Obaika Racing making Cup debut at Talladega

by Justin Nguyen

A new face will grace the Talladega Superspeedway garage this weekend. Obaika Racing has entered the 1000Bulbs.com 500 scheduled for Sunday, with David Starr joining to drive the #97 car.

“I’m very excited to be racing Talladega Superspeedway in the No. 97 Toyota,” Starr stated in a team press release. “I’ve had some great runs there in the [Camping World] Trucks and the Xfinity Series, and I can’t thank Victor [Obaika] enough for bringing me on board for his debut as a Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series owner.”

Starr currently races for Jimmy Means Racing in the Xfinity Series. The Houston native currently sits twenty-fourth in points with six top-ten finishes and a best run of seventeenth at Daytona International Speedway in February. In 159 career Xfinity races, he has three top tens and a best finish of fifth in the 2017 Daytona July race. The 51-year-old Starr spent much of his NASCAR career in the Truck Series, where he has 317 starts between 1998 and 2013. He recorded four wins, 117 top tens, and a best points finish of fourth in 2006.

In September, Starr made his first Cup start of the season at Indianapolis Motor Speedway with Rick Ware Racing. He finished thirty-ninth.

Obaika Racing was formed in 2015, fielding the #97 in the Xfinity Series for various drivers like Peyton SellersJosh ReaumeJohanna LongDylan KwasniewskiMason MingusParker Kligerman, and Ryan Ellis. Running all but one race in 2015, the car finished thirtieth in the owners’ points. Sellers recorded the team’s best finish of sixteenth at the Daytona July event.

The team opened a part-time second car, the #77, in 2016. While the #97 ran the full schedule with a variety of faces like Ellis, Alex GuenetteAlli OwensHarrison RhodesJordan AndersonJosh BerryJosh BilickiMatt WaltzPaige Decker, and T.J. Bell, the #77 entered sixteen races with a rotation that included Anderson, Bell, Bilicki, Ellis, Waltz, Austin TheriaultClaire Decker, and Spencer Boyd. Ellis scored the #97’s best finish at Kentucky Speedway with twenty-second, while the #77’s best run is twenty-seventh with Bell at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. The #97 finished thirty-fourth in points.

In 2017, Obaika attempted just seven races with Bilicki and Stephen Leicht before disappearing due to financial issues. A year later, the team attempted to return with Arnout Kok at the K&N Pro Series West at Las Vegas Motor Speedway’s Bullring, but ultimately withdrew. A second try in the year for the Xfinity Series race at the Charlotte Motor Speedway Roval saw Tanner Berryhill miss the event due to mechanical problems.

At Talladega, Starr’s best career finish is second in the 2013 Truck race. Obaika’s two Xfinity starts at Talladega have resulted in eighteenth and thirty-fifth place finishes.

With 41 teams entered and Obaika not possessing a charter, the team is not guaranteed a spot in the 40-car grid and will have to qualify on time.

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