Photo: Luis Torres/Motorsports Tribune

Tommy Baldwin and BJ McLeod Enter Cup Rides at Darlington

By Luis Torres, Staff Writer

The entry list for Sunday’s resumption of the NASCAR Cup Series campaign at Darlington Raceway came out Monday with 40 cars slated to run the 400-mile one-day event. Among the 40, two teams stand out and those were Tommy Baldwin Racing and B.J. McLeod Motorsports.

Making their first attempt since Ryan Truex failed to qualify in the 2019 Daytona 500, TBR confirmed that they’ll be running the 293-lap race with Josh Bilicki behind the wheel of the No. 7 Gravely/CNC Swiss Chevrolet Camaro ZL1.

Baldwin, who’ll also be Bilicki’s crew chief, said it’s great to make his return and while COVID-19 has impacted many teams such as Sam Hunt Racing (Xfinity Series) and KBR Development (ARCA) ceasing operations, now’s the time to make his return as a car owner.

“I am excited to be returning to the NASCAR Cup Series,” said Baldwin. “I have been in this sport for a long time, and I believe now is the best time to get back to the track.”

Due to the car count only allowing 40 across all three series and barring any post-entries competing, it’ll be the team’s first Cup start since November 2017 at Phoenix Raceway when Joey Gase finished 30th.

As for Bilicki, it’ll be his first Cup race of the season as he made a career-high 10 starts for Rick Ware Racing the year before, finishing no better than 29th at Indianapolis.

“I am very excited to be piloting the No. 7 Gravely/CNC Swiss Machining Camaro for Tommy Baldwin Racing,” said Bilicki. “Darlington is one of my favorite tracks, and I can’t wait to get back on track, after a long two month break.”

Not only TBR has created some buzz Monday, as did Xfinity Series driver/owner B.J. McLeod, who’ll be entering his own car in the premiere series for the first time in his career. The Floridian will pilot the No. 78 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE which will be his second Cup start of the year after finishing 38th in this year’s Daytona 500.

McLeod commented about the importance of driving the No. 78 which was last seen on the Cup level back in 2018 when Furniture Row Racing made their final start at Homestead with Martin Truex, Jr. behind the wheel.

“I’ve been driving the No. 78 since my karting days and been able to run the number at every level of my career,” said McLeod. “I am excited to expand the team with the No. 78 into the Cup Series as a driver and an owner. As a team, our goal was to eventually move into the Cup Series, so when the opportunity presented itself, we decided it was time to take the next step. We are excited to go Cup racing!”

Former Cup Series championship winning crew chief Todd Parrott will be on top of the pit box as the team will run this year’s Camaro while TBR will run a year-old vehicle.

Live coverage of NASCAR’s return to real-life action begins Sunday at 3:30 pm EST on FOX, kick starting the first of four Cup races held at both Darlington and Charlotte Motor Speedway in a span of 11 days.

This article was updated on May 12, 2020 to include McLeod’s quote.

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From the Pacific Northwest, Luis is a University of Idaho graduate with a Bachelor's degree in Broadcasting and Digital Media. Ever since watching the 2003 Daytona 500, being involved in auto racing is all he's ever dreamed of doing. He's also covered Idaho Athletics and high school football as both a writer and videographer. Additionally, he spent 2017 writing several racing columns as an independent journalist. Luis does video and photography, and is a fan of Seattle sports, a music critic and a motivator who wants to impact people's lives.