TriStar Motorsports

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TriStar Motorsports
Owner(s) Mark Smith
Base Denver, North Carolina
Series Nationwide Series
Race drivers #10 Blake Koch
#14 Eric McClure
#19 Mike Bliss
#44 David Starr
Various
#91 Jeff Green
Benny Gordon
Sponsors #10 None
#14 Hefty/Reynolds Group Holdings
#19 Tweaker Energy Shot
#44 Various
#91 SupportMilitary.org, BWP Bats
Manufacturer Toyota
Career
Races competed NSCS: 197
NNS: 427
Drivers' Championships 0
Race victories 0
Pole positions 2

TriStar Motorsports is a racing team that competes in the NASCAR Nationwide Series. They currently field the #10 Toyota for Blake Koch and Jeff Green, the #14 Hefty Toyota for Eric McClure, the #19 Tweaker Energy Shot Toyota for Mike Bliss, and the #44 for David Starr, Koch and other drivers. They also field a #91 car on occasion with Green. The team competed in the NASCAR Winston Cup Series primarily during the early to mid 1990s, suspending racing operations in 1997 and continuing on as Tri-Star Motors, and later Pro Motor Engines, supplying engines to many NASCAR teams prior to returning to competition in 2010.

History[edit]

Winston Cup 1989–1998[edit]

Tri-Star made its debut in 1989 at Talladega Superspeedway. Driver Ron Esau finished 38th after wrecking the #18 Pontiac. Brad Teague made the team's second start at Charlotte Motor Speedway with Mello Yello but finished 31st after suffering engine failure. Barn Animals sponsored Hut Stricklin's #68 entry at the 1990 Daytona 500, and fielded the #18 for him at Atlanta Motor Speedway, where he finished. Tri-Star switched to the #68 at Talladega Superspeedway, and Stanley Smith wrecked the Interstate Batteries car and finished 37th. The team finished their first race at Michigan with Mike Chase finishing 24th. They ran the #68 with Country Time Lemonade sponsorship and Bobby Hamilton driving in two races, with a best finish of 28th.

In 1991, Tri-Star ran full-time with Hamilton and Country Time again sponsoring their Oldsmobile. Hamilton had four top-ten finishes and finished 22nd in points, winning Rookie of the Year honors. They began 1992 with no top-ten finishes, and later switched to Ford Thunderbirds, allowing Hamilton to get two top-ten finishes and finish 25th in points. After failing to finish higher than 15th eight races into the 1993 season, Hamilton was released. Greg Sacks drove for the rest of the season, with Dorsey Schroeder filling in at the road course races, and Loy Allen driving at Phoenix International Raceway.

Allen was named the full-time driver for the 1994 season, in addition to Tri-Star switching to the #19 and getting Hooters sponsorship. Allen won the pole for the Daytona 500, becoming the first rookie driver to do so. He also qualified on the pole at Atlanta and Michigan, but failed to qualify for twelve races that season and finished 39th in points. Allen and Hooters left Tri-Star at the end of the year, and Phil Parsons took over the driving duties for the first five races of the 1995 season with Ultra Custom Wheels sponsorship. After the first five races, the team cut back and did not run any races until the Winston Select 500, when Allen returned to the team with Healthsource sponsoring the car. In their first race back together, Allen and Tri-Star qualified second and finished tenth, Allen's career-best finish. Tri-Star ran a limited schedule for the rest of 1995, with Ron Fellows driving the 68 at Watkins Glen, and Allen driving the 19 during the rest of the season.

Healthsource signed for a full season of sponsorship in 1996, but Allen suffered a severe neck injury at the second race of the season at North Carolina Speedway, causing him to miss the next ten races. Dick Trickle filled in the interim, placing eighth at the Food City 500. Upon Allen's return, Tri-Star again moved to a part-time schedule, getting a best finish of 21st. Healthsource left the team at the end of the season, and Child Support Recovery took its place. After two races into the 1997 season, Allen was released and Gary Bradberry replaced him. After failing to qualify for the Miller 400, Child Support Recovery was dropped by the team due to lack of funding and racing operations were suspended again.

In 1999, they leased their shop to SBIII Motorsports and built engines for them. Following the team's closure near the end of the season, Tri-Star reacquired its equipment and fielded the #48 FansTeam Ford for Stanton Barrett at the 2000 Daytona 500, but did not qualify.

Pro Motors[edit]

Although Tri-Star no longer fielded a team, they continued to build engines for various teams. Known as Pro Motors Engines, they have built engines for numerous teams, including Front Row Motorsports and their Sprint Cup Series teams until the end of 2009, ML Motorsports, MSRP Motorsports, and Mark Smith's own Tri-Star Motorsports beginning in 2010 in the Nationwide Series, Kevin Harvick Incorporated along with many other teams in the Camping World Truck Series and the ARCA RE/Max Series. The company has won Camping World Truck Series championships in 2003, 2004, and 2009, along with PME winning the MAHLE Engine Builder Showdown for 3 years in a row.

Return to NASCAR competition[edit]

After a nine-year hiatus from fielding race teams, Tri-Star acquired the Nationwide team owned by Front Row Motorsports, and fielded three cars in 2010, the former FRM team #34 for Tony Raines, a new team, the #35, for Jason Keller and ran the #36 on a part-time schedule. The team used their own PME Motors.

Nationwide Series[edit]

#10 car history[edit]

The #10 began as the #36, which was a third car in 2010 with Tony Ave and Jeff Green behind the wheel, running as a start and park operation. The team used the prize money used to fund the #34 and #35 teams. Green drove the car again at Daytona as a start and park. Charles Lewandoski drove the car at Phoenix. Green drove the car for most of the season as a start and park, but was replaced for 3 races by Angela Cope. For 2012 the team changed number to 10, and Green once again drove the car as a start and park. However, when Green moved to the #14 after Eric McClure's injury, Tony Raines and Kevin Lepage became the temporary drivers until McClure returned at Road America.

Green ran the majority of the races in 2013 as a start and park again. Cole Whitt moved over from the #44 car and ran the full race at Bristol in August, finishing tenth with Gold Bond as the sponsor. Mike Bliss ran the car at Homestead with his usual #19 occupied.

In 2014, Blake Koch and Jeff Green have run the majority of the races, mostly as a start and park. David Starr ran the car at Daytona in February. At Daytona in July, Koch had sponsorship from Celsius Negative Calorie Cola, with TriStar bringing five cars to run the full race. During the first round of qualifying, all five TriStar cars were running in a pack when a sudden downpour of rain caused the entire pack to spin out, causing most of the cars including four from TriStar to wreck. Koch, along with the #91 of Benny Gordon missed the race, and the sponsor of the #10 moved over to Mike Bliss' #19.

#14 car history[edit]

2010[edit]

#35 driven by Tony Ave at Road America in 2010

What is now the #14 Chevrolet debuted in 2010 as the #35 Chevrolet. At the time it was a completely new entry, consisting of veteran Jason Keller as the driver and former Rusty Wallace Racing crew chief Bryan Berry atop the pit box. During their first attempt at Daytona, the #35 missed the race due to not having a top-35 points position and being unable to qualify on time. The team would go on to miss the races at Daytona, Las Vegas, and Texas, while successfully making the race Stater Brothers 300 in California, starting 21st and finishing 20th during the team's first race. The team would eventually make the top-35, a notable accomplishment for a team that missed 3 races during the season. The #35 and Keller got their first top 10 finish in the form of a top 5, finishing 4th at Talladega. At the inaugural event at Road America, the team selected Tony Ave to drive the #35, Ave being a road course ace with much success at the track. He qualified the car in 10th place, and was running 5th when he was spun on the last lap of the race, finishing 20th. Antonio Pérez drove the car at Gateway International Raceway, finishing 34th. Tony Raines drove the #35 at Phoenix International Raceway with sponsorship from BeAStockCarDriver.com. The #35 finished 29th in the 2010 owners points.

The team managed to put together some one race sponsorship deals for various races during the season. The #35 and Keller managed to get sponsorship from uPillar.com at Darlington, KEL Chemicals at Dover for Kellers 500th career start, and LubePros.com at Chicagoland speedway. BeAStockCarDriver.com sponsored Keller at Charlotte in October.

2011[edit]

The team returned to competition in 2011 as the #14, with Eric McClure and his longtime sponsor Hefty coming along with him from Team Rensi Motorsports. Mike Bliss drove the #14 unsponsored at Dover when the car fell out of the top-30 in owners points. McClure made all 34 races that year, scoring a best finish of 18th at Chicago en route to a 19th place points finish. McClure and Hefty returned in 2012, along with the team's manufacturer switch to Toyota.

2012[edit]

McClure started the season in the #14. He ran at the end of the first seven races before a crash at Talladega took him out of action. Jeff Green moved from the start-and-park #10 to the #14 while McClure recovered. McClure returned at Road America, moving Green back to the 10.

2013[edit]

A fully recovered McClure remained in the #14.

2014[edit]

Eric McClure returned for what may be his final season. He will run at least a majority of the races. Longtime partners Hefty and Reynolds Wrap will once again sponsor the car. Jeff Green ran at Dover in May and Michigan in June.

#19 car history[edit]

2010[edit]

#34 driven by Tony Raines in 2010

What is now the #19 team was previously the #34 team from the 2010 season. Tri-Star acquired the team from Front Row Motorsports following the 2009 season. It remained mostly intact, with Scott Eggleston returning as crew chief and Tony Raines returning as the driver of the Long John Silvers entry, and with the previous years owners points transferring over which locked the team into the first 5 races of the season. During the first race for the new team at Daytona, Raines and the #34 lead 3 laps and finished 14th despite being involved in 2 incidents. Alongside his teammate, Raines and the crew scored the seasons first top-10 in the Aaron's 312 at Talladega Superspeedway in Alabama, finishing 7th after running in the top-5 for various parts of the race. Raines got his second top 10 of the season at Gateway, finishing tenth. Charles Lewandoski started and parked the #34 at Phoenix International Raceway in November, with Raines in the #35 for that race. Dave Fuge became crew chief of the team in the second half of the season. The #34 finished 23rd in final owners points, with Raines finishing 17th in driver standings in 2010.

The team managed to put together some one race sponsorship deals for various races for during the season. The #34 and Raines was funded by Planet Hollywood Resort and Casino at California, doorstopnation.com at Daytona & Talladega, Continental Fire & Safety at Dover, and Boss Industries/The Walter Payton Foundation at Chicagoland. Front Row Motorsports' owner Bob Jenkins pulled the Long John Silver's sponsorship from the team following the race at Bristol Motor Speedway in August, with BeAStockCarDriver.com sponsoring Raines for the final 4 races of the season. Raines was replaced by Nationwide Series veteran Mike Bliss.

2011–2012[edit]

The team returned in 2011 as the #19, and Mike Bliss signed on to drive the car for the 2011 season. Crew Chief Dave Fuge remained with the team but was replaced early in the season by Wes Ward. Fuge now is part owner of Derrike Cope's CFK Motorsports. Ward also left the team early on and was replaced by TRG interim crew chief Paul Clapprood. The team scored 19 top-20 finishes with a best finish of 11th at Lucas Oil Raceway. With limited sponsorship Bliss and the 19 team finished the season 12th in points. For 2012 Bliss was replaced by Tayler Malsam as he brought sponsorship from Green Earth Technologies as well as the team's manufacturer change to Toyota. Venezuelan Alex Popow drove the car at Watkins Glen. Malsam was 13th in points when he and TriStar parted ways after Kentucky, leaving Bliss to return to the 19. Also, Hal Martin competed in three races in 2012.

2013[edit]

Mike Bliss took over the 19 once again for the full season. G-Oil and Tweaker Energy Shot sponsored the car. Dakoda Armstrong ran the car at Homestead with sponsor WinField, while Bliss ran the #10.

2014[edit]

Mike Bliss is once again in the car full-time, with Tweaker Energy Shot sponsoring several races.

#44 car history[edit]

The #44 car in 2013, driven by Cole Whitt

The #44 car was run in 2011 by Jeff Green as a start and park entry. For 2012, Mike Bliss drove the car with various sponsorship until Dover when he moved to the #19 and Green took over for the next two races. Hal Martin and John Blankenship finished out the season.

2013[edit]

In 2013, Hal Martin ran for Rookie of the year with American Custom Yachts as the sponsor, but only ran the first ten races and then two late in the season. Chad Hackenbracht ran seven races with Ingersoll Rand and Tastee Apples sponsoring. Cole Whitt ran the most races for the team, with several strong runs including four top tens and only one finish outside the top twenty. Whitt was sponsored by Takagi Water Heaters and Gold Bond. Whitt left for Swan Racing in the Sprint Cup series at the end of the season.

2014[edit]

For 2014, it was announced that Blake Koch would drive for TriStar full-time. He has split time between the #44 and the #10. David Starr has also run several races with the team. Various other drivers have run the #44, bringing sponsorship with them. These include Hal Martin, Paulie Harraka, Carlos Contreras, Will Kimmel, and Matt Frahm.

#91 car history[edit]

Like the #10, the #91 runs as a start and park operation, though only on a part time basis.

2014[edit]

Jeff Green ran the car at Daytona in February and Auto Club in March, finishing last in both with SupportMilitary.org branding. He finished 39th at Darlington in April and 38th at Talladega in May, At Daytona in July, Benny Gordon attempted to qualify with BWP bats sponsoring, but did not post a fast enough speed before being taken out in a crash at the end of the first round.

Sprint Cup Series[edit]

TriStar attempted to qualify for the race at Watkins Glen in 2010 with driver Tony Ave in the #35 Chevy purchased from Front Row Motorsports, however the team did not qualify. It was the only Cup race Tri-Star attempted that year.

#19 car history[edit]

Mark Smith returned to the Cup Series in 2012 by partnering with former HP Racing co-owner Randy Humphrey. As Humphrey Smith Racing, the team fields Mike Bliss in the #19. The team started fielding the #91 for Reed Sorenson starting at Indianapolis Motor Speedway as well. The team fields a mix of Ford, Toyota, and Chevrolet for the #91 team, both cars are start and parks. The #19 team and Bliss had returned for the 2013 season, running a Toyota. The car was driven by Jason Leffler in the Party in the Poconos 400, three days before he was killed in a sprint car accident at Bridgeport Speedway in New Jersey.[1]

The team also employed Alex Kennedy for the road courses. Kennedy crashed at Sonoma, parked at Pocono, but finished 29th at Watkins Glen. Smith shut the team down before the Chase.

In 2014, Humphrey left TriStar and started his own Cup operation, the #77 driven by Dave Blaney.[2] It is unknown whether Smith will continue to field the No. 19 Cup car.

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Jason Leffler - 2013 NASCAR Sprint Cup Results". Racing-Reference. USA Today Sports Media Group. Retrieved 2013-06-13. 
  2. ^ Spencer, Lee (January 8, 2014). "Dave Blaney reviving No. 77 Ford for Sprint Cup team owner Humphrey". Fox Sports. Retrieved 2014-01-08. 

External links[edit]