The new NASCAR is here and independent owner-driver B.J. McLeod knows where he fits in.
McLeod said Tuesday the Gen 7 car changed the motorsport much more quickly than he and Live Fast Motorsports co-owner Matt Tifft thought it would.
In September, they sold their NASCAR Cup Series charter and said they’re running part-time in 2024. Now, Tifft is leaving the partnership to focus on his personal life and driver Anthony Alfredo won’t return to their Xfinity Series team.
The dream of owning a full-time NASCAR Cup Series may be over for Tifft and McLeod – but a dream is often better fulfilled, albeit briefly, than never.
Tifft, who had to pause his driving career because of health issues, formed Live Fast with McLeod in 2021. In year one, they finished 32nd in owner points, just behind the Spire No. 77 entry and ahead of five other chartered entries:
31. Spire No. 77 (338 points), 32. Live Fast No. 78 (267), 33. Rick Ware Racing No. 52 (220), 34. Petty-Ware No. 51 (217), 35. RWR No. 15 (210), 36. RWR No. 53 (205), 38. Starcom No. 00 (176)
As Live Fast maintained its one charter, their competitors negotiated some deals.
RWR sold two charters – one to Petty-GMS and one to Spire. Then, Spire sold a charter to Kaulig Racing and Starcom sold its charter to 23XI Racing.
The Gen 7 car came in 2022, promising more parity in the Cup Series.
“The cost of the car was a little more than we thought but there are no R&D costs. We wrote that off as ‘at least we’re not spending millions to build components.’ Like, we have the same suspension as the 24,” McLeod said.
The No. 78 team scored more points in 2022 but lost ground to Spire and fell behind RWR:
33. Spire No. 77 – 371 points (+33 from 2022)
34. RWR No. 15 – 345 (+135)
35. RWR No. 51 – 310 (+93)
36. Live Fast No. 78 – 271 (+4)
“What caught me by surprise was the speed in which the sport advanced around Matt and I and Team Live Fast,” McLeod said. “I didn’t think we were gonna pushed to 36th on speed on average that quickly. I knew from running with Rick [Ware] that running 30th wasn’t going to be hard but the NextGen car pushed us back to 36th in year one.”
To try and sail on the rising tide, McLeod and Tifft said they “tripled or quadrupled” their investment.
Live Fast even formed a technical alliance with Richard Childress Racing, which showed itself when then-RCR prospect Sheldon Creed drove the No. 78 at Kansas in September.
While Creed had a solid debut and Josh Bilicki improved their pace on road courses, the team had a slightly worse average finish (29.6 vs 29.8) and a lower points total (258 vs. 271) overall.
33. Spire No. 77 364 points (-7 points from 2022)
34. RWR No. 15 322 (-23)
35. RWR No. 51 322 (+12)
36. Live Fast No. 78 258 (-13)
“A lot of races we were running 36th, we’d go a lap down. Then, we’d make adjustments during the first stage caution and ran 20th-place times. But we were still last because we were two, three, four laps down,” McLeod explained.
“That happens because we don’t have the infrastructure and notes from the manufacturer to unload as fast as others do,” he added.
Competitor RWR stepped up its partnership with RFK Racing in 2023. RFK co-owner Brad Keselowski even reportedly signs off on key decisions, such as RWR signing Justin Haley for 2024.
Spire has had Hendrick Motorsports drivers win in their trucks and Corey LaJoie even filled in for Chase Elliott at Gateway.
In 2024, Spire also formed a partnership with Trackhouse Racing whose new driver Zane Smith will race a chartered Spire entry.
That entry, to the tune of $40 million to Live Fast.
“The sport really comes down to funding. For mid-level teams, there is a great rise in enterprise value,” Matt Tifft said.
“I’ve been around NASCAR all my life and this is the best time, the best momentum we’ve seen in two decades,” B.J. McLeod said. “I like the direction Cup is going because it guarantees it’ll be around for 100 years minimum. It’s cool to see the progression around the sport and the attention.”
Even if it means McLeod will scale his NASCAR Cup Series operations back to focus on “speedways like Atlanta,” including Talladega and Daytona, and road courses with “a driver like Josh Bilicki” who has taken the No. 78 to some of its best runs.
“If we had come in 10 years earlier, I think we could’ve been a winning organization. The thing that is boosting NASCAR pushed Matt and I to the side for a bit. We got passed,” McLeod said.
Things changed as NASCAR changed.
“The backing we have is going to turn into something cool as an Xfinity owner. It’s cool that Xfinity and Trucks is still there so someone like Jessica and I can build a winning team there,” McLeod said.
As Tifft is leaving the partnership with the McLeods, B.J. McLeod said Tifft will never be more than a phone call away.
Their dreams are taking on a new future.
“Being a full-time Cup owner is something I’ll value the rest of my life.”