Cole Whitt, TriStar Motorsports announce full-time Cup effort

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By Aaron Bearden, Motorsports Editor

After a three-year absence, TriStar Motorsports (TSM) is set to return to Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series (MENCS) competition.

TSM announced Thursday their intention to field the No. 72 Ford in the full 2017 MENCS schedule with 25-year-old Cole Whitt behind the wheel.

The announcement confirms Whitt’s return to full-time NASCAR competition for the third time in the last four seasons. The Alpine, Cal., native has been a journeyman over the past few years, competing for the defunct Swan Racing during the team’s short Cup existence, followed by stints with BK Racing, Front Row Motorsports and most recently Premium Motorsports. Whitt also competed for TSM in the final two 2016 XFINITY Series races, earning a best finish of 16th at Phoenix International Raceway.

“I’m looking forward to being back in the seat at TriStar Motorsports for the Monster Energy Cup Series for 2017,” Whitt said in a release. “We are glad to have Florida Lottery back with us for the season opener at Daytona and are fortunate to continue and expand our relationship with Rinnai, RTIC Coolers and Carolina Skiff throughout the year.”

The No. 72 team will run with support from a group of sponsors including Rinnai, RTIC Coolers, Carolina Skiff and the Florida Lottery, which will serve as Whitt’s sponsor for the Daytona 500.

TriStar has competed in 197 MENCS races to date, with their most recent stint coming in 2013 with Mike Bliss, Alex Kennedy and the late Jason Leffler. The team currently has no charter, though they could still pursue one in the three weeks ahead of the Cup season. Whitt currently isn’t guaranteed into the 40-car MENCS field.

“We are taking a different approach and expanding our competitive platform for 2017,” Smith said in a press release. “It is an opportunity we feel is the best direction for this season and we are pleased to have Cole and his partners involved in those efforts.”

The 2017 MENCS season will begin with the Feb. 26 Daytona 500. Whitt and TriStar will attempt to qualify for the event in the Feb. 23 Can-Am Duels.

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