INSIGHT: Tifft and McLeod's fast-track into Cup team ownership

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INSIGHT: Tifft and McLeod's fast-track into Cup team ownership

Insights & Analysis

INSIGHT: Tifft and McLeod's fast-track into Cup team ownership

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Matt Tifft and BJ McLeod have long had visions of NASCAR team ownership, but the opportunity to do so presented itself quicker than anticipated.

Live Fast Motorsports will hit the track in 2021, when it takes the place of Go Fas Racing, as Archie St. Hilaire sold his portion of a charter with Joe Falk and most of his team aside from a few cars to run a few races next season. Live Fast will be a single-car team getting help from Stewart-Haas Racing, with McLeod behind the wheel of the No. 78 Ford Mustang.

BJ and I have been good friends for a long time, and we started talking about this a few months before the announcement was made,” says Tifft. “We never thought in our wildest dreams that something like this would come to fruition, but lo and behold, this situation with Archie came about to where he wanted to exit the sport and still stay involved part-time.”

Tifft has been sidelined from racing since suffering a seizure at Martinsville Speedway in the fall of 2019. He had another episode that winter, and since then has remained out of the cockpit to focus on his health. But even before his setback, Tifft expressed interest in being involved in the sport long-term after driving.

“I didn’t think the post-driving was gonna come as quick as it did, but BJ has been a great team owner in this sport from every level,” continues Tifft. “So when he and I got together – we were at dinner one night—and started talking about, ‘Hey, maybe this is something we’d like to do in the future,’ we didn’t think it was going to come as quick as it did.

“I’m just so excited to be a team owner in the NASCAR Cup Series, and I wouldn’t want to do it with anybody else. BJ is a great guy, but also more than that, a great businessman and knows how to run a team. I just can’t wait to get this venture started.”

McLeod dipped his toe in the water earlier this season because the COVID-19 pandemic inadvertently made it easier and cheaper. Without practice and qualifying, which eliminated the need for backup cars or extensive weekend travel and costs, McLeod entered the No. 78 in eight races. Since he’s always wanted to own a Cup Series car, it was a situation of there being no better time than now, and next season is a continuation of his dream.

“It’s literally decades of dreaming, decades of work, decades of being focused, just a lot of relationships being built to get us to this point,” says McLeod. “You can’t sum it up in one or two or three words, even. I guess the biggest thing to say is just really looking forward to continuing to work the way that I have the last couple of decades to get to where I’m at now, and see what we can make with this deal together.

“Matt is going to make me stronger. He’s got some really good qualities about him that I’m excited about helping some of the weaknesses that I might have, and just what we can do together. I just can’t wait to get going, like he said. We just want to see and run into the goods and the bads and work together and just make this thing successful for several years to come.”

At 24, Tifft might be the youngest team owner NASCAR has ever had. And what you need to understand about he and McLeod, 37, is that they both love racing and are among those bullish on NASCAR’s future, particularly when it comes to the Next Gen vehicle. Team ownership for these two isn’t a mere  experiment.

McLeod took advantage of the lower running costs associated with 2020’s COVID-shortened weekend formats to make a few exploratory outings in the No.78. Harrelson/Motorsport Images

McLeod has been in NASCAR since 2010 and has competed in all three divisions, and he’s also fielded cars in the Xfinity Series regularly over the last few seasons. In doing so, McLeod has given other drivers the chance to realize their dreams, and that includes Tifft. In 2014, McLeod was the team owner of Tifft’s debut in the Camping World Truck Series.

“I’ve known BJ longer than I’ve known my wife,” Tifft says. “BJ is honestly like an older brother to me; I met him with I was 12 years old. He was a groomsman in my wedding, so we’ve been together for a long time. When we were racing, he was my Friday night movie buddy. We’d always go out to the movies and watch something, so when the other guys were in their motorhomes, I was at the hotel, and he’d come to pick me up, and we’d watch The Avengers, or whatever was out.

“What’s so cool about it is, we have a great relationship. Our families are very tied in together, and that’s what’s so fun about it, because we know each other’s strengths and weaknesses, and we can bounce that off each other. I’ve been with big teams. He’s ran his own team, so there are a lot of elements that really balance each other out, so it makes it so exciting and fun because we know how to work with each other and which buttons to press, which ones not to press, and I think it’s something that’s going to be going for a long time. It’s really a cool partnership, and, as I said, he and I are family, so it feels like a family-run team because of how close the people involved are still.”

Live Fast has bought 12 cars going into next season. A charter guarantees them a spot in each race, and according to McLeod, not only provides security but a platform to bring in marketing partners. McLeod understands good partners will help the team continue to improve its performance.

And all involved are realistic about what they’ll be doing next season. McLeod did pick up a 22nd-place finish at Indianapolis, but mostly ran and finished 32nd to 36th. The dream is to break into the top-20 bracket with Live Fast Motorsports, but it will be a process, and likely one that takes longer to play out than starting the team.

“So let’s say we do run 28th on average this next year, which is a hard feat,” said McLeod. “It’s nothing easy to do, but we would like to see progression to 27th or 26th the year after or if our budget stays the same, then honestly you have to prep to run the same until you up your budget and work on your stuff and make it better. We just want to prove that we’re here to be better, and in the long run, we do have goals of being – it’s fun with Cup you say, ‘Well, I want to win a race.’ Well, with Cup, if you’re running top 15, you have a chance to win a race, so it’s really realistic that you shoot to get the top 15 over the next 10 years with this team, and then sooner or later, you win a race, and you’re running 15th to 10th every week.

“It’s crazy how competitive the Cup Series is, and I know it from a driver and from an owner both. It’s unreal how hard it is, and that relationship is going to speed up a lot for Matt and I and give us resources that we could really only dream of having. So, just looking forward to getting rolling and seeing where it goes to.”

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