The Super Bowl has been played and that means that Daytona is just a couple of weeks away. Recently I was able to catch up with Xfinity driver and team owner of B.J. McLeod Motorsports, BJ McLeod. 2018 will mark year three of McLeod’s foray into the Xfinity Series. Check out what McLeod had to say about his performance, his race team, the 2017 results, and what he envisions for 2018.
WorkingOnMyRedneck: BJ, when last we talked in April of 2017, can you assess how did your 2017 season go for you compared to your 2017 pre-season expectations?
B.J. McLeod: Well, there was a lot of competition going on in the Xfinity Series in 2017. There were five Richard Childress Racing cars and there were four cars entered from JR Motorsports. I knew that there was going to be a lot of stiff competition in 2017. Rather than setting weekly goals, we just decided that we were going to try to work hard and do better than we did in 2016. With the way we ran last year, and the race results that we got in 2017, we definitely feel like we outperformed 2016 improved in 2017. We, as a team, had an 11th place finish at Iowa, a couple of top 20 finishes, a 10th place finish at Talladega, and Jeff Green led 16 or 18 laps in my car at Talladega as well. Additionally, I finished 11th at Daytona. So we had a lot of good runs in 2017. Josh Bilicki did great on the road courses for us, racing in the top 10 for us at Mid-Ohio and Road America for most of the race. We have definitely had some good outings and made lots of improvements. We are looking forward to 2018 try to do the same thing.
WOMR: Again looking back on the 2017 season, what was the highlight for you and your team?
BJM: It is really hard to pick just one thing that would be my highlight. Driverwise, I would say that for me to race in the top ten at Daytona was fun and memorable. Although I was just as happy to get a 17th place finish at Iowa last year. And obviously, I had fun driving the MENCS car for Rick Ware Racing (RWR). We made the race on time at Bristol and Indy for RWR. So again, for me as a driver, I would have to say that the highlight was driving the Cup car for RWR in about nine different races was the most challenging and fun.
As far as being the Xfinity team owner goes, honestly, I like all of it about the same! It was really awesome to watch Josh (Bilicki) run well at road courses! It was great to see Tommy Joe (Martins) finish 11th at Iowa. We got some strategy help on that one running in the top 15 all day long without a full allotment of tires for that race. We could have run a whole lot better in that race with a little more sponsorship. Those couple of races was probably the highlight for the NXS team, as well as Jeff (Green) running good at Talladega and me running well at Daytona is all important to our NXS team.
With just two years under our belt as a team, I think that we have improved each year. I think that this year we should be able to elevate our finishing positions by two or three spots over last year. We are working hard to try to accomplish that. I want to get to a spot (race results) so that we can attract the sponsorship what we need for next year, whether it is through marketing partners (sponsors) or funded drivers. I really feel like we are two steps away from reaching the potential of our team. Then once that you are a top 10 to top 12 race team, it is only a matter of time until you break through. We’re creeping up on that level.
WOMR: What does 2018 look like for you personally, as well as for your team?
BLM: We are running two cars fulltime, and will have the third car at the speedways and the road courses for sure. We may have the third car at some of the other tracks. I will also be driving the Cup car for RWR from a little as one race to as many as 15 races. I will not be driving the RWR car that has the charter (No. 51). I will be driving the “open” car (No. 52) when Rick enters that car. Like I said, it could only be one race or it could be 15 races. It just depends.
I will not be driving my NXS car at Daytona. The lineup for BJ McLeod Motorsports at Daytona will have Ryan Ellis driving our No. 78 (BJ’s normal ride), Caesar Bacarella will be driving the No. 8, and Ray Black, Jr. will be in our No.99. We are working a deal to have Tommy Joe Martins run roughly about 10 races with us. We are also working on some deals with some other funded drivers that would be more than just a one race package. We could have multiple drivers that run 5 races each, or something like that. I will fill in the voids when those drivers do not have marketing partners. We have a few drivers that want to come back this year on the road courses. So we shall see what works out. We will know a lot more in the next week or two.
WOMR: Last year you stated that you would like to partner up with someone in a Cup car for 2018 and beyond. Is the RWR No. 52 a partnership with you?
BJM: No that is just Rick’s car. I really enjoy just being that driver for that team. I enjoy going over to that team and just having fun. Being the owner-driver you really need to have the correct budget. We operate our team, BJMM, on a very tight budget and that makes things a little more difficult. It is nice to go over to Rick’s and not have to worry so much about wrecking the car. I can drive it harder and not have it affect my head. Actually, though, I do worry about tearing up Rick’s equipment! I do know the owner side of it, but try not to let that affect me during the race.
WOMR: In 2017 you transitioned from Fords to Chevys, but you also used Toyotas for your speedway cars. why Toyotas for your speedway cars?
BJM: My engine builder, PME, had more inventory with Toyota. So we helped them out inventory-wise and budget-wise. We use Toyotas at the speedways and Chevys the rest of the year. So I build the cars to the specs that PME has on hand. It was all for the mutual benefit of both of us. We have built all new speedway cars for this year.
WOMR: It appears the BK Racing has all but shut down, and has many financial difficulties. Remembering that last year you expressed an interest to move up to Cup in a few years, does their collapse offer you any opportunities for BJ McLeod Motorsports to move up to Cup?
BJM: Honestly, getting to drive Rick’s Cup car, RWR, has put a hold on looking to step up to the Cup level. At the end of the fifth year in the NXS, if we are a top 10, top 15 team, and competitive each week, then there may be a thought of having a Cup car. Last year when I talked to you about having a Cup car, I had not driven Rick’s car very much. I would rather stay just a driver on the Cup side until I get the Xfinity team the way that I want it. Once that happens then there is a possibility for a Cup team at BJMM.
It sounds like McLeod and his organization is very busy tying up loose ends, getting drivers and marketing partners lined up for the beginning of the 2018 season. McLeod and his company have steadily made improvements to their performances over these last two years. Even though this team is not Joe Gibbs Racing, JR Motorsports, or Roush Fenway Racing, McLeod continues to grow his company steadily, and the fruits of his labor are starting to show.
TIL NEXT TIME, I AM STILL WORKING ON MY REDNECK!