With a focus on conserving his tires through the first half of the event, Brandon McReynolds was able to walk away from the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East season opener at New Smyrna Speedway with a third-place finish.
The 27-year-old recently talked about the race, as well as the upcoming season and his career to date with POPULAR SPEED.
POPULAR SPEED: What are your thoughts looking back on New Smyrna last week?
BRANDON MCREYNOLDS: New Smyrna went pretty well. We had a test day on Saturday down there, so I was pretty busy going back and forth with the ARCA race (at Daytona International Speedway), and obviously driving the K&N car for John Visconti at New Smyrna. So we had a really good test session and felt good about our car, and knew our The Reichert Group Chevrolet was pretty sporty for the race.
Really just going into the race on Monday, it was just going to be a matter of tire attrition and being there at the end. I felt like we did a really good job executing that with our team, and just came up a little bit short but definitely a step in the right direction for our team going into Bristol.
PS: With how things played out, what do you feel you could’ve done differently to end the race in victory lane?
BRANDON: It’s obviously easy to go back and pin point things we could’ve done differently. The biggest thing that stands out is probably not knowing how much the tire was going to wear out. I felt like maybe I was a little too conservative with conserving my tires. So I think that ultimately hurt us in the long run; I probably shouldn’t have rode as much as I did, or lost as much track position. If I had to change anything, I probably would’ve pushed a little harder or went a little sooner in our charge back to the front.
PS: So now with the first ARCA race of the year in the books, along with the K&N Pro Series opener, what are your plans looking like moving into the rest of this year?
BRANDON: There’s a lot going on. I’m very fortunate to drive for John Visconti and The Reichert Group. Our next race with that team will be at Bristol (Motor Speedway), so really excited to go up there and have a shot at trying to compete for a win in the K&N Pro Series East. I know last year we had a good run going there and it was our first top-five of the season. That’s my focus right now, and then I think I have three or four more scheduled in the K&N Pro Series with The Reichert Group and John Visconti, so really pumped about that.
Then on the ARCA side, we’ll just wait and see. Mike Bursley and the KBR Development guys have been working really hard trying to get me into more races, especially at the bigger tracks. So we’ll look towards Talladega (Superspeedway) and you may see me in that car down here in Alabama in a few months.
PS: Looking at both schedules, if there was one track that you could pick to run over the others, what would that be?
BRANDON: Well, I’ve always felt like I’ve exceeded and done a nice job on the bigger tracks. I don’t know if that’s a product of going to so many (Monster Energy NASCAR) Cup Series tracks a younger kid and just watching and paying attention to how these Cup guys gain momentum. I feel that’s been more of my strong suit as I’ve grown up. I’d really like to go back to places like Pocono (Raceway) and Michigan (International Speedway) and some of the bigger tracks that I’ve had experience on in the past and I’ve really enjoyed racing at. I just haven’t put the right program together to go back to those places.
I know I’m not answering your question clearly, but really excited to go back to some of the bigger race tracks. But first and foremost, I’m really pumped to go back to Bristol and have a shot to win up there with our K&N program.
PS: If you could get that win at Bristol in the next couple months, what would that mean to you personally?
BRANDON: That would be huge. I’ve always enjoyed succeeding at places where my dad (crew chief Larry McReynolds) has had a lot of success. I don’t know if he’s won there as a crew chief, but I know he’s always ran well there when he was crew chiefing for Mike Skinner, Dale Earnhardt, Davey Allison, and Ernie Irvan. Anytime I can go to those tracks where I have memories of watching my dad succeed in the Cup Series as a crew chief, if I can go in there as a driver and have success with my team, that means a lot to me.
First and foremost, I race because I enjoy it, but I really enjoy making my dad proud. There’s no better than feeling than winning the race and having your dad walk up to you and say that he’s proud of you. I’ve always had his and my family’s support, so any track is pretty cool to get a win at especially when he can be there. It’d be pretty cool to go win at the coliseum and have dad standing there with us in victory lane.
PS: I was just going to ask. As you try to make your way up the racing ladder, what does it mean to have someone like him in your corner for support and advice?
BRANDON: It’s good. The sport has changed a lot since my dad was working his way up through as a competitor – obviously not driving, but as a crew chief. So I think sometimes it’s hard for my dad to understand some of the business and politics that goes into our sport now, just because there’s been a major culture change since his days when he was trying to grind it out and work his way up through the ladder.
But ultimately, one thing I always pull away from my dad and he’s second to none at, is his work ethic. I know a lot of people say this about their parents, but I’ve never in my life met anybody that works harder than that man. I’d put him up against anyone – from our president to anyone that is working on a mill somewhere. It’s just unbelievable to see the work ethic and passion that he puts into everything he does, and I feel like that I don’t quite live up that amount that he works but I definitely try everyday to figure out how to make things better, how to make myself better, and keep improving communication with our team so we can make our program better. That way we’re prepared and ready for the race track.
So to answer your question, it’s unbelievable to lean on Larry McReynolds the crew chief for first and foremost as my dad, but at the same time, at a professional level. He brings a lot of intensity to the race track, whether he’s commentating or whether he’s crew chiefing, or whatever he’s doing. That’s something I admire about him.
PS: I know you’ve been working hard at trying to make your way up the racing ladder. If you could get to the top-three NASCAR divisions one day, what would that mean to you?
BRANDON: It’d be huge. I’ve had opportunities to where I could go those things, and I’ve gone and tested Cup cars. I’ve done a lot of cool things. Sure, I’ve never competed at those levels at a full-time basis, but I’ve ran a (NASCAR Gander Outdoor) truck (Series) race and tested a lot of trucks for Chevrolet and Turner Motorsports when I had those days going with Steve Turner. It’s just all about funding and you have to have the right funding in place to move on.
So yeah, it would mean a lot to me, but I’m enjoying what I am doing. I am enjoying helping John Visconti and The Reichert Group build up their program. I’m enjoying working with Mike Bursley and KBR Development and being a small part of building that program. For me, if I am going to race, I am going to have a good time because I’ve been doing it long enough to where I’m not going to do it to ride around in 40th spot just to say I’m a (NASCAR) Xfinity (Series) driver. I want to be the guy winning races at a K&N or ARCA level, and performing at a high level, and building a program, and taking care of these owners and trying to do a good job for them.
So to answer your question, it’d mean the world to me, but ultimately, if I am going to do it, I want to do it right, but first and foremost, it’s this K&N program and ARCA program and trying to build those up as much as I can behind the scenes just based on my experience level from working with other teams.
PS: To other young racers who are trying to get into NASCAR, what is one piece of advice that you’d offer them?
BRANDON: I think the biggest thing is – I don’t want to sound negative, but just be prepared that it might not work out. I think it’s easy for all of us, whether you’re a dad, you’re a friend of a racer or a competitor of a racer and look at people and say, “Oh, they’ll make it. They have plenty of talent. They’ll be in Cup one day, or they remind me of Jimmie Johnson or Jeff Gordon.”
But there’s no model there anymore. So I think young guys that growing up in racing, whether quarter midgets, bandalero, late model, or even the K&N division, is just take advantage of every single opportunity that you can. Don’t waste it, because it cost way too much money to be out there and there’s jobs on the line for a lot of crew guys that are working on those cars. But don’t waste your opportunity, and be prepared that you can go out there and do everything right – you can win races, and you can win championships, and there’s still a really big chance that due to the business, you’re not going to make it on Sundays and there’s nothing wrong with that.
I work with Noah Gragson and I tell him this all the time – just don’t waste your opportunity because if you go out there and win five races over the year and do everything you can, and you’re prepared, and you’re preparing your body to battle, and you’re communicating with your team – if you come up short and you can’t make it to the Cup Series, then you can still lay your head down at night and say you gave it your all. But don’t be the kid that wastes the opportunity and doesn’t take advantage of it, because then you’re going to be feeling a lot of regrets.
So I think it’s about being mentally prepared of the challenge to work your way up through the sport in today’s atmosphere to where it’s not just about talent, but the funding you have in place and what you do with that and whether you take advantage of it.
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