(Photo: NASCAR Media/Getty Images)

Brandon Brown Trying to Change Team’s Underfunded Narrative

Another name is being made in the NASCAR Xfinity Series. Just seven races into the 2020 season, Brandon Brown has already scored a career-high three top-10 finishes. The most recent pair came in consecutive weeks at Charlotte Motor Speedway (eighth) and Bristol Motor Speedway (seventh), and they were Brown’s first top 10s on an intermediate track and a short track, respectively. 

Those stats might not seem like much compared to the likes of Chase Briscoe, Noah Gragson and Harrison Burton, but those drivers are competing on teams with major budgets and ties to the NASCAR Cup Series. Brown, meanwhile, is racing for his own family-operated team (with Brown’s father Jerry listed as the owner, who is not 1970s Cup owner Jerry Brown) and operates at a much lower cost than the Xfinity giants. It’s such a small team that Brown himself serves as marketing director, and it’s the lone NASCAR team in Fredericksburg, Va. 

Last season was Brandonbilt Motorsports’ first full-time season in Xfinity, and it ended with Brown 15th in the standings with one measly top 10 at Daytona International Speedway. This year, the team enlisted veteran Crew Chief Doug Randolph, who has won in the Xfinity and Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series with Cup stars Clint Bowyer, Brad Keselowski, Ryan Blaney and Tyler Reddick. Brown currently sits 11th in Xfinity points among playoff-eligible drivers (Daniel Hemric is ahead of him, but isn’t running all the races) and is making a strong push for his first postseason bid. He only has one finish worse than 13th, coming at Auto Club Speedway when his engine expired. 

Brown caught up with Frontstretch prior to this past week’s race at Bristol and discussed his recent accomplishments, his team’s goals, operating under COVID-19 guidelines and a Racing Reference error. 

Michael Massie, Frontstretch: Did moving the Bristol race from Saturday to Monday help you guys because it buys you a little time to prep for the next race, or did it hurt you?

Brandon Brown: It’s always helpful just because now that the turnaround’s not as much of a rush. It gives us a chance to double check everything, do a nut-and-bolt check on the car. Make sure everything works properly. When you show up at the track, you can’t have a problem, because you have no practice to shake the car down. You have to hope that all the radios are working, all the electricals are working, motor’s working. It makes it kind of tough, so you’re double- and triple-checking everything.

Massie: But while the delay could be a benefit this week, I’m sure it’s going to bite you guys next week more, right?

Brown: Oh yeah. It’s definitely something that when you’re turnaround becomes quicker from a short track like Bristol back to a mile-and-a-half like Atlanta, it definitely doesn’t help.

Massie: At Charlotte, you scored your team’s first top 10 finish outside of Daytona. What did it mean to you and this team to finally score a top 10 at an intermediate track?

Brown: That race actually meant a lot just because I would go as far as to say Charlotte is my worst track that I race at. Just because, again, being very new to everything, driving with a ton of skew in the car was pretty new to me. So definitely getting it figured out this year was crucial to us running well.

At the beginning of the race, the first two stages, we dropped back to 29th or something and just couldn’t make anything happen. I couldn’t make any ground up. So it felt like another hopeless day.

But to kind of rally back like the team did, I mean that was amazing. It was incredible. It showed all the drive that the team has and how we can operate under adversity. It was really great to have and see the leadership like Doug Randolph to keep everybody rallied up. It was very crucial for us.

Massie: If the regular season ended today, you would make the playoffs. How do you feel about your chances of making it?

Brown: It’s going to be all about making sure we keep doing what we’re doing. Then we have a really good chance. If those guys are going to go out and get anxious and wreck each other, then [we’ve] got to stay clean, and take advantage of those situations. I think we really have just enough speed to be right outside of that top-12 group. I would say that on average, we’re probably a 13th-place car just because of the funding that we work with. But being there and maximizing the run to run 13th allows you the opportunity to take advantage of some other people’s poor luck in front of you.

Ask me now, and I’m like, ‘Oh yeah, we got a great f*#king chance.’ But if in three or four weeks, we have any bad runs, which I really hope we don’t, my view will probably change. But I think we have a great shot at it. It’s definitely realistic now for us as long as we keep doing what we’re doing.

Massie: What kind of long term impacts would making the playoffs have on this team?

Brown: I think it would definitely be another step in legitimizing Brandonbilt Motorsports in the NASCAR Xfinity Series. That’s kind of been our whole goal, not only building myself as a driver, [but also building a team] as someone to contend. And I don’t think we were taken very seriously in the past, and last year, we had a couple good runs.

I definitely still want to get the narrative changed from an underfunded team to somebody that is competitive and associated with the right side of the garage. I’d like our program to get the reputation of like a Kaulig [Racing] or one day maybe even the JR Motorsports or something like that just because like, with us outrunning the RCR [Richard Childress Racing] car. I feel like we’re working really hard, but we never really get much light other than underfunded team outperforming the equipment.

I know that we’re only [seven] races into the season, and so it’s still really early, but I’m hoping that we’ll be able to take advantage of it and stay up here. And hopefully, I don’t know, really give a run at this championship. I think it’ll give us a second chance at opening up a second car with other drivers seeing our team as a playoff contender. They’re going to take our car serious that I can show up in the Xfinity Series, run this car and be competitive, and I have a chance at doing really well. That’s what we want to do is really build the program. I think it’s what’s necessary to build to program.

Massie: There’s been less involvement from NASCAR Cup Series teams in the Xfinity Series than when you first got into it, while more family teams like yours have sprung up. Why do you think there’s been that shift?

Brown: With the shift of the Cup Series going to a new car, it doesn’t make sense for them fiscally to put more research and development into an Xfinity car because the similarities between the two are very different. I think the Cup car is more similar to a truck now than it is the Xfinity car before of how much downforce and how much their aero plays a role. We have a significantly less amount in comparison. So I think that’s what’s going on.

The Xfinity Series is a place where, the slogan stays true of making our names here. It’s all about showing off your driving, your talent. But the cars handle much different than the Cup cars. I think with the lack of Cup teams coming in and running the funding and keeping the prices high for competition, it’s giving family-owned teams a chance to shine, and I think that they’re all taking advantage of that.

Massie: Do the current restrictions on the number of personnel you can have at the track sort of level the playing field for you?

Brown: Yeah, now those teams have to kind of compete the way that we do week in and week out. That’s brought it a little bit to our advantage. I think it’s been great for us so far, it’s been exciting. We’ve honestly been able to maximize the efforts where, we’re used to having our guys wear multiple hats. Where those teams usually have guys really specialized individually. I think that’s kind of playing into our hand. It’s been a little bit of an advantage for us, but also at the same time, we still have to be at the top of our game.

Massie: If we hadn’t gone back racing when we did, how much longer do you think your team could’ve held on without the race paychecks?

Brown: I mean honestly, what actually happened was we had to furlough everyone for the time being, and it made it really hard. Because for us, it was more of a fear of losing all of our personnel. It would have been an easy time for some of our veteran crew guys … this would’ve been the perfect time out. You get furloughed away, go find something else to do. You might find something else that you enjoy. So that was kind of our fear. And so we’re super thankful for everyone at Brandonbilt Motorsports that did stick around.

I know that we were looking at the line getting skinnier and skinnier on holding us up with how long it was. But I think it’s something to where we would’ve had to almost push our season off to next year. The problem was when we made our upgrade up to ECR engines, we opened the shop up in North Carolina, those guys are still looking for payments. Without a purse, that makes it really hard to pay, especially when this pandemic affected not only us, but our sponsors as well. It really hurt everybody all around. It made it hard for them to pay, it made it hard to keep things going.

Massie: I was looking at your dad Jerry Brown on Racing Reference, and it says he owned a Cup car in the 1970s driven by Richard Brown. Is that true?

Brown: No, dad’s never been involved in NASCAR until we did it.

Massie: I guess there was some other Jerry Brown in NASCAR back in the day?

Brown: I guess, because I saw that too. Somebody asked me, ‘How did you do this? I saw your dad owned a Cup car.’ And I was like, ‘When the f*$k did he own a Cup car?’

News to me. When we were younger, dad was into more flying and stuff, and I know he had an ultra-light aircraft but not a Cup car.

Massie: I think he would’ve told you if he had owned one before.

Brown: Yeah, and I think it would’ve made it a little easier on [starting Brandonbilt]. Maybe get a little help or connections to keep moving up, but not yet.

NOTE: Racing Reference has since fixed the Jerry Brown error. 

Massie: You also do marketing for the team. How much of your week would you say is devoted to that?

Brown: I work the typical work week, 40-hour work week, doing the marketing and trying to sell sponsorship or make connections or whatever I can. After that, Thursday hits, and I’m usually traveling, driving down to the track or I’d ride down with the team when they were all going. So a ton of the week is spent doing that.

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Michael Massie is a writer for Frontstretch. Massie, a Richmond, Va. native, has been a NASCAR superfan since childhood, when he frequented races at Richmond International Raceway. Massie is a lover of short track racing and travels around to the ones in his region. Outside of motorsports, the Virginia Tech grad can be seen cheering on his beloved Hokies.

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One comment

  1. Avatar

    These guys keep the car clean every week and regularly get into the top 12. Interesting how they are finishing ahead of Kaulig/Haley nearly every week!!