It has been a busy couple of days for Rick Ware Racing. A day after announcing that Cody Ware will run the full 2021 NASCAR Cup Series schedule in the #51, the team revealed Josh Bilicki will do the same in the #52, while Derrike Cope has been added to the roster for the season-opening Daytona 500.
“I could not be more excited and blessed for the opportunity to take the next step in my career and compete full time in the NASCAR Cup Series with Rick Ware Racing in 2021,” Bilicki stated. “I made my NASCAR Cup Series debut with Rick Ware Racing in 2017, and I have seen firsthand how hard Rick and Lisa have worked to grow this team to what it is today. To be able to call Rick Ware Racing my home in 2021 is a dream come true, and I am excited to continue to further my career and help grow this organization.”
Having raced in NASCAR since 2016, Bilicki’s lone full season in the discipline to date was the 2018 Xfinity Series with JP Motorsports; he finished thirty-third in points with a best finish of twentieth at Mid-Ohio and Kansas. He has 68 career Xfinity starts to his name, and the sports car veteran has seen particular success on the road courses as all but two of his nine top twenties have been on such tracks (Mid-Ohio, Road America, Daytona road course, and Charlotte Roval). He has also raced in the Camping World Truck Series on nine occasions over the last two years.
Bilicki’s Cup debut also came as a road course ringer when he ran the 2017 Toyota/Save Mart 350 at Sonoma for RWR, where he finished thirty-sixth. Much of his 35 Cup races over the next four seasons have been for RWR, though his 2020 schedule began with starts for Tommy Baldwin Racing and featured two runs for Spire Motorsports. His best premier series run is twenty-fifth at Indianapolis and Kansas in 2020.
“I’m excited to have Josh Bilicki on board as a primary driver for the 2021 NASCAR Cup Series season,” Rick Ware added. “Josh drove for us part time over the course of the last few years and has always done a great job representing RWR, in and out of the car. I am looking forward to seeing him grow as a driver and bring home some solid finishes this year.”
Meanwhile, Cope will enter his first Daytona 500 since 2011, where he failed to qualify. The 1990 race winner, his last start in the Great American Race came in 2004 when he finished thirtieth for Arnold Motorsports. Cope has 427 Cup starts, including two wins, to his name.
His latest NASCAR start was the 2018 Southern 500 at Darlington for StarCom Racing, a team that he helped form in 2017. Cope currently serves as the general manager for StarCom, who fields the #00 for Quin Houff, and the team will provide RWR with the car. At the age of 62, he will be the second-oldest driver to compete in the 500 behind 66-year-old Mark Thompson in 2018.
“I am really looking forward to running this year’s Daytona 500 with Rick Ware Racing,” Cope commented. “I have known Rick and his family for a long time and I am excited to have the opportunity to go to Daytona and race for another win!”
Cope has attempted races for RWR in the past, failing to qualify for two Cup dates in 2005 and running an Xfinity event in 2009. As he takes over the #15 for the race, the future for that car’s 2020 driver Brennan Poole is unknown.
“We are excited to partner together with Derrike on his final Daytona 500 start,” Ware added. “Derrike is a former Daytona 500 Champion, and has had a great career in NASCAR. I look forward to seeing the No. 15 Jacob Companies Chevrolet on track in a couple weeks!”
RWR will field four drivers for February’s Daytona 500. In addition to Ware, Bilicki, and Cope, Joey Gase plans to return to the team, though his number was not revealed.