TALLADEGA, Ala. – Brandon McReynolds is making his return to the ARCA Menards Series this weekend as much for the organization he’s driving for as he is for his own racing career.
McReynolds will trek to Talladega Superspeedway to pilot the No. 28 KBR Development Chevrolet in Friday’s General Tire 200, the fourth race of the ARCA season and McReynolds’ second start of the year.
The 27-year-old second-generation standout ended a seven-year ARCA hiatus when he strapped in for Bursley at Daytona Int’l Speedway back in February, and the duo nearly tasted victory that evening.
McReynolds was drafting to the front with Todd Gilliland late in the race when a mistimed bump from Gilliland sent him spinning and crashing on the backstretch, ending his chances for a much-needed win.
The effort and people surrounding him gave McReynolds plenty of perspective, though.
He brings a different attitude into this weekend’s race, understanding that his current situation is about building up an entire team, as opposed to necessarily being a springboard for his own career.
“Winning (the race) is definitely the most important thing, and I know that I need to get back to victory lane on a big stage … but I think where my mindset has changed as I’ve gotten older is that I’ve shifted my focus to look more at our owners and what they’ve invested in me and in their teams,” McReynolds told SPEED SPORT. “Yes, I want to get back to victory lane for myself, but is that going to put me in a Cup car tomorrow? No, it’s probably not, and I recognize that.
“Ultimately, for me, I’m a team player and I want our guys to see the success just as much as I do for myself,” he added. “If I can go down, do a good job for our team and our sponsors – whether that involves taking home a checkered flag or not – then that makes me really happy and that’s most important.
“We want to keep all the fenders on it and be there at the end. If that’s a win, great, and it it’s not, then hopefully we got the best effort that we could out of our program.”
That program, at least for McReynolds, has focused on the restrictor-plate events at Daytona and Talladega this season. It’s a style of racing that the veteran recognizes takes a lot of fortitude to master.
“The superspeedway stuff is always pretty difficult. I think a lot of fans and people outside the sport look at superspeedways as tracks where guys run wide open, have an easy time and (the results) just depend on where you’re at, but in my eyes it’s one of the hardest things that we do,” McReynolds said. “From a mental standpoint, it’s tough, and I try to keep an open mind anytime I go to Talladega or Daytona because so many things can go wrong.
“Ultimately, it’s about having the mindset and preparation to put yourself in position to be there at the end of it and have a shot at winning the race.”
McReynolds has been in position to win at Talladega before. In fact, he tasted the victory champagne at the 2.66-mile Alabama facility in 2012, driving at the time for Turner-Scott Motorsports.
On that afternoon, McReynolds drafted by race-long dominator Matt Lofton and led only the last lap for his lone victory in eight career ARCA starts.
It’s a memory – and a skill – that’s stuck with him, however, because McReynolds knows that the mentality that a driver brings with them into a superspeedway race is critical to their success.
“Ever since I started superspeedway racing, I feel like I’ve done a decent job at putting myself in positions to come home with the checkered flag. Sometimes that works and sometimes it doesn’t, but ultimately it feels good and gives me confidence, no matter what car I’m in,” he said. “There’s a lot of people, I feel like, that have a bad mentality going into superspeedway racing … and if you have that, you probably don’t need to be going.
“I just feel like no matter how bad or good things have gone, you have to be open and excited to get down there.”
After their near-miss together in February, McReynolds knows that he and the KBR Development team have a chance, and at a drafting-style race track he said a chance is really all that a driver needs.
“We had a really good run at Daytona earlier this year and had a shot at winning that race; things just didn’t work out at the end and we got caught up in a wreck on the backstretch with a few laps to go,” McReynolds noted. “Mike and I have developed a really good working relationship and he had some interest in getting me back in the car this weekend.
“I can’t wait to get there and see what we can do.”