By: Ashley McCubbin
Through the years in ARCA Menards Series West competition. Bill McAnally Racing has grown a reputation for showcasing talent and leading them to several checkered flags and championships. Their involvement in driver development will expand in 2021 with the introduction of the BMR Driver Academy.
“There’s several reasons,” Bill McAnally told POPULAR SPEED in regards to the thought process. “I came up with the concept last summer, started putting it forward in August of last year. It was a reaction to what was going on with COVID-19, and trying to find a way to develop young drivers that would work through the epidemic.”
Compromised of 40 races across 20 weekends, the program will allow anywhere from 14 to 16 up-and-coming drivers a chance to get behind the wheel of a stock car, utilizing the 625-horsepower NASCAR Robert Yates Spec Engine and the same chassis components as ARCA and the NASCAR Truck Series.
In addition, the individuals who elect to take part in the program will be provided media relations, sponsorship relations, social media, fitness, leadership development, and diet training to make them a better driver all the way around.
“It’s paid-for program and if they come and we cast them – we might want to evaluate them and test them to make sure they’re right for the program, but if they are, it’s first come, first serve in getting the seats,” McAnally said.
While the fee to participate is $268,500 for the full schedule, it’s fully worth it in realizing drivers are going to gain experience equal to two years of racing in any other full series, and the unique opportunities offered.
The Driver Academy will have a point system in place and the points leader following races 14, 24, and 30 will be given the chance to run an actual ARCA West event for BMR. Additionally, for each win a driver accumulates, they will be entered into a draw to run the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series finale for BMR at Phoenix Raceway.
“We’re going to keep points and that’s tied into helping these drivers moving forward,” McAnally explained. “All these drivers have the ambition nd goals to move forward, and this gives them the chance to get the needed seat time out of the weekly late model program to be ready to get into the ARCA Series, and what they’re learning will help them both in ARCA and Truck Series. It’s the same suspension parts, same chassis turning, so they’ll learn what they need to move forward in those series.”
The program kicked off with an initial test session which allowed potential participants to try their hand behind the wheel of a NASCAR stock car at All American Speedway and get a taste of the training offered.
“It went really good,” McAnally commented. “They did a great job. We had drivers from literally all over the country and they were impressive. They did a fantastic job and they had individual coaches, and improved through the weekend in the time on-track.
“That’s what it all about – giving them the needed seat time with 40 races across five different tracks; the seat time they get in program would be two years in any other type of touring series.”
The expansion of the program, as noted, comes as no surprise with their known track record as talents have emerged from their team through the years to become stars in the sport. Building the team to what it is today with 10 NASCAR/ARCA Regional Championships began with McAnally being a driver himself.
“I was a driver and actually worked for a local utility company a few years while I was personally driving and moving up through the ranks,” he recalled. “I loved racing, enjoyed what I was doing, and had an opportunity to put a driver in a car and take it on as an owner, and that allowed me to do it as a bonus. Between sponsorships, family funding drivers bring to be developed, and the NASCAR world put together a solid development program, and we’ve been doing that since 1999. That was my first year out of the car as an owner.”
With all the work he has done with young talent, his advice to others looking to move up through the ranks is be prepared to work hard.
“Good things don’t come easily as they come with a lot of effort and passion, and that’ll take it to move out of the local / regional level to the National level,” he added. “It’s just a lot of dedication and effort.”
To learn more about the BMR Driver Academy and see the full schedule, check out the website at http://www.bmrdriversacademy.com/.