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18-year-old Gray Gaulding makes big jump to Cup series with BK Racing

NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Kroger 200

MARTINSVILLE, VA - OCTOBER 31: Gray Gaulding, driver of the #54 Krispy Kreme Toyota, stands on the grid during pre-race ceremonies for the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Kroger 200 at Martinsville Speedway on October 31, 2015 in Martinsville, Virginia. (Photo by Jonathan Moore/Getty Images)

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After spending the 2013 and 2014 seasons in the NASCAR Next program with Chase Elliott and Daniel Suarez, 2017 will become NASCAR Now for Gray Gaulding.

The 18-year-old Gaulding will be reunited with both Suarez and Elliott, as well as becoming the youngest driver (turns 19 on Feb. 10) in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series this season, driving for BK Racing.

The Virginia native will pilot the No. 23 Toyota Camry, with his first race the Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway on March 5. Joey Gase is slated to be in the No. 23 for three races this season, so Gaulding will likely switch to the team’s No. 83 or No. 93 for the same races.

“When I first walked into the BK Racing shop I felt at home, it has the perfect mixture of corporate America and the old-school race shop feeling” Gaulding said in a media release. “(Team majority owner) Ron Devine has invested a lot of time, effort, and equity into BK Racing and it shows as you walk the shop floor. … I can’t wait to get behind the wheel.”

Sponsorship for Gaulding’s ride will be announced at a later date.

Gaulding is a great talent, but moves to NASCAR’s premier series with limited experience:

* He has just two prior Cup starts, both in the fall of last season, finishing 39th at Martinsville and 37th at Phoenix. He also failed to qualify in the season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

* He has just two Xfinity Series starts, both also in 2016, finishing 13th at both Bristol and Richmond.

* He has 13 Truck Series starts, with one top-five and two top-10 finishes.

Gaulding has had the most success in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East and West: In 43 combined starts, he earned one win, 13 top-five and 25 top-10 finishes, along with two poles.

Despite Gaulding’s limited top-level experience, Devine believes his young driver can do well this season.

“Over the years, BK Racing has given many talented young drivers the chance to compete in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series and make a name for themselves,” Devine said. “We see Gray Gaulding as a potential superstar in our sport.”

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