By Luis Torres, Staff Writer
B.J. McLeod wears multiple hats around the NASCAR garage. Not only he drives for JD Motorsports in the Xfinity Series, but also owns a three-car operation in the same series, and occasionally drives for Rick Ware Racing in the Cup Series.
Through it all, the 36-year-old has been competing in the national touring series since 2010 when he drove for Germain Racing at Martinsville in the Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series.
During last month’s Daytona 500 Media Day, McLeod said that ever since his 17th place debut result, he’s been grateful to be around the sport and doesn’t want to lose the driver/owner aspect anytime soon.
“Ten years ago, I would’ve been thrilled to death to get one start. That’s when I made my start at Martinsville. Never knew if I get another one,” McLeod said. “It’s cool because at my age, I have a ton of experience with how much I’ve been around in the sport. Everything that I’ve been a part of, I have a different outlook and unique set of experience for what I do. I don’t want to change that because I love owning cars and driving too.
“Both have so many cool aspects and I like it all. I really don’t want to lose the driver-owner aspect because it’s so fun to have that much invested in a weekend of NASCAR.”
McLeod added that after driving 49 races as a driver across the three national series and having his Xfinity cars in a total of 98 starts, combining for 147 starts on both sides, he’s learned a lot by being around the garage in multiple capacities and hopes to be successful in NASCAR for the next 15-20 years.
“I love the sport and been a part of it my whole life,” McLeod said. “I want to succeed in the highest level and that’s right here.”
This year, his Xfinity Series team are in their fifth season with his cars driven by Matt Mills (No. 5) and Vinnie Miller (No. 78) on a full-time basis. McLeod’s third car (No. 99) is running the whole schedule as well, but with different drivers that’s slated to be driven primarily by Mason Massey.
Meanwhile, McLeod is currently driving for Johnny Davis’ No. 0 Chevrolet, marking his third season driving for the four-car operation. In four races, he sits 21st in points with a best result of 13th at Daytona, a track that’s 2.5 hours away from his Wauchula home.
Out of his 129 series starts, Daytona was also the site of his best career finish out of 11th back in July 2017, driving for his own team. The 2.5-mile superspeedway is even the location of the Central Floridian’s best Cup finish of 19th in the 2019 Daytona 500.
Prior of this year’s 500, where his race was cut short due to a crash and finished 38th, McLeod discussed why Daytona has a special meaning.
“It has a special place in my heart because I was born 2.5 hours from here. My family have been in Central Florida since 1850. Not only the Daytona 500, but it’s 2.5 hours from my house,” McLeod said. “It means a lot to me and it meant a lot to me to get to run at this track in an ARCA test 10 years ago. To be able to race it as many times as I’ve had in Xfinity and Cup, I honestly can’t believe I’ve been able to make it this far.
“We finished 19th last year, but people see it and they’re like, ‘Do you want to win and run in the top-10?’ Yeah I do, I obviously do.
“Even to get to a 19th finishing position in the Daytona 500 is unbelievably big accomplishment for me. Just starting the Daytona 500 once is something I’ve dreamed of and worked towards. I never quit, but when you set yourself aside and take the dreaming out and you look back, and you’re like – ‘Wow, that’s probably not going to happen,’ but I’ve been here twice now and it’s a big deal for me to be here, especially being from Central Florida.”
While he’s yet to score a top-10 in any of the three series, McLeod’s career prior to NASCAR is often glossed over.
In his 23-year racing career, he’s won over 300 go-kart races along with 18 championships. Once conquering the karting competition, McLeod made the jump in both stock cars and super late models as a young teenager in the 1990s. The dominance continued as McLeod won over 100 super late model races and multiple championships in the Southeast.
McLeod would like to get back in the SLM scene and even try racing other types of cars. However, he understands the competition can be as intense and will require a lot of effort before returning to his roots.
“If I ever race super late models again, I want to race with the best super late and want to try to win. That series I believe is just as hard to win as the 500,” McLeod said. “You have to put time into it and be there repeatedly and put work in week in and week out.
“I won’t do that until I can focus and go test and do things right, but I will definitely race super lates again in my life that’s for sure. I want to drive a tour mod eventually. I actually maybe want to drive a Florida modified. There are different cars I want to drive like those I’ve never got to race and definitely want to play that.”
One type of motor racing vehicle he did ruled out for the time being is sports cars, a discipline that Rick Ware Racing won the 2019-20 Asian Le Mans Series championship in the LMP2 category, granting them an invite in the 24 Hours of Le Mans which will now commence September 19-20.
When asked about one day giving sports car racing a try, McLeod laughed and explained that due the difficulty of adapting on the road courses, it’s just not on the cards. In fact, a pair of 23rd place finishes at Road America and the Charlotte Roval last year are the only times he’s finished in the top-25.
“I don’t even want to mention it. I’ve been successful in every class of racing I’ve ever done. Go-karts – 300 wins, super late models – over a hundred and 20 something championships, like I’ve been really good,” McLeod said. “My first road course was in NASCAR. I’ve never did it before and I’m struggling to be within seven seconds of the leader at Canadian Tire Motorsports Park. At Watkins Glen, I’m four seconds off.
“I’m doing my best to get better, but I’m going to end up having to go to school and get some fine tuning that I need to be good on these road courses. I know I can do it, but that’s first is to learn how to go fast and then I’ll definitely be up for driving a sports car. That would be really good, but I don’t want to do it unless I get a little bit better.”
While Ware continues to field stock cars and sports cars, McLeod is thankful to have gotten an opportunity of racing in the premiere series races for him. In just 42 Cup starts, only once McLeod has driven for another team and that was his debut at Loudon in September 2015 when he drove for Hillman-Cirlce Sport LLC, co-owned by Joe Falk and Mike Hillman, Sr.
“Rick is the only that’s gave me a shot driving a Cup car. I’m beyond appreciative and thankful because he’s trusted me with six-figure machines that he owns and it’s his pocket,” McLeod said. “He took a risk on me when nobody else was and I’ve got 50 something starts for him. I really appreciate that he gave me a chance and he’s very happy for what I’ve done for him.
“He’s been good to me, and so have Lisa and Cody Ware, all the people that work for RWR. They’re all behind me and support me. They all know that I’m learning, trying to get better and know that I have the best interest for them in my mind. We work good together and just incredibly thankful that he ever gave me a shot.”