BK Racing will have a significant overhaul to its driver lineup for 2017 with announcements on consecutive days that primary drivers David Ragan and Matt DiBenedetto would not return to the team next season.
DiBenedetto, touting the promise of an exciting announcement in the future, announced Thursday night on Twitter that he would not return to the Charlotte-based team. Ragan's departure was the next bit of news, with the Ron Devine-owned organization confirming that transition Friday afternoon.
I've decided to go in a different direction next year. Exciting announcements coming soon. It's been a great ride @BKRacing_2383 Thank you!— Matthew DiBenedetto (@mattdracing) December 8, 2016
In two years with the organization, DiBenedetto logged 68 starts with one top-10 finish. That finish, in April 2016 at Bristol, was a sixth-place result -- he finished one spot ahead of 2014 champion Kevin Harvick -- and resulted in an emotional, memorable on-air interview.
"I can only say so much at this time," DiBenedetto said Thursday night on SiriusXM Radio. "I've been in talks with BK, and no hard feelings. I'm appreciative of everything they've given me. … Just kind of evaluating the team situation for next year. From my end there's a little too much unknown, so I just had to make that decision. I'm excited about what the future has to hold here still, and obviously everyone will have to stay tuned."
Devine confirmed DiBenedetto's parting through a statement released later Thursday evening.
"Our 33rd- and 34th-place finishes this year did not produce the results we were hoping to achieve," Devine said. "I am, however, very proud of Matt DiBenedetto and his many accomplishments over the past two years. He is a wonderful driver and a special person. I am confident that Matt will go on to be a very successful NASCAR driver, and I believe it is the right time to release him so that he can pursue other opportunities.
Devine struck a similar tone in his statement on Ragan's release, hinting at measures to better its results next season.
"BK Racing has agreed not to renew David Ragan's contract for next year," Devine said. "Everyone wishes David the best of luck in his career. BK Racing will continue to restructure as an ongoing effort to improve our on-track performance ... and we will be announcing our 2017 driver lineup in the near future."
DiBenedetto and Ragan were the primary drivers for BK Racing in 2016, but the organization also fielded Toyotas in spot duty for Jeffrey Earnhardt, Ryan Ellis, Dylan Lupton, Robert Richardson Jr., and Michael Waltrip. The team has been full time in NASCAR's premier series since 2012, when it debuted as a two-car outfit with drivers Landon Cassill and Travis Kvapil.
Ragan, 31, has two victories in NASCAR's top division since he began full-time competition in 2007. He won at Daytona International Speedway driving for Roush Fenway Racing in July 2011 and handed Front Row Motorsports its first victory at Talladega Superspeedway in May 2013.
Ragan finished 33rd in the final standings in his only season for BK Racing. His most recent top-10 finish was in March 2015 in a fill-in role for the injured Kyle Busch in Joe Gibbs Racing's No. 18 Toyota.
DiBenedetto missed one race in 2016, at Texas Motor Speedway in November, after not being medically cleared following a wreck in the NASCAR XFINITY Series the day prior. He was cleared from concussion protocol in time for the next race. DiBenedetto, 25, also has 68 career starts in the XFINITY Series.