The measure of a small team is not just how well they run, how many races they make, how well they finish. The true measure of a small team is can they keep doing it? It’s easy to go back to the track every week when you have the best equipment on the track, but what happens when you’re a small team that is fighting to make ends meet? The answer, you have to have drive. Not only do you have to have it, you have to keep it. That is exactlay what BJ McLeod and his team of “Highlanders” has done!
From the men who drive the haulers, to the mechanics, the car chiefs, crew chiefs, and drivers. Everyone has to play not just one role or two, they each have to be an entire crew. When they unload, it is a week of work for each member in just a few days.
The year has not been all roses for this small team. Daytona was particularly unkind and saw the team swept away in incidents they did not cause. The challenges have rolled and rolled, but like the Highlanders of Scottish yesteryear, this entire team has battled back, over and over.
The hardest week was Talladega. The 78 car missed the race due to a part failure as BJ took off. This left the team with just the 99 of David Starr and the 8 of Jeff Green in the race. As the team mourned the loss of their “Racing Star” Ana Lucila Perdomo, grandmother of car chief Kevyn Rebolledo, all looked on. Sometimes when things seem their darkest you can receive some Heavenly help. That is exactly what the Highlanders got. With BJ on the radio and cheering from the pits, Jeff Green expertly drove to a tenth place finish! The highest in team history.
As the team van rolls down the highway, Car Chief Kevyn sits in the back seat recalling the weeks leading up to Talladega. “There was a lot leading up to Talladega. As a team we had been going 42 straight hours before loading up to head to the track. Morale was pretty low after having the parts failure which led to BJ not making the race. It ran a little deeper for me since I had lost my grandmother [who helped raise me] during the week of Richmond. I had spent all of the last few days with her which gave us time to talk. One of the last things she told me was that she was sorry she never made it to one of my races. I was 19 during my first race as a Crew Chief. We tried many times to get her to a race but the stars never lined up. After she passed I spoke with the team and mentioned what she had said and that’s what lead to the decal we ran in her memory. Eerily enough, the graphic designer chose a font that was virtually identical to my grandmother’s signature. I was in pretty rough shape before the race, so I spent a lot of time on the grid talking to my grandmother’s decal. It was really tough. When the race fired off we didn’t waste much time getting into the top 15. I don’t get nervous easily but the whole race felt kind of eerie. My family was texting me nonstop once we took the lead. They were crying when they saw my grandmother’s decal on TV. My family knows next to nothing about racing and have never felt any connection to it. When the race was over, I lost it. My grandmother had finally made a race and I feel like she made her presence felt. I’ve never had such and emotional race and I don’t believe I ever will again.”
Teams live for the high points and for this team, that was the highest of highs when it could have been the lowest of lows. Though the 78 would miss the race at Charlotte Motor Speedway, it would make its presence felt at Dover. While Jordan Anderson piloted the flagship 78 to a 26th place finish, BJ McLeod would see his best finish of 22nd this year while driving the number 8. Building on that momentum, all 3 of the team cars finished in the top 30 at Pocono!
A team this small working with a very limited budget has built itself on small successes. Every top 30, every top 25, every second on camera is a victory. That’s what it takes to make it in this industry. Determination, passion, drive. All of that can only be matched by their fans who don’t expect wins, they don’t expect to lead a lot of laps. The fans of BJ McLeod Motorsports revel in the heart of this team. To them, every race is a win and the team embraces them at every turn, inviting them to not just be a fan, but to help keep the drive alive as part of the team.
The team travels as I write, heading back to Mooresville. There they will prepare the cars to load up and head to Michigan. While some teams will take a day to rest, this band of travelers drives on. Rest coming only while they are on the road.