(photo courtesy Leon Hammack)
A little less than two years ago, August of 2015 to be exact, I had the opportunity to talk with a young driver in the Camping World Truck Series named B.J. McLeod. At that time he was mostly driving in the CWTS, although he had just competed at Indy in the Xfinity Series the week previous to our interview. Then later in 2015 McLeod secured a one off ride at Loudon in the Cup Series with Joe Falk.
In 2016 B.J. moved his sights up to the Xfinity Series where he began racing his B.J. McLeod Motorsports (BJMM) No. 78 Ford Mustang full time, while also entering a second Ford Mustang at select races. As the 2016 came to a close at Homestead B.J. ended the season 20th in Xfinity Series points. That is pretty dang good for a first year NXS race team!
I recently got together with McLeod to talk about all that has happened since the last interview, about the status of BJMM, about what is on the horizon for his young company, and about racing in NASCAR.
I hope that you will enjoy and find fascinating how McLeod responded to my questions, also I hope that you will learn a little something about the goals for himself and BJMM. Lastly, I hope that you get a feel for what it is like to put together a racing operation at this level in NASCAR.
And so the interview begins!
WorkingOnMyRedneck: B.J. the last time we talked the interview was slanted more towards B.J. McLeod the race car driver, but since that time you have started up your NXS operation. How many full time employees do you have working for you?
B.J. McLeod: We have a very small bunch of very loyal employees that totals 6 full time people. Almost everyone here does the job of three individuals, at least.
WOMR: What are the plans for B.J. McLeod Motorsports in 2017?
BJM: We are going to enter two race cars, the No.78 and the No.8 full time for 2017. There are plans to enter the No.99 in select races through a partnership between myself and Bobby Dotter. There maybe a few different drivers racing for us, but those announcements will be made when necessary. Jeff Green will be with us all year as a driver in the No. 8, as well as a driving coach when needed. Jeff is here to help the team as much as he can, and in any way possible. I plan on being in the No. 78 as much as possible, and right now and it looks like I will be in the 78 car for the rest of the year. Although nothing is for sure.
WOMR: What are your long range goals beyond 2017?
BJM: Over the next five years we would like to get where we could run in the top 15 every week. To say that we think that right now we can run in the top 5 or top 10 every week is ridiculous. Right now, even the big guys have a hard time running in the top 5 or top 10 every week. The competition in the Xfinity Series is just ridiculous! Running 25th this year is like running 17th or 18th last year because the competition is so tough. It (the competition) is stacked right now, but it is fun. But I would like to get to where we could run in the top 15 positions consistently every week. That would be our overall goal. Right now we are definitely stepping in the right direction. Our goal for next year, and the year after that, is to just keep getting better, and the results will be just what they are. We are just going to work towards making improvements each month to our team and do what we can do towards that end. We just need to race as hard as we can with the equipment and budget that we have! By doing that it will allow us to secure better sponsors, a better budget, and that will give us better equipment and better facilities to work with. I don’t really worry about who we beat, I just want to run at 100% of our potential.
WOMR: Last year you ran Ford Mustangs, this year you are running Chevy Camaros, are those the same chassis?
BJM: Yes they are the same chassis. During the off season we just switched the bodies to Chevrolet.
WOMR: Was that a chore to change them out to become a Chevy?
BJM: Yes it was. Fortunately we have a great fabricator that did a great job for us in the offseason and we are racing and having fun in Chevrolets this year.
WOMR: What was the reason that you switched from Ford to Chevy, was it financial?
BJM: Yes it was definitely financial. Roush-Yates is the only one who leases the new style Ford engines and we couldn’t come up with a deal that I could afford. The engines that we were running last year were actually 10 years old. Because of their age the availability of parts was becoming very scarce! Therefore, we were not going to have enough engines and parts to run by probably next year.
The reason that we went with Ford last year was that we got such a great deal from Roush Fenway Racing on those cars. We only received the cars four weeks before the 2016 Daytona Speedweeks began and I didn’t want to switch them all over before the season started. By having the whole 2016 off season available that gave us plenty of time to switch them all over. Also I could go back with Pro Motors, who did all my motors til we did the Ford deal, and that is a good home for me. So I was able to make a deal with Pro Motors to use their engines for a majority of this year.
WOMR: How many cars do you have for BJ McLeod Motorsports in your stables?
BJM: We have 16 cars all together. We lease a very little shop that can only fit 5 cars in there at a time. I have storage units at Troutman, NC where I keep the other cars until I need them.
WOMR: When Jeff Green got into a wreck at LVMS a couple of weeks ago, what happened to that car?
BJM: After Las Vegas we sent it home to North Carolina, fixed it, and brought it back to Phoenix the next week.
WOMR: When we talked a couple of years ago you said that it took about $25,000 per week to get the truck that you were racing to the race track. Now that you have moved up to the NXS about what does it take to get one of your race cars to the race track?
BJM: It is so hard to put an exact dollar amount on that. But I would say that it takes less than $75,000 a week to put one of our cars on the race track. It is pretty expensive to race in the Xfinity Series.
WOMR: So if a young driver were to come to you to try to put together a ride he would have to come with a sizable sponsorship package to make it happen, right?
BJM: Yes that is right. A veteran like Jeff Green is able to bring in that kind of sponsorship dollars. When a young kid is involved, he really has nothing to show to try to get the money, which makes no sense. I mean, how are you going to make it if you don’t have any help? That’s what makes it so hard in this business. But both Matt Mills and Clint King have sponsorship and that makes the deal nice. When you can work with someone that has sponsorship, it makes the whole team better. Because Clint King came with sponsorship it made it easier to step out of the No. 78 the first two races of the season. By me getting out of the car and allowing Clint to drive the No.78, I wanted to try to help the whole team.
That is why I say that I am probably in the No 78 for the rest of the year. But we if we have someone who is a decent driver with good sponsorship, like Matt Mills or Clint King, then I have no problem steeping out of the car and putting them in there to drive the car. By doing this it will ultimately help the entire team. But, again, they will have to come with a good sponsorship package for me to get out of the car. The reason that I am in NASCAR is that I really enjoy racing the car and I do not ever want to quit! I ran full time last year and I want to run full time every year. But more importantly, I want to run good!
WOMR: Was hooking up with past NXS champion Jeff Green a strategical long range plan?
BJM: Yes it is. I don’t know how long that Jeff and I will work together. But, I really want to keep him around for a long time. Jeff is a good driver, a good driver coach, and a good guy. More importantly, he just loves the sport. If he didn’t have the drive that he has then I would not be working with him. Jeff still races like it is his first ever race. He doesn’t lay over, he does not quit, and he does not lay down in the seat. Now matter what you give him, he drives as hard as he can and I just really respect that.
WOMR: BJ what would you do for a living if you weren’t driving race cars?
BJM: I would be in real estate, for sure. I just like seeing stuff come together. I have built houses from scratch, but I did not have my contractor’s license. I was always in partners with someone then. It is definitely the only other thing that I have liked. I have done construction work before, but I don’t really like it. I know it doesn’t make a lot of sense that I want to build a house but I don’t like construction work. The work site side of real estate I don’t like. I would definitely like to be a general contractor and put things together.
WOMR: BJ I know that I asked this question before, but a lot has changed since our last interview. What are you most proud of?
BJM: You know my wife said that I need to take a look at what I have done more often, but I just don’t. I can’t ever answer the question. I don’t care what I have accomplished. The only reason that I have accomplished what I have is because of the people that are around me. They are the ones that made it happen. I am a forward thinking guy and I am not where I want to be yet!
I think that I am the kind of person who will never be satisfied. But, I do still want to think that one day I will be satisfied. I want to keep trying to build my team and I do want to be successful. You know in some people’s minds we are successful because of where we are. I mean just getting to where we are is extremely hard to do, but I don’t look at it like that. I look at it like we ran 25th at Phoenix, and I want to run in the top 15 every week. Once we get to 15th I won’t say wow, that is really cool I am glad that we did it. No once there, I want to know what do we need to do to run 10th. Once we get running 10th, then I will want to know how do we win! Because once you get running in the top 10 every week, you are then in position where you can win races. Everyone who finishes in the top 10 can win races any week. Also to win races it can depend on what happens with the caution flags and some of the other circumstances in the race. But again, I will always look forward. Don’t get me wrong, I am just very thankful to be here doing what I am doing. I just want to keep working very hard all the time so that I can continue to keep doing this!
WORM: Are your sights set on taking your company to the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup level in the future?
BJM: I would say absolutely that we will have a Cup car, if not next year, then the year after (2019). Never on the full time basis, and not on my own. But if I had the right marketing partners who can put together a $10-15 million deal, then I would have my own team. Right now I want to find the right marketing partner for 5 -10 races and do it myself for either next year or the year after. Most likely it will be in 2019 before we can do that. A realistic finish in the Cup Series, when we get there, would be 38th with the amount of money that we would have in the budget. The Cup Series is so money driven, for example, the tire bill alone can be $25-30,000 for one race. The cost of racing is just crazy, but I like it that way because it gives me something to shoot for in the future!
Well race fans, I hope that this interview with B.J. McLeod, the race car driver and team owner, gives you some insight into B.J. McLeod the person. You can see that BJ is a driven person trying to make his way into the world of NASCAR by forming his own race team, making the financial deals to support his team, and carrying out his dream of racing in “The Big Show”. In his organization McLeod is doing the job of many people, he is performing as the owner, the race car driver, the chief financial officer, the public relations officer, and many more functions too numerous to mention. So to say that this man is busy is a very huge understatement. I have found that on any given weekend BJ is not only driving the car, he is sometimes underneath it working on the car, he is also trying to secure sponsorship money, as well as talking to people in the media, like yours truly. To succeed in NASCAR, or for that fact in any other business, takes a very determined and gritty person to make it all happen and BJ McLeod definitely fits this description!
I wish BJ and his whole race team the best of luck in 2017!
TIL NEXT TIME, I AM STILL WORKING ON MY REDNECK!