NASCAR premier series driver Ryan Blaney and the Wood Brothers Racing team will be guaranteed a spot in all 36 races in 2017 now that the organization has obtained a Charter through a lease agreement with Go FAS Racing.
Blaney qualified for all 36 races this past season based on his qualifying times in the No. 21 Ford. Two years ago the team missed three races when inclement weather forced the cancellation of qualifying and the field was set per the NASCAR rule book.
Team officials indicated that having a guaranteed starting position takes weather and other concerns that could impact making the starting field off the table going forward.
Go FAS Racing, owned by Archie St. Hilaire, fields the No. 32 Ford in NASCAR's premier series. Eight drivers made at least one start for the team in 2016, although officials announced previously that Matt DiBenedetto would be the team's driver of record for the '17 season.
While the team leased the No. 32 Charter to the Wood Brothers group, it has also since leased the No. 44 Charter from Richard Petty Motorsports, thus guaranteeing DiBenedetto a starting position as well. Officials with RPM, which also fields the No. 43 for driver Aric Almirola, have not indicated the status of the No. 44 team since the unexpected retirement of former driver Brian Scott at the conclusion of '16.
"A couple of months ago we were evaluating where we were going to go," St. Hilaire told SiriusXM NASCAR late last month. "We looked at it — I'm good friends with Eddie and Len (Wood)...we said 'Look, let's lease the Charter for a year, regroup and see what we want to do long term....
"The opportunity arose with the departure of Brian Scott that there was an opening for the charter on the 44 team. After we had already signed with the Wood Brothers a few months ago, this opportunity came up."
The Charter system, which was unveiled before the start of the '16 season, awarded guaranteed starting positions to those teams that had attempted to qualify for all races from 2013 through 2015. Thirty-six teams met that criteria, leaving four positions available for Open (non-Chartered) teams.
The Wood Brothers team, one of the longest-tenured organizations in NASCAR, ran a limited schedule from 2009 through 2015. It resumed running the full 36-race schedule this past season, one which saw rookie Blaney finish 20th in points.