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ASHLEY ASKS…… Brandon McReynolds

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?

Rusty Jarrett | NKP

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?

Rusty Jarrett | NKP

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?

Rusty Jarrett | NKP

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.

EMAIL ASHLEY AT ashley.mccubbin@popularspeed.com

FOLLOW ON TWITTER: @ladybug388

The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.

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OBSERVATIONS: Lucas Oil 200 at Daytona International Speedway

The first race of Daytona Speedweeks is officially in the books, and you could say it went as typically as you would predict.

The ARCA Menards Series event at Daytona has been about watching the future stars of NASCAR get behind the wheel of top-notch equipment, and show their experience. Ideally, it gets those entered in the NASCAR Gander Outdoor Truck Series event some extra seat time. They certainly proved their worth on Saturday, with several at the top of the running order.

With a mix of different experience levels thrown together, restrictor plate races for ARCA can either be really exciting, or just plain out boring. Last year’s Lucas Oil 200 featured five straight green-white-checkered restarts due to ARCA’s “no race ends under the yellow flag rule,” prompting a rule change to have only one attempt for 2019 restrictor plate events.  On the flip side, the Talladega race saw them simply cruise to the finish.

As the laps began to trickle down in the Lucas Oil 200, it appeared as though we were going to watch them cruise single-file to the checkered flag as the top-seven rode in line together. With many lacking experience on the superspeedways, combined with drivers just wanting to come out with a car in one piece, you don’t see the big moves like we’ve become used to in other series.

However, an incident further back changed the complexion with a late-race caution.

While Harrison Burton controlled the restart ahead of Christian Eckes, it was Todd Gilliland making the move with Brandon McReynolds. Using his experience in bump drafting, Gilliland was set to push McReynolds up the high line to the front and challenge for the win. It would’ve been interesting to see whether the charge actually worked out, and the high line was viable. However, instead, a bump the wrong way and McReynolds went spinning across the backstretch. As we said – inexperience vs. experience; this was a lesson of how to make sure bumpers are aligned when drafting.

Placing both Burton and Gilliland on the bottom together for the restart was all she wrote, as Gilliland easily pushed Burton out and away from the other challengers. Although a charge was mounted coming off turn four by Gilliland, it proved to not be enough to power by Burton.

Beginning Friday, Burton and Gilliland will begin their full truck series campaign as teammates for Kyle Busch Motorsports. Earning experience with their first laps on the 2.5-mile oval, it should help boost confidence for them to hang with series veterans.

Although the Lucas Oil 150 may not have started off in the most exciting fashion for ARCA, it shouldn’t diminish the future for the series this year. With a couple new tracks to their already diverse schedule, combined with a variety of talent, it’s going to be another great year of competition.

EMAIL ASHLEY AT ashley.mccubbin@popularspeed.com

FOLLOW ON TWITTER: @ladybug388

The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.

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McReynolds Focused on the Business of Racing

TALLADEGA, Ala. – Having friends in the garage area is beneficial and this weekend it landed Brandon McReynolds a ride in the Sparks Energy 300 at Talladega Superspeedway.

“I was sitting on my couch, and Matt Tifft called me one night. He was slated to run this car, and he ended up going in the 18 for Kyle Busch,” McReynolds told POPULAR SPEED about driving the No. 24 for JGL Racing. “It all worked out really good; I guess Matt saw something in me, and I’m sure it helped that we had won a race down here before in the ARCA division. So I have a lot of laps around here.”

McReynolds is the 24-year-old son of current NASCAR on FOX broadcast Larry McReynolds, who spent many years in the garage as a crew chief. Saturday, McReynolds will make his first NASCAR start of the 2016 season and the second of his career in the XFINITY Series. In 2010, McReynolds ran at Gateway and finished 19th.

But before he received the phone call from Tifft – and having already heard great things about the organization from another friend, Corey LaJoie – McReynolds was putting in time in the fabrication shop for Rainer Racing. After spending the last two years running the full K&N Pro Series West schedule, with occasional East appearances thrown in, McReynolds is now helping build cars for the Rainer K&N and ARCA teams, as well as a soon-to-be Camping World Truck Series program.

“I’ve been cutting my hands up in the fab shop and getting dirty, but outside of that just looking for the next opportunity (to race) and luckily it’s came along with JGL and Toyota and all of our sponsors,” McReynolds said. “There’s a lot of people who have really helped put this together, especially at the last minute. The Tifft family has been a huge part of that as well.

“So, just been working hard and trying not to complain about not having a full-time deal, but at the same time, really appreciating being able to be here and getting to go racing tomorrow.”

With restrictor plate racing being an animal all its own, McReynolds is focused on being around at the end before trying to fulfill any goal he may have. If a team leaves Talladega with the car in one piece it meant they survived, which usually translates into a successful day.

For McReynolds, whatever happens on Saturday is not likely to translate into an immediate job going forward. But just being back in the seat of a racecar is always the best way to stay relevant while working on any potential prospects.

“It’s really tough because you feel like you should have been here three or four years ago after the wins you had growing up, but you have to remember there’s a lot of guys that have won a lot of races, too,” McReynolds said. “Unfortunately, it’s really driven by the business side. That’s what we’ve been focusing on, is trying to put the business side together so we can go out and find that right opportunity.”

A former member of the NASCAR Next program, McReynolds has won in the K&N Pro Series West twice with Bill McAnally Racing, as well as the ARCA Racing Series. And before that, he was winning in UARA late models and the Allison Legacy Series. The McReynolds name is usually one mentioned when looking at promising young talent. But like so many others, McReynolds now finds himself with the skill but not the steering wheel.

Or at least until more friendly opportunities like Talladega arises.

“Hopefully, we’ll keep things rolling with JGL because it’s really cool getting to drive the 24 car as part of their ‘Young Guns’ program. Matt Tifft drives some; my buddy Corey LaJoie drives some, so to be able to fill in for those guys, so to speak, this weekend is really cool,” McReynolds said.

“As far the next opportunity, I’m really not sure, and it’s just hard to tell because it’s such a business driven sport now. We just have to see what partnerships we can come up with and make the best decision for that moving forward.”

EMAIL KELLY AT kelly.crandall@popularspeed.com

FOLLOW ON TWITTER: @KellyCrandall

The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or staff. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement. 

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Getting to Know: Brandon McReynolds

Each week during the NASCAR offseason POPULAR SPEED will post a “Getting to Know” driver profile, featuring some of the younger talent coming through the racing ranks. We continue our series this week with Brandon McReynolds, who has run full-time in the K&N Pro Series West the last two years. Brandon is also the son of former crew chief and current NASCAR on FOX broadcaster, Larry McReynolds. 

Name: Lawrence Brandon McReynolds

Nickname: Brandon

Hometown: Mooresville, NC

First thing I do when I wake up is: Check Twitter and take a hot shower, then off to the gym

Favorite sports team: Alabama Crimson Tide

Biggest accomplishment: Marrying my fiancé, Lauren Evans, and sweeping the Iowa K&N combination races in 2015. Only driver to ever do that

My most memorable race was: Winning in my Dad’s hometown at Talladega Superspeedway in the ARCA race in 2012

The food I eat the most: Chicken

How I describe myself in three words: Loyal … Honest … Motivated

My racing mentor: My Dad

Playing on my iPod right now: Eric church

Favorite racetrack: Dover or Bristol

If I could guest star on a TV show it would be: Blood and oil 

When I’m not racing I’m: Working on racecars and wanting to be in a deer stand

In 2016 I will: Keep looking for sponsors so I can race. If I can’t race then I’ll probably crew chief a late model or do something like that

EMAIL KELLY AT kelly.crandall@popularspeed.com

FOLLOW ON TWITTER: @KellyCrandall

The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, it’s owners, management or staff. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement. 

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K&N Iowa: Brandon McReynolds Scores Big Win On Big Stage

NEWTON, Iowa — Brandon McReynolds will celebrate his 24th birthday next week. But it will be hard to top the celebration he had at Iowa Speedway.

McReynolds earned his first NASCAR victory in the Casey’s General Store 150, the first of two annual combination races between the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East and West. He joins a list that includes defending NASCAR XFINITY Series champion Chase Elliott, Cole Custer and Brandon Jones as drivers who have won their first NASCAR race in the K&N Pro Series on their way up to the national series at the Midwest track whose slogan proclaims, appropriately, “Stars Are Made Here.”

McReynolds, driving the No. 16 NAPA Auto Parts Toyota for Bill McAnally Racing, became the second West driver in 12 races to win the combination race at Iowa. He led twice for 22 laps, including the final eight.

William Byron led a race-high 128 laps and finished second and will be credited with a victory as the highest finishing NASCAR K&N Pro Series East driver. It is the second win in four races for the 17-year-old, who won his first career 21 Means 21 Pole Award earlier in the day and is the series points leader.

Ronnie Bassett Jr. finished third, followed by Jesse Little and McReynolds’ BMR rookie teammate Christopher Bell. JJ Haley was sixth overall, followed by Noah Gragson, Scott Heckert, Kyle Benjamin and Austin Hill.

Byron extended his K&N Pro Series East points lead to 14 over Hill and 19 over Benjamin. In the K&N Pro Series West, Gragson leads Chris Eggleston by four points and Gracin Raz by nine.

ARCA: Toledo Preview and Storylines | Starting Lineup

It was the 34th career series start for the Mooresville, North Carolina, driver. McReynolds, the son of NASCAR on FOX announcer Larry McReynolds, is an alum of the NASCAR Next program — an industry initiative designed to spotlight the sport’s rising stars. Four of the top 10 at Iowa — Byron, Little, Benjamin and Hill — were recently named to the 2015-16 NASCAR Next class.

In his first full season last year, McReynolds finished fourth in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series West on the strength of five top three runs in 14 races.

Saturday night, he finally got the win that eluded him.

The race will air on NBCSN on Friday, May 22 at midnight ET, following the NHL playoff game between Chicago and Anaheim.

  1. Brandon McReynolds
  2. William Byron *
  3. Ronnie Bassett, Jr.
  4. Jesse Little
  5. Christopher Bell *
  6. JJ Haley *
  7. Noah Gragson *
  8. Scott Heckert
  9. Kyle Benjamin *
  10. Austin Hill
  11. David Mayhew
  12. Jay Beasley
  13. David Garbo, Jr. *
  14. Trey Hutchens
  15. Chris Eggleston
  16. Alex Schutte *
  17. Gracin Raz *
  18. Nick Drake
  19. Eddie MacDonald
  20. Ryan Partridge *
  21. Nicole Behar *
  22. Collin Cabre *
  23. Dalton Sargeant *
  24. James Bickford
  25. Kenzie Ruston
  26. Brett Thompson
  27. Christian Celaya *
  28. Matt Levin *
  29. Kaz Grala
  30. Rico Abreu *
  31. Devon Amos *
  32. Ron Norman *
  33. John Wood
  34. Dillon Bassett *
  35. Johnny White *
  36. Gray Gaulding
  37. Travis Miller
  38. Rob Powers *
  39. Rich DeLong, III