By: Ashley McCubbin
While B.J. McLeod and wife have been solely involved in the ownership of their NASCAR Xfinity Series team, McLeod wanted to have a partner to work with he knew he could trust and be a valuable asset when it came time to enter the NASCAR Cup Series.
Enter Matt Tifft, whose he’s developed a friendship with over the past 10 years, through competing against each other on-track and McLeod serving as a driver coach. A couple conversations and welcome to 2021, with Live Fast Motorsports set to run the full schedule with the pair serving as co-owners while McLeod sits behind the wheel.
While the focus has been on the formation of Trackhouse Racing and 23xl, it seems Live Fast has been left in the shadows, and that is fine with McLeod as he enjoys being the underdog.
“It’s fun being on this side because everybody knows how hard this sport is,” McLeod told NEWS FROM THE PITS. “I say everybody, most people, and they know we’re at the highest level of stock car racing in the world, so some of it takes a little bit of pressure off of you because you are an underdog and anything you do good, I’ve found, that people are really supportive and if you struggle you may get some negative comments here and there, but that’s just part of trying to be in a sport that’s difficult and you’re trying to make something from nothing.”
He’s aware of the attention that Trackhouse and 23xl have received for Pitbull and Michael Jordan, respectively, but instead doing what he’s always done – focusing on himself, Tifft, and the team they are building.
“I mean, everybody comes in at a different level because of other things they’ve accomplished in their sport,’ he said. “Michael Jordan, he’s unbelievably big now and you go back let’s say 35 years and he would be building the same kind of situation. Everybody starts somewhere and, yes, some of these other teams are definitely a bigger platform than we are and are gonna start better off than we are, but they earned it. They have in other things they’ve done and I wish them the best.
“I say that we focus on us and we make the improvements we know how to do because this is my life. I’ve been in racing since I was two-and-a-half years old. I’ve worked on race cars and built them since I was 12. I’ve been in this to try and be successful literally my entire life, so I’m gonna work hard and focus on what we can do and try to put the right people together to hopefully one day be equal and race for those top 10s.”
The idea of forming a Cup team didn’t just happen overnight, either, as it has been in the back of McLeod’s mind for the past three or four years, becoming a more serious thought just over a year ago. He noted it was important to ensure his Xfinity Series had a good foundation, with being able to bring well-prepared cars before adding to work load. In seeing their progress through 2019 and early 2020, everything began to make sense.
“I wanted to do that as a team and make sure we were ready to invest this money and go forward, and I definitely saw what I needed to see to want to do that,” he explained. “It’s basically timing is trying to get a charter. It’s a difficult thing to obtain. You don’t know when you’re gonna be able to buy one. It could be now. It could be six months. It could be six years. You don’t know when they’re gonna pop up.
“I went out right when we got shut down at Atlanta and on the ride home I decided to build a business plan and put the charter deal together. When I did it, I contacted Matt and I said, ‘Hey, we might do this tomorrow. We might do it five years from now.’ This was a serious conversation, I said, ‘But when I call you, you have to be ready to commit to me and us go do this.’ He just said, ‘Yes, I’m in. Let’s do it.’
Knowing their team just formed six months ago is going against teams that have been around for more than 10, 20 years is a difficult challenge that McLeod is looking forward to with Tifft alongside.
“It makes it exciting for Matt and I because we know where we’re headed with the team, “he commented. “We know what we’re trying to pull off and we’re willing to work hard and make it happen. I’ve been in these situations in my life for almost the last 20 years, so it’s definitely something that I’m looking forward to and I think we can really do well on improving the team each year.”
Knowing the effort they have put in, McLeod admits he will be disappointed if they complete the 2021 season with anything less than a 30th-place average finish. He feels doing that in their first year is formidable given the competition, being the best of the group, but yet close to the next group on the grid.
“It’s very difficult to make those jumps and very expensive and hard for a first-year team,” he admitted. “But I really feel like the group of people I’ve got with our team, having Matt with me and my experience in Cup for what I’ve done so far, I want to be 30th or better off of speed and if we’re not there, gonna be working to get better. And then each year I want to make improvements.”
If McLeod can gain a couple spots each year, even with the NextGen car set to debut in 2022, it will accomplish the goals they have laid out, and anything beyond that is just great. Though even if things go off the rails, don’t expect him to throw in the towel early.
“We’re here for the long-term and understand that it’s a very big hill to climb and we’re ready for the challenge,” he said.