Ford Performance NASCAR: BJ McLeod Daytona 500 Media Availability

BJ McLeod is in his second year as driver and co-owner of the No. 78 Live Fast Motorsports Ford Mustang in the NASCAR Cup Series.  He spoke to members of the media today about the 2022 season and how he and co-owner Matt Tifft continue to build their team.


BJ MCLEOD, No. 78 Live Fast Ford Mustang – WHAT HAS IT BEEN LIKE GETTING THE NEXT GEN CAR READY FOR DAYTONA?  “Exciting is the first thing because this car is something that four years ago I’d have said you’d never see in NASCAR.  It’s its own different animal altogether and it’s definitely gonna change the landscape of the way we see stuff on TV.  It’s just been incredible to get into NASCAR at the Cup level as an owner and a driver at this point be able to here for it.  There’s been challenges to learn stuff and there’s gonna be more challenges for us.  We’re a small team and we have to get things figured out, but we went to one test in November and had an awesome day.  I think we were in the top five for a good bit of the day both days, so it was cool to see that and see what we could work towards.  The point of being here at this time is just exciting and it’s definitely been the strangest offseason too because usually you’re not worried about knowing if you could build the car or get the car ready.  It’s a car you’ve dealt with for years and all the people have worked on it for decades and it’s not a big deal.  This car is a new car, so everybody is learning.  The mechanics are learning, crew chiefs are learning, owners are learning, drivers are learning.  To me, it’s the most exciting time I’ve ever seen and I’ve been watching NASCAR since the late eighties and I’ve been a part of NASCAR for almost 20 years.  It, to me, is the most exciting time I’ve seen since I’ve been around.”


HOW DO YOU APPROACH PRACTICE AND THE DUELS THIS WEEK?  HOW MANY CARS DO YOU HAVE?  “We actually have done well inventory-wise.  We have two complete cars right now.  We’ve got all the parts for the third and a lot of the parts for the fourth, I’d say half the parts for the fourth, so inventory-wise this race for us I choose to play strategy every time I come to a superspeedway.  I don’t ever go up there and try to lead.  I don’t ever go up there to try and get into the top 10.  I just like to do what feels right and try to hang on to the draft and stay on the lead lap.  I’d say we’re approaching this week much the same as we did last year.  If you look, I think we had five to eight practice laps.  We ran very conservative in the Duel.  I did spin in the Duel, but didn’t hit anything.  In the race, we practiced very little on Friday and Saturday, and then in the race we just hung on to whichever draft – first pack or second pack that I felt I needed to be in to not lose a lap.  I think we came out of here 23rd.  We fought fuel pump issues most of the day, so that hurt us.  We were eight or nine laps down, I think, but our strategy is not much different than it’s been, but there’s definitely, I think, an emphasis on making sure that we try to come out of here with as much as we can to prepare ourselves for the weeks to come because we want to race hard at every track as much as we can even being a small organization.”


WHAT IS YOUR DRIVING SCHEDULE LIKE THIS YEAR?  “As far as Cup, we’re always open.  We’re trying to build our budget and if there’s an opportunity with a driver that’s got a great sponsor that we can take me out of the seat and help the organization, that’s there.  Until that happens, I’m running full-time, but I would expect to see somebody else on the road courses and even maybe some ovals because, like I said, we want to build our budget and run it as good as we can, especially with this car because it’s an exciting time.  It’s going to help us to be a lot more competitive.  In Xfinity, I love Darlington.  I love Dover.  I would say that I’ll probably find something to definitely drive Darlington because I just can’t stand to not run that race in the Xfinity car.  I’ll work on that, but, right now, the Xfinity Series is packed.  I don’t know of many rides that you can even bring a sponsor to and drive.  We’re sitting at 47 cars for Daytona and every one of them have multiple race drivers or full-time drivers and I don’t know if there’s a spot, but I’m gonna work hard to race Darlington in the Xfinity car right now.”


ARE YOU GOING TO FIELD A TRUCK AT SOME POINT?  “We’ve played around with that idea for myself, for maybe Matt Mills or one of our Xfinity guys, just strictly to go run top 10.  I have no interest in going there and trying to build up like we have in Xfinity and we do Cup.  If we can’t go there and try to be in the top 10, I have no interest in it.  If things played out right, we would buy one really nice truck and make sure it was prepped right, take the time and pick the race.  It just depends on how all the Next Gen stuff works out and how our season starts out in Xfinity and we’ll go from there.  I almost did it last year and I just pulled it out at the last second.  I think this year we might try it, but, like I said, we’ll just see how things start out this year and see how I feel and what I want to do.”


WHAT DID YOU LEARN FROM YOUR TOP 10 FINISH IN AUGUST THAT CAN HELP THIS TIME?  “My strategy so far has always been to just do what feels right to me and you just get smarter every restrictor plate race.  My first 500 I lost a lap, I think two laps because of pit road mistakes.  You just try to minimize those mistakes and it’s just unreal how hard it is.  It’s good competition at this level and it’s insane.  Getting that ninth-place finish last year it just proves, I think we were 23rd with four to go or something.  We passed, there were like nine or 10 cars that wrecked on that last lap and we managed to get through it and got back to the line and that’s how we got that top 10, so I think you just learn to be patient because you’ll have what you feel like is a horrible day, especially for a superspeedway, which is somewhere we can stay with the pack and not lose laps if we execute correctly.  It’s very hard to stay patient and a finish like that last year it proves that there’s a reason why you’re being smart and taking care of your stuff because you have a chance at the end.  These speedway races, I hear people say go with 30 to go, go with 40 to go, go with 20 to go and I’m like, ‘Ten to go in a Cup race is a long time to go.’  You have to be careful.  It’s funny, I told Joe Falk before that race I said, ‘I’m not going until the second green-white-checker,” and he laughed at me and I think it was the second green-white-checker when we ended up finishing the race ninth.  It was just crazy.  You can just feel the atmosphere.  You can watch the cars and Newman has helped me with that.  I try to lean on him because I know he does a great job of always making sure he’s there.  Like I said, I’ve tried to learn from him and you just feel the way the pack is forming up and the way the side drafts are going and if they are two or there wide, you can see when things are starting to get a little dicey and I’m just getting smarter with all that stuff and trying to build my knowledge as much as I can because this is the best shot for me to ever win a race as a driver is definitely a superspeedway.”


HOW CAN YOU QUANTIFY WHAT THIS NEXT GEN CAR CAN DO FOR YOU AS FAR AS LEVELING THE PLAYING FIELD?  “I think you’re gonna see some erratic finishes.  I believe right now there are two different ways this is gonna go.  It’s definitely, like I said, a complete game-changer.  There’s no doubt about that.  You have small organizations and you have the big organizations.  There’s really no in-between.  The small organizations, we’re either gonna take longer to catch up and you’re gonna see us still struggle a little bit to start with – maybe not all of us, but maybe some of us – and then catch up the sixth race, the eighth race, the 12th race, the 20th race because we have less engineers, we have less sim data – different things to work with than some of the larger organizations.  I think that’s one option and then I think there’s another where this car is so uniformed for Hendrick versus Live Fast Motorsports.  Hendrick can’t have any different upright than I can.  They can’t have any different A-frame than I have.  They can’t have any different front or rear clip or anything.  It’s literally the same parts on their car as my car.  Like I said, they have many more resources there.  Winners are always winners.  It doesn’t matter what you do with the rulebook, but it still makes it for the fans watching that they know I have the same car that Hendrick has.  Now, we still have engine differences and, like I said, engineering and infrastructure is massively different, but there’s a time when you can only do what you can do, so that may be three races worth or that may be a year’s worth, we don’t know, but at some point the small organizations will catch up and get to where they have evened the playing field because there is only so much you can do to the car.  Where we got in trouble every year that NASCAR has existed is you could build your own spindle, you could build your own lower A-frame, you could build your own anything.  There were rules you had to go by, but you could figure out the flexion and different things that we just never could catch up on.  We’re always two to three years behind and that might as well be 20 years in this sport, so I think that is the best way to put it to try to understand what could happen.  I strongly feel that you’re gonna see some smaller teams have some crazy runs that you would have never seen the last however many years you want to say.  I believe that’s gonna happen this year.  Whether it’s me or Corey LaJoie or Rick Ware Racing or Front Row or whatever, I believe that you’re gonna see some top 10s, top 15s, some regular top 20s that you just didn’t see before.”


DO YOU HAVE A GOAL IN MIND FOR YOUR ORGANIZATION THIS YEAR?  “I have not set anything and I have no interest in it.  My focus is I know where this car is capable of taking us.  There is no doubt in my mind.  I don’t know whether it’s a month or five years.  I don’t.  My goal is taking this car and every week learning and getting my guys more familiar with it, building our knowledge around it, working with our alliance with Haas and making that as strong as I can, just keep building my network because that’s what got me where I’m at and know that this car is the piece that we didn’t have that will eventually make us a top 20 team.  That’s where our focus is this year.  It’s not numbers.  It’s not finishes, it’s just work, get better every week, go home, get smarter, come back get better.  That’s what we’re gonna do.”


WHAT IS THE STATE OF YOUR XFINITY PROGRAM?  “We’re looking for a lot on that side this year.  I guess the series is the most stacked it’s been since I believe 2014 as far as car count.  There is a lot of mid-pack cars that we race a lot, so I believe now that we have the capability to run 12th, I really believe that.  We have upgraded our cars.  We have got different crew members.  We’ve got three separate crew chiefs finally for all the teams, which I know sounds crazy, but we did it with one crew chief at the shop and then two crew chiefs that came to the track the last six years, so we actually have three full-time crew chiefs.  We’ve just been building that program very slowly to make sure we didn’t go out of business and we’re to the level now where I believe we’re capable of running 12th, but I also believe with how stacked the series is right now that you’re capable of coming down pit road having a two second slower pit stop you come in 12th and you come out 28th or 32nd.  The Xfinity Series is gonna be a lot of fun to watch because you’ve got your contenders that are your contenders.  They’re gonna be the same teams it has been the last 5-10 years easy, but you also have this mid-pack that’s gonna be a crazy race that, like I said, is gonna reach that 12th-place spot and every now and then go into the top 10 because things happen.  It’s definitely an exciting year for us.  We also have the danger of all three cars going home at Daytona.  It’s that crazy.  I think we have the best equipment, the best people, the best drivers, we have everything prepared and ready, but we may have all three cars go home Saturday and there’s nothing we can do about it, so we’re just gonna work every week, try to make the most of the investment we’ve made and the relationships we’ve got and that’s gotten us to the spot we’re in right now and hopefully we’ll see what happens at Daytona, but then California, Vegas, Phoenix, we want to go run good.  We’re gonna try our butts off.”


WHO WILL BE MORE ANGRY IF ALL THREE CARS GO HOME, YOU OR JESSICA?  “I think we’d just be disappointed.  I think there’s nine people going home, so anybody that goes home they worked their butt off the last two-and-a-half months, and some people have worked for decades.  We’ve been after this for, I think this is our seventh year now in Xfinity, and we’ve worked for 15 years to get here.  You just hate to see people go home, but that’s just the sport we’re in and I think the only word I would say is disappointed, not angry.  I’m not.  We’re gonna go to California no matter what happens and we’re gonna haul ass, but the thing is it’s so hard and so much work, so much effort.  I hate it for my people because they work very hard to do a good job for Jessica and I and the drivers and you just see the effort they put in and you want to see them get rewarded, but no matter what somebody is gonna have a rough day on Saturday.”


WHAT TYPE OF CEO IS JESSICA GOING TO BE?  “With Xfinity, I never focussed on it that much.  She’s been doing the job the whole time.  I never worried about it because she was an owner . She had a presence and had the credibility of owning half the team and that’s why she worked hard and helped us make the right decisions to get to where we’re at.  With Live Fast, Matt and I just felt like she did too much and she steered us and helped us and she does the job of a CEO and she didn’t have that title yet.  We were in our first year last year and we were organizing things and figuring things out, it’s the Cup Series, we worked forever to get here and didn’t put a lot of effort into positions and organizing things correctly when we got going last year as far as titles.  We did the work, but we didn’t have the titles in the right spots and she, like I said, has been doing this.  This is nothing new for her.  The first business she ran she was 22 years old.  She’s very experienced, very knowledgeable and Matt and I wouldn’t be as strong without her by no means, so the CEO side of her is gonna be mad, yes.  That’s no doubt, but it still, like I said, she looks at it the way we do.  We treat all our people like they’re family and the first thing that pops into our minds is gonna definitely be the work and effort that went in and we don’t get in the race.  That would be a rough day.”

Ford Performance PR