been named. Falk has a Charter from his #33 Circle Sport team and leased it in 2016 to the #95 Leavine Family Racing team. Some of the personnel could come from that team (12-24-2016)
Jeffrey Earnhardt returns to BK Racing: BK Racing announced that Jeffrey Earnhardt will return to drive the #83 Starter Toyota at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Earnhardt will be one of three BK Racing cars on track for the Ford EcoBoost 400 as he joins teammates #23-David Ragan and #49-Matt DiBenedetto for the Sprint Cup season finale. "This week I'm jumping back in the #83 Starter Toyota Camry with BK Racing and I couldn't be more excited to have this opportunity for the last race of the season," said Earnhardt. "Doug (Richert) is back as my crew chief and the team at BK Racing has me fired up to see how well we can do to wrap up the 2016 season. I enjoyed my last two races with BK and going to Homestead should be a lot of fun."
"We are looking forward to having Jeffrey and Starter back with us at Homestead," said Doug Fritz, BK Racing CMO. "Everyone at BK Racing is proud to represent a brand as iconic as Starter."(BK Racing)(11-17-2016)
Jeffrey Earnhardt and Starter join BK Racing at Talladega: BK Racing announced that Jeffrey Earnhardt will be driving the #83 Starter Toyota Camry at Talladega Superspeedway on October 23, 2016. Earnhardt will be one of three BK Racing cars on track for the Alabama 500 as he joins teammates David Ragan and Matt DiBenedetto. "I'm really excited to drive the No. 83 Starter Toyota Camry for the fall race at Talladega," said Earnhardt. "It's my first Cup Series race at Talladega, my first race with BK Racing, the first time anyone from our family competes in a Toyota and it's the 25th anniversary of my grandfather's victory at Talladega. Having this opportunity with an iconic American partner like Starter is an incredible honor. I can't remember being so pumped up for a race and sincerely appreciate our friends at Starter for their support." Doug Richert, former crew chief for Dale Earnhardt Sr. will be the crew chief on the #83 Starter Toyota at Talladega. Starter is a premium brand established in 1971. Starter pioneered the fusion of sports clothing with popular culture by forging partnerships with the major pro basketball, football, baseball, hockey, and college leagues.(BK Racing), see an image of the car on the #83 team paint schemes page.(10-17-2017)
HScott Motorsports makes personnel moves: HScott Motorsports has made personnel changes in order to better utilize its expertise and resources over the second half of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season. The following changes are effective immediately:
• Jay Guy is promoted from crew chief of the #46 Pilot/Flying J Chevrolet driven by Michael Annett, to HScott Motorsports Technical Director. Guy will report to Competition Director, Steve Addington.
• Mike Hillman, Sr. takes over as the crew chief of the #46, under direction of Addington and Guy.
Jay Guy, who has been with HScott Motorsports since the start of the 2015 season, has been involved in management or crew-chief positions in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series dating back to the 2003 season. Guy has one previous win as crew chief during the 2013 Talladega Superspeedway Aaron's 499 for David Ragan. Mike Hillman, Sr. served as a crew chief and general manager in each of NASCAR's top three series. In 2012, he started Hillman Racing, which competed in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series through the 2016 season and the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series through the 2014 season.(HScott Motorsports)(7-19-2016)
Hillman drops lawsuit: Mike Hillman Racing (#40 Chevy) has voluntary dismissed its lawsuit (indicating a settlement) against Circle Sport-Leavine Familuy Racing (#95 Chevy) over the charter.(ESPN's Bob Pockrass Twitter)(7-1-2016)
Hillman suing Circle Sport over charter: A Sprint Cup team owner's lawsuit seeks the charter NASCAR granted his former partner. Hillman Racing, team owner Mike Hillman and partners Doug Fuller and Matt Miller filed suit Friday in North Carolina Superior Court in Iredell County against former partner Joe Falk, Circle Sport, Leavine Family Racing and Circle Sport-Leavine Family Racing. Hillman Racing and its partners seek a judgment in excess of $25,000, punitive damages, rights to ownership of the #33 team, its charter and all the profits and benefits that Circle Sport-Leavine Family Racing's #95 car enjoys. Falk aligned with Leavine Family Racing before this season to form Circle Sport-Leavine Family Racing. As part of the merger, the No. 95 was maintained but inherited the #33 team's points and performance, making it eligible for one of the 36 Sprint Cup charters NASCAR granted before the season. Hillman Racing's #40 was not granted a charter because it had not competed full-time the past three seasons. The complaint by Hillman Racing states that Falk improperly entered into an agreement with Leavine Family Racing.
Court documents state that for the 2015 season, the partnership [between Hillman and Falk] agreed to divert more resources to the #40 car, making it the flagship car. The partners agreed to allow Richard Childress Racing to operate the #33 car for multiple races in return for a payment of $25,000 for all races except the Daytona 500 (in addition to other details regarding the payment of purse and plan money, etc.). RCR would pay $75,000 for the Daytona 500. The complaint alleges that before the Daytona 500 Hillman "discovered that Falk directed a sponsor for the 40 car to write the sponsorship check (for funds due from the 2014 season) payable to Circle Sport and not Hillman Racing. Of course, the parties had all previously agreed and understood that sponsorship funds were to be utilized to fund racing operations, for which Hillman Racing incurred substantial debt." After the Daytona 500, according to the complaint, Hillman and Falk agreed to terminate their partnership after the 2015 season.
Among the agreements the complaint states is that following the 2015 season, Circle Sport and Falk would "transfer all of their right, title and interest in and to the 33 points, and to all other property acquired by the Partnership to the remaining partners or an entity to be designated by them." In March 2015, then-counsel for Hillman Racing drafted a written "Purchase Agreement" for the termination of the partnership and transfer of assets, including the No. 33 car's points. The complaint states that Falk initially did not respond with any objection but later failed and refused to sign the agreement.
The complaint states that in Oct. 2015 Hillman was informed by NASCAR personnel that material terms of the charter system had been agreed upon. Court documents state that NASCAR informed Hillman that the field would be reduced from 43 to 40 cars and that 36 would receive charters. Hillman was informed that the #33 would receive a charter but not the #40.
In late January 2016, Circle Sport announced its merger with Leavine Family Racing. The complaint states that Hillman and his partners were not included in the discussions with Leavine and that the announcement came as a "surprise." The complaint states: "As a results of the circumstances described ... the 40 points are of negligible value, the Partnership is unable to race full-time during the 2016 race season, Hillman and Hillman Racing have no ability to pay for the significant debt incurred in the 2013, 2014 and 2015 race seasons, and the remaining partners have been forced to liquidate many of the Partnership's remaining assets."
See much more at NBC Sports.(3-23-2016)
McDowell back with Leavine Family Racing, switches to Chevy, merges with Circle Sport UPDATE3: Leavine Family Racing is announcing parts of their 2016 season plans. So far the team has announced that driver Michael McDowell will return to drive, that the TEAM will run the full 2016 Sprint Cup Series season and that the team is now known as Circle Sport - Leavine Family Racing (LFR Facebook / Twitter). Joe Falk, owner of the #33 Circle Sport team, has merged / sold the team to Leavine Family Racing, so the #95 team has #33 owners points to be eligible for a charter (when/if NASCAR goes to that ownership system) or be higher in owners points. Also hearing the team will switch manufacturers from Ford to Chevy and Thrivent Financial will return to sponsor the team in an unknown number of races. Another piece is a technical alliance with Richard Childress Racing and Ty Dillon driving in some races (1-20-2016)
UPDATE: Richard Childress Racing and Circle Sport - Leavine Family Racing have agreed to form a technical alliance in NASCAR Sprint Cup Series competition, beginning with the 2016 season. The partnership includes technology sharing, engineering, research and development provided to Circle Sport - Leavine Family Racing as they switch their #95 Sprint Cup Series cars to Chevy beginning with the 2016 season. Circle Sport - Leavine Family Racing will also benefit from utilizing the highly reliable and powerful engines of ECR Engines. Ty Dillon will run select races, including the Daytona 500, for Circle Sport - Leavine Family Racing in 2016. Sprint Cup Series veteran driver Michael McDowell will be the primary driver for the team.
"I admire the hard work, dedication and passion that Joe Falk and Bob and Sharon Leavine have for NASCAR and I know their addition to our RCR alliance teams will be mutually beneficial to both Circle Sport-Leavine Family Racing and our current roster of technical alliance partners," said Richard Childress, Chief Executive Officer of RCR. "I'm looking forward to success in 2016 and beyond."
With their race shop based in Concord, N.C., Circle Sport - Leavine Family Racing has a veteran group of racing personnel and ownership that has been active in the Sprint Cup Series for multiple years. "The resources that Richard Childress and RCR can provide, including ECR engines, the Chevrolet SS and access to shared information and technology will be a tremendous help as we continue to grow as an organization," said Bob Leavine. "RCR has an extremely competitive program with a storied history of winning races and championships and joining that culture of success makes this partnership especially attractive."(Richard Childress Racing)(1-21-2016)
UPDATE2 Leavine Family Racing (LFR) will join forces with Circle Sport Racing to run the full 36-race schedule in the 2016 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS). In addition, the race team will enter into an alliance with Richard Childress Racing (RCR) and will make the switch to run Chevy race cars powered by ECR Engines this race season. Michael McDowell will be the primary driver and compete in at least 26 NSCS races in 2016. RCR driver Ty Dillon will pilot the team's entry for the remaining NSCS races. Specific races for each driver are being determined but both drivers will enter the Daytona 500 (supposedly McDowell in a 2nd car). Leavine Family Racing team owner Bob Leavine has been preparing to take the team from a partial schedule to the full series schedule since the team's inception. The 2016 season proved to be the perfect time to make the leap, thanks in part to the new alliance with Joe Falk's Circle Sport team and technical alliance with Richard Childress Racing.
"The manufacturer and alliance switch provides our team with the best opportunity to improve on-track performance and to create long-term sustainability," said Leavine. "This was the right time for us to make this change. We have been turning over every stone looking for the right plan for our team and our people in 2016, and we've finally found a great fit that's going to help us continue to grow both on the track and as an organization."
Joe Falk, owner of Circle Sport Racing (was #33 Chevy), had been an owner in NASCAR starting in the late 1990's. Circle Sport competed in its first race in 2012 and has been associated with Richard Childress Racing during that time. "I'm happy to be working with Bob (Leavine) and the team to combine our efforts for a successful 2016 and beyond," said Falk. "We've put together a top notch program obtaining all cars and engines from RCR."
"This is a big step for our competition program," said McDowell. "The technical alliance with Richard Childress Racing is a huge asset to our growing team and we'll have access to some of the top equipment in the Cup Series. This type of alliance has worked really well for single-car teams such as JTG Racing and Germain Racing in the past and I'm excited about what we're going to be able to do in 2016."
Primary sponsorship of the #95 Chevy will include Thrivent Financial, K-LOVE Radio and Cheerios Brand. Circle Sport - Leavine Family Racing is seeking additional sponsorship to fill out the season.(1-21-2016)
UPDATE3: Thrivent Financial announced its continuing sponsorship of NASCAR Sprint Cup Series team Circle Sport-Leavine Family Racing and driver Michael McDowell in the 2016 race season. Thrivent, a not-for-profit financial services organization that serves Christians, will be the primary sponsor for fifteen (15) races during the 2016 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series with McDowell behind the wheel. The organization will also serve as a secondary sponsor on 15 additional races.
Thrivent started its relationship with Leavine Family Racing and McDowell in August of 2014. The mutually beneficial relationship expanded in 2015 for a 20-race sponsorship that included 10 primary races. This year, Leavine Family Racing has partnered with Circle Sport to field the #95 in the full 36-race schedule and entered into a new technical alliance with Richard Childress Racing, making the manufacturer switch to Chevrolet.
"We're thrilled to extend our sponsorship with Michael McDowell and Circle Sport - Leavine Family Racing in 2016," said Craig Stacey, Director of Marketing at Thrivent. "We had a tremendous response and reception from NASCAR fans in our first full season as a sponsor. In 2016, we're planning to provide more unique opportunities and content for fans through our social media channels and website. We like to think of our fans as part of our team and it's fun to give them a behind-the-scenes view of Thrivent Racing!"
For Thrivent, the off-the-track integration with McDowell and the race team was just as important as the race weekend competition. In 2015, McDowell and the race team raced go-karts with Wounded Warriors, packed shoeboxes for Operation Christmas Child and volunteered alongside Thrivent members to repair homes of those in need through the organization's Thrivent Builds with Habitat for Humanity program. Additionally, by creating a custom, fan-driven online game, Thrivent Financial donated $95,000 to Habitat for Humanity on behalf of NASCAR fans at the end of the 2015 season.
"I love working with Thrivent! Their mission to help Christians be wise with money and live generously is really a good fit with my personal values," said McDowell, who became a member of Thrivent in 2014. "We were able to team up and do some great things last year with race fans and Thrivent volunteers - especially at the Habitat events and speaking with Thrivent members nationwide. This is a perfect partnership and I'm excited to have Thrivent back as a sponsor in 2016."
This season, Thrivent will be featured as the primary sponsor at major NASCAR events and tracks including the Daytona 500, Talladega, Charlotte, Bristol, Indianapolis, Darlington and Homestead. Formed in 2016, Joe Falk, owner of Circle Sport Racing and Bob and Sharon Leavine, owners of Leavine Family Racing teamed up to compete in the 2016 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season as Circle Sport - Leavine Family Racing. The team will field the #95 Chevrolet SS, which will be driven by Michael McDowell as well as Ty Dillon in select races. The team operates out of their Concord, N.C.-based race shop with a veteran group of racing personnel and is driven by several core principals including Value, Integrity, Flexibility, Opportunity, Access and Experience.(Circle Sport - Leavine Family Racing), see images of the schemes on the #95 Team Schemes page (1-21-2016)
21 NASCAR founded, J.D. Gibbs, Kevin Swindell, Ben Rhodes, Jim Reed, Gene Comstock, Cannonball Brown, Jimmy Thompson, Dave Terrell, Gary Sain, Wayne Jacks, Sean Corr
22 Marshall Teague, Larry Foyt, Chuck Bown, Grace Kenseth, Logan Styers, Karla Lampe, Scott Robinette
23 Ralph Earnhardt, Bobby Moody, Dean Combs, Mike Marriner, Dawn Purvis, George Alsobrook
24 Michael Ritch, Jason Schuler, Aaron Daniel, Gilbert King, J.C. Hall
25 Davey Allison, Timmy Hill, Jaklyn Woodland, Derick Jennings, Butch Gilliland, Jonathan Toney
26 Bob Eolin, Brad Coleman, Terry Cook, Kertus Davis, Carl Haas, Colton Meyer
27 Ty Dillon, Todd Bodine, Dennis Setzer, Kevin Sharpe, Mike Warnecker
28 Mario Andretti, Teddy McClure, Jeff Almond, Billy Wade
29 Noreen Hofmann, Bun Emery, Barney Shore, Scott Cluka, Chuck Romeo