By: Ashley McCubbin
It’s always nice to see the underdog succeed, and Brandon Brown is doing just that in the NASCAR Xfinity Series with his family-based team, Brandonbilt Motorsports. Through eight races, he has posted four top-10’s, including a season-best third at Phoenix Raceway to place himself 12th in the standings, the last driver currently qualified for the playoffs.
Prior to this weekend’s race at Darlington Raceway, the Virginian shared his thoughts on his season, the road to get here, and more with NEWS FROM THE PITS.
ASHLEY MCCUBBIN: What are your thoughts going into Darlington?
BRANDON BROWN: Well, I’m a lot more confident I’ll say heading into Darlington after a strong Talladega showing, rallying some points that we lost getting wrecked out at Atlanta and then breaking a sway bar arm at Martinsville; I think it took the wind out of the sails for a little bit, and having a strong run at Talladega puts it back in. It gives us a little bit of confidence we’re back in the playoffs; it feels like we’re not really sinking, but trying to water a little more and able to swim up rather than be in a panic and make some crazy moves.
ASHLEY: You speak of the playoffs. How cool is it to see you right now are leading the essential underdogs of the Xfinity Series?
BRANDON: It’s pretty cool. We definitely kind of look it as if ‘alright, we’re close, right now we’re in if they ended it today and the playoffs starts’. But there’s still some strong contenders. We’re sitting 12th right now on the bubble and there’s the 98 (Riley Herbst) behind us, the 1 (Michael Annett) – bigger budget teams as we call them.
But as long as we stay consistent and get our feet under us and get some more consistent finishes inside the top-10, 11th, instead of just either top- 10 or wrecking out – as long as we’re making sure we’re running all the laps, it’ll make our job a lot easier to not beat ourselves.
ASHLEY: Seeing how your year has gone, has that shifted your goals for the rest of 2021?
BRANDON: Well, we completed a goal early of getting a top-five so it allows the goals to shift to look at winning a race, but we still have some other goals we’d like to attain. We still really want to win a stage, get those playoffs points, but right now, the focus is more similar to the beginning of the season of let’s make sure we’re completing all the laps, running the whole race, showing strong.
I think we’re getting better at proving ourselves to the other teams that we’re going to be there, be around them, and bring strong cars. The goal is just to stay consistent – I keep saying it but that’s the motto right now.
ASHLEY: In looking for that consistency, what do you feel your team needs to work on?
BRANDON: Overall, just unloading with the speed of the big guys. Just making sure when we’re starting up front, we’re staying up front; we don’t need to drop an anchor and that’s the big thing we’re working on.
Now that it’s starting to get warmer outside, these racecars are getting hotter. I need to focus on making sure I’m doing my proper workout, training, and hydrating before the races, proper diet / nutrition so when we get to these really hot races this summer, we’re not falling out for fatigue by staying strong.
ASHLEY: What track are you most excited to get to?
BRANDON: I’d say Dover. I just feel like we have really strong runs there. Last year, we ran the double header there and ran inside the top-10 most of the race. Showing up there, we have a good chance to prove our program outside superspeedways and short tracks. It’s just an exciting race to get to. It’s very on edge, fun, momentum , fun track, so I’m excited to get there.
ASHLEY: Five years down the road, where would you like to see yourself?
BRANDON: Five years – either one of two ways. I want to see myself in race winning equipment, no matter the level. I want to see myself with a chance to win races, whether it’s in the (NASCAR) Cup Series or the (NASCAR) Xfinity Series, or even with a different team in the Xfinity Series.
I’ve always told people I’m open to leaving the No. 68 to go to another team to help the team improve and get better equipment because all in all, you want to see your business succeed even if that means I have to drive somewhere else, if I can’t necessary pull the sponsorship needed to grow as an organization. But in the next five years, I want to be racing for wins – no matter where or with who.
ASHLEY: How did you get started in racing initially?
BRANDON: I started when I was 9. I went to a go-kart race with my dad and my Pop-Pop. We got to try it after all the races were over, rented someone’s kart for a few laps, and I fell in love with it.
ASHLEY: What’s been the best most memorable moment of your career to date?
BRANDON: There’s a few. I mean, I guess winning our last race at Old Dominion Speedway before the rack shut down was really cool. It was awesome to do that with my dad there. It was the last time we were able to race consistently for the wins. It’s been tough, but that and our first top-five at Daytona when we were in the truck series, finished fourth our first run at Daytona, and it was cool to see the excitement on dad’s face. It was really awesome.
ASHLEY: Going through this journey with the family team, has it been tougher than you imagined? What’s been some of the biggest challenges?
BRANDON: Yeah, a lot tougher. It’s just one of those things where when you do it this way with a family team, you don’t get any respect from the larger organizations that have been there a lot longer. They are all set in their ways a lot of them – born and raised here in North Carolina, family ties into racing, they’ve all been together racing their whole lives.
So being the outsider, it makes it very tough as because they are set in their own ways, they’re different. I went a much non-traditional route to the get to the Xfinity Series than a lot of these kids as they did go-karts, legends, late models, super late models, K&N, ARCA, (NASCAR Camping World) Truck (Series), Xfinity where I went go-kart, late model, Truck, Xfinity – and I didn’t even run a full Truck season.
I didn’t get to start out with those relationships like those guys, which brought a few struggles especially when we show at superspeedways and they’re buddying up with their friends on how to push, so it’s definitely been tough to men those relationships and get everybody together. That, and just being a family run organization, not being taken too serious as a competitor. They kind of go, ‘Okay, if Brandon Brown is up here, it’s kind of a fluke,’ and trying to prove to them that we’re not a fluke.
ASHLEY: What would be one piece of advice to someone getting started?
BRANDON: Get really good at finding sponsors. Get really good at selling. This sport has changed so much to where they are so many racers out there with natural raw talent and it’s great, I applaud the people. I feel I have a certain amount of talent that helps me at this stage and I feel like everybody has their talent, but I mean, if you want to succeed as a big time auto racer, you have to be a better salesman than a driver.
ASHLEY: Outside of NASCAR, is there anything you’d love to drive?
BRANDON: Oooo, a lot. I’ve always wanted to try out rally car racing, IndyCar, well Formula 1 – a lot. A wide array. I want to try a little bit of everything as they look so much fun. They’re all individual, they’re all unique, it’s just all looks like a blast. The grass always look greener on the other side of racing. Stock cars are a lot of fun. It’s great to be banging with people, but they look like a ton of fun being able to travel the world and run different countries, inside different cities and run street courses and run country roads – it all looks like a blast, so I’d love to jump behind the wheel of a Formula 1 or rally car.