Race Weekend Central

Josh Williams Achieving NASCAR Cup Dream with Childhood Hero BJ McLeod

On Monday (April 11), it was announced that NASCAR Xfinity Series veteran Josh Williams would make his NASCAR Cup Series debut this coming weekend at Bristol Motor Speedway dirt. 

Williams, who moved from DGM Racing to BJ McLeod Motorsports in Xfinity during the offseason, will pilot the No. 78 for Live Fast Motorsports. BJ McLeod, a South Florida native like Williams, co-owns Live Fast with former driver Matt Tifft. As part of the deal, Williams is reunited with his former ARCA Menards Series crew chief Danny Johnson. Johnson was Williams’ crew chief the first six NXS races this season before becoming the car chief at Live Fast. 

Last year, Williams gained a lot of attention at Richmond Raceway for having a run-in with NASCAR Hall of Famer Dale Earnhardt Jr. The two racers connected after the race, and Earnhardt gave Williams a lot of praise. He even labeled Williams as the “Kenny Powers” of NXS, in reference to Danny McBride’s character in the TV show Eastbound & Down. 

But Williams has struggled in Xfinity so far this year, failing to qualify for three of the first eight races.

Frontstretch caught up with Williams just before the Richmond NXS race to discuss the Earnhardt aftermath, his early struggles at BJMM, how McLeod was his childhood hero and why Cup racing impacted his silly season moves. 

As a bonus, Williams’ BJMM teammate Matt Mills was present during the interview, and he and Williams provided some insight into their teammate relationship.  

Michael Massie, Frontstretch: It must feel pretty good to get through qualifying and you’re actually in the show after a rough last couple weeks.

Josh Williams: Yeah, it’s been tough. But we’re working on it, getting some stuff put together. Some baby steps, baby steps.

Massie: At Richmond last year, you caught a lot of people’s attention because you had a little bit of dust up with a NASCAR Hall of Famer, Dale Earnhardt Jr. What was the aftermath of that like?

Williams: Well, the fans on his side were — I tell you what, NASCAR fans are passionate individuals. I mean, I had people telling me they were gonna burn my house down, all kinds of crazy stuff. And I’m like, ‘Man, y’all people are crazy. He run into me, I didn’t run into him.

So it’s good, man. Me and him ended up kind of connecting a little bit and actually talking to each other a little bit more. We got some JR Motorsports cars in our fleet that they’ve helped us out with. It’s been pretty neat, it is cool. I actually shot him a message on my way up here and I asked him if he’s ready for Martinsville. He said, ‘Yeah, I’m probably gonna get my ass handed to me.’ And I said, ‘Well, I’m gonna try to run over you at some point in the night.’ So he said, ‘Alright, that’ll be cool.’

Massie: Time to even the score, huh? 

Williams: Yeah, it’s my turn now.

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Massie: Well you still haven’t launched the NASCAR Kenny Powers Eastbound & Down spinoff, have you?

Williams: Not yet, not yet. Actually, I’ve thought about — I’m gonna try to get him [Danny McBride] to a race at some point in time so we can just have some fun.

Massie: So what led you to leave DGM and come to BJ McLeod this year?

Williams: The biggest thing for me is just having an avenue to race on Sundays, and then BJ being a part of Live Fast gives me an opportunity to possibly do some Cup stuff in the future. That’s kind of the reason why I came over here and just try to build up a program and get to that point where I can race on Sundays here and there and just get my name out there and keep on racing.

Massie: What’s the transition been like going from one team to another? How different are the teams?

Williams: Every team is a little different. You know what I mean? Personalities are different, people that we work with are different, things like that. It’s been good. I know a lot of these guys over here [at BJMM]. I’ve known them for a long time. We get along good and things like that. So it ain’t been too bad.

Massie: What’s BJ like as a boss?

Williams: BJ is probably the most laid-back person I’ve ever met my life. Not that he doesn’t get excited about anything. He’s fun to work with. I used to watch him race in Florida when I was a kid. Yeah, we both raced in South Florida, so I used to watch him race on Friday nights at [Orlando] Speed World and then race on Saturdays at New Smyrna [Speedway]. I got to watch a lot of BJ’s highlights over his career.

Massie: He was pretty good down there, wasn’t he?

Williams: Oh yeah. He was the hero back in the day.

Massie: Did you ever get to talk to him back then? 

Williams: Yeah, a little bit. Yeah, I talked to him quite a bit. He was fun to watch. He put on the show, that’s for sure.

(At around this time, Williams’ BJMM teammate Matt Mills enters the back of the hauler and sits down next to Williams to eat a Pop-Tart.)

Massie: The start of the year has been a little bit of a struggle. What do you guys need to do to right the ship?

Williams: I think our biggest thing is just preparation, just getting the cars where they need to be when we leave the shop. That’s been the biggest problem, I think. It’s not one big thing. It’s a bunch of small things. So we’re still working on it. And we’re gonna make progress. I mean, we got a long ways to go to the end.

Massie: You mentioned before there’s a lot more money in Xfinity now. Has the competition just gotten that much stiffer? How much tougher has the competition gotten? 

Williams: The past few years, it’s been like your top 15 cars have been really, really good. Now, your top 25 cars are really, really good. Everybody’s got good motors. Everybody’s got good chassis, good people working on their cars. So the series is very, very neat right now. So we’re trying to make progress to close that gap and get back to that top 15. I call it being the best of the rest.

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Massie: Your crew chief to start the year, Danny Johnson, you worked with him in your old ARCA ride. How’d that reunion come together? 

Williams: Yeah, me and Danny worked together in the ARCA deal in 2016. We won two races together. We ended up here BJ’s together to see if we can do something like that again. He’s over on the Cup side now.

Massie: For Richmond, it’s a little different for BJ McLeod Motorsports. You got Ryan Preece in a Stewart-Haas Racing-prepared entry racing BJMM’s No. 5 car. Does that benefit the other cars at all when you get a driver and a team like Stewart-Haas allying with you?

Williams: Minimal. I mean, they do help us out a little bit on some minor things. But as far as us, our setups are still our setups. We don’t have any of their stuff or their information. It’s not a real big gain, but it looks cool on TV though.

Massie: What’s Matt Mills like as a teammate?

Williams [jokingly]: Ah, he’s terrible. He’s probably the worst teammate I’ve ever worked with, to be honest with you. He’s really loud, talks a lot. A really outgoing individual.

No, I like Matt. Me and Matt’s got along over the years. He’s a good teammate to have, bounce back and forth, talk to each other about things or just try to make each other better.

Massie (to Matt Mills): Matt, what’s Josh Williams like as a teammate?

Mills: He keeps you on your toes for sure. He likes to pick and everything like that. But he’s honestly the go-to guys now when I have questions. I feel like I’ve started to learn — I know quite a bit and then he teaches me something about how to use the brake bias gauge in the car, when to use it. So it’s good to bounce little things off of Josh and always get better.

Massie: Thanks. Sorry to disturb your Pop-Tart.

Mills: Ah, you’re good.

Williams: Breakfast of champions. Mountain Dew and Pop-Tarts.

Massie (to Williams): You mentioned this is an avenue — BJ’s got the Cup car. Are you trying to get any starts in that car this year?

Williams: We’re trying to. We’re working toward it. Hopefully, we come up with something here soon and make a couple of starts. We’re trying to do a race somewhere to where we can really showcase my talents, something like a short track or something like that. That way so we can give ourselves the best opportunity to have our first start and have a successful finish.

Massie: So what’s that like to — you’d be making a Cup start for a guy you grew up watching race. What would that be like?

Williams: Yeah, that’s pretty cool. I mean, for us, both men from South Florida, we’re just short track guys at heart, and here we are racing in NASCAR. So that’s pretty neat for us.

Massie: You always do this stuff for the children’s hospitals, you got VCU’s children’s hospital on the car for Richmond. Were you able to visit the VCU hospital here?

Williams: We’re actually doing like a Zoom visit here because we couldn’t go to the hospital. But we’re gonna do a Zoom visit with some of the patients and walk around the garage a little bit and show them the hauler and stuff like that.

About the author

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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