When racing runs deep in a driver’s blood, there’s only one way to live — fast.
That’s the mentality Matt Tifft and B.J. McLeod are looking to bring to their newly announced NASCAR Cup Series entry in the No. 78 Live Fast Motorsports Ford Mustang, unveiled Friday by the pair.
The two drivers have each driven at the Cup level in recent years but will venture further into the NASCAR ownership model in a full-time 2021 campaign and beyond. McLeod will pilot the entry under the charter obtained in October alongside longtime NASCAR owner Joe Falk. The charter came on behalf of Go Fas Racing owner Archie St. Hilaire’s ownership interest of Circle Sport Racing’s charter.
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“It’s literally decades of dreaming, decades of work, decades of being focused,” McLeod said. “Just a lot of relationships being built to get us to this point. You can’t sum it up in one or two or three words, even. I guess the biggest thing to say is, just really looking forward to continuing to work the way that I have the last couple decades to get to where I’m at now and see what we can make with this deal together. Matt, he’s going to make me stronger. He’s got some really good qualities about him that I’m excited about, helping some of the weaknesses that I might have. Just what we can do together, I just can’t wait to get going.”
Before his rookie season was cut short in 2019 by a seizure he experienced at Martinsville Speedway that October, Tifft competed full time in the NASCAR Xfinity Series in 2017 and ‘18. He was with Joe Gibbs Racing in 2017 and moved to Richard Childress Racing the next season, where he notched career highs in top fives (six), top 10s (19) and points finish (sixth).
McLeod has owned cars and raced in the Cup and Xfinity ranks for several years, with another 39 starts under his belt in the Camping World Truck Series. He started 16 Cup races this year and has 57 career series starts. He ran in 31 Xfinity races in 2020, with a best finish of 11th at Bristol Motor Speedway in the spring. In a Friday news conference, McLeod indicated he still plans to field three cars in the Xfinity Series next year, keeping that operation separate from the Live Fast organization.
In addition, LFM has entered a strategic partnership with Stewart-Haas Racing, a 10-time Cup Series winning organization in 2020, “to assist the team in competition and navigating the difficulties of developing a successful NASCAR Cup team,” per the team’s release.
“Live Fast Motorsports is excited to be joining an incredible group of owners, as well as the new teams and ownership coming into the sport,” the release stated. “NASCAR‘S Next Gen car and model for teams will provide opportunities for new teams to compete at a higher level. Live Fast Motorsports and its partners are ready to take on the challenge to grow and develop as a team.”
The pairing between the 24-year-old from Ohio and 37-year-old from Florida is certainly a unique one at first glance — but it’s a business partnership rooted in a friendship that’s more than a decade in the making.
“I think a lot of people don’t realize the relationship we’ve had over the years,” Tifft told NASCAR.com. “When I was 12 years old, I went down to a stock car driving school in Florida and (McLeod) was one of the instructors. … I ended up being the best in the class there, so he and my dad started talking. He hadn’t owned a team yet but … lo and behold, the next year we did World Series of Asphalt at New Smyrna (with him) and that was his first time owning a late-model team. But basically we started together then and my first Truck Series race was with him at Martinsville (in 2014) and we finished in the top 10 for his first top 10 as an owner there.”
The pair’s mentor-mentee bond helped Tifft accelerate all the way to a full-time Cup ride at the ripe age of 23 last year, running in the top 30 in points for Front Row Motorsports before being sidelined. It’s now time for that relationship to take on a new wrinkle, with the veteran McLeod aiming to put in a full season’s worth of Cup racing for the first time in his career as Tifft flexes his executive muscle.
“Really, I couldn’t do it with anybody else. The experience part is what makes it work,” Tifft said. “We want to put it out there that we’re trying to not be a backmarker team. We don’t have a huge budget, but we’re trying to be competitive.”
Live Fast Motorsports will make its debut at Daytona International Speedway this coming February. When it does, the organization will be carrying the No. 78 that McLeod used in his earliest racing days. The car number was last used on a full-time basis by Furniture Row Racing, with Martin Truex Jr. flying the No. 78 to a Cup Series championship in 2017 for team owner Barney Visser and general manager Joe Garone.
“Basically I’ve had that number since I was on four-wheelers at 3 years old. We were just very fortunate,” McLeod said, adding he asked for the blessing of Visser and Garone to use it. “… I asked NASCAR first. I was like, ‘Make sure Barney and Joe are good with us using this number, and let them know if they ever need it that we’ll work it out to where they can have it or whatever we need to do,’ because they did win a championship with it. I’m extremely proud of what those guys were able to do, and it’s one thing that allows Matt and I to dream and think we can one day pull that off.”
Contributing: Staff reports