Terra Talks with Brandon Brown, Vol. 1

Brandon Brown runs a solid day at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. (Image: Brandonbilt Motorsports)

Brandon Brown spent much of the Las Vegas race in the top 10 – a much-needed bounce back after a disappointing race at Homestead-Miami Speedway. (Image: Brandonbilt Motorsports)

Brandon Brown, driver of the No. 68 Brandonbilt Motorsports Chevrolet, is no stranger to NASCAR. The Virginia native has completed seven seasons behind the wheel of the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series and the NASCAR Xfinity Series. Entering his third full-time season in Xfinity, he admitted 2020 was a learning curve as he and his team competed with the “lead guys” for the first time.

To kick off our season-long discussion, some topics of interest included team goals, races he has circled, and the current lack of practice.

Equipped with new knowledge from a solid 2020 season, Brandon Brown stands ready to take on 2021. (Image: Brandonbilt Motorsports)

Off-Track Interests

Terra Jones: First off, what is a hidden talent you have that might surprise your fans? 

Brandon Brown: Oh, I don’t know that I have a hidden talent!

Jones: Then, what about an off-track hobby? Something to get your mind off of racing for a bit?

Brown: Well, I enjoy washing and detailing my car. And, I like to go off-roading, 4-wheeling, and mudding. I guess that’s a little different – taking a 4-wheeler through a mudhole!

 

Superspeedways Circled

Jones: I like it! Now, you’re starting your sixth season in Xfinity. As I looked over your stats, your top finishes haven’t come at just one style of track. You have top 5s and 10s at all track distances and layouts. So, as you look at the schedule for this season, what is one race you have circled and why? 

Brown: I actually have a couple circled. Mainly the Superspeedways. That’s where we feel we have a real, true shot to win because the equipment, more or less, equalizes out. If you can put yourself in the right position, you can get out with a chance to win.

I also have the Dover race circled. That’s probably my favorite track on the circuit. We always perform pretty well there and it’s another one where I feel like I have a chance to shine. 

The No. 68 team will look to shine at the Superspeedways in 2021. (Image: Brandonbilt Motorsports)

The No. 68 team will look to shine at the Superspeedways in 2021. (Image: Brandonbilt Motorsports)

Lessons to Carry Over

Jones: Additionally, when you look at your combined stats from 2020 – top 10s, laps led, average and lead-lap finishes, and finishing 11th in the standings – you had a really solid season. What are some on-track lessons you learned last year that you hope to carry over to this season?

Brown: Oh man. I learned a lot of on-track lessons! It was the first time we were out running towards the front with those lead guys. They know some tips and tricks on how to keep you behind them, or how to cross you up, or how to get back to you really quickly. It was one of those things where I got schooled on some cross-overs, how to drive tight with somebody, to take the air off them, to push air onto them, dragging them back and pulling them forward.

This is our third full season, and we had very limited starts in Trucks, so I didn’t really get to learn as much on the aero-side as I needed to. But those guys sure knew it! It was a quick school lesson last year. Leaving those races, I was definitely like, “That’s not gonna happen again!”

 

Double-Edged Sword

Jones: Let’s talk about the lack of practice and qualifying. How difficult was it for you and your team to adjust to that last season? Furthermore, are you “okay” with the lack of it this year?

Brown: Well, it’s a double-edged sword. It’s great for us in that it limits the extremely large funded teams on how many set-ups they can bring – how many shock combinations and spring combos. We tend to roll off fairly close to them in speed. Then when they fine-tune it, that’s when they’re picking up a couple hundredths here, a couple hundredths there. That adds up to tenths. So it kind of keeps us a little more competitive.

The bad side of it is what we saw at Miami this year. I went out and burnt a plug wire, which is something I could have learned in practice – pulled it off and put a new one on, had everything double-checked over and fixed – and we would have completed that race. 

But, I’m all about just jumping in and being competitive. Just dive into the race headfirst and see who can do it. I think doing it all last year and a little bit this year, it’s our new norm! So, I like it!

The lack of practice has become a new normal in NASCAR, one Brandon Brown doesn't mind. (Image: Brandonbilt Motorsports)

The lack of practice has become a new normal in NASCAR, one Brandon Brown doesn’t mind. (Image: Brandonbilt Motorsports)

Mental Mentality

Jones: You started 25th at Vegas on Sunday. Throughout the race, you battled in the top 10 and tied your career-best of P11 at the track. I heard you mention on your scanner that it took until that long, green-flag run in the final stage for your car to really come to you.

Mentally, how do you manage that when it’s a lot of stop-and-go and you aren’t sure when, or even if, that long run that you need will come? 

Brown: So, mentally, you’re focusing on your mirror and you’re saying, “I need to make the rear bumper of this car as wide as possible until we get a few green-flag laps under us.” It just felt like those guys fired off so well in the short run. But as soon as we’d run three to five laps, the car would come to life then we’d have to work on passing them right back. So, the more people I could keep behind me in the initial, the less I had to re-pass to get to my position. 

Mentally, you are just like, “I’m going to be everybody’s enemy here for a little bit. I need to keep my position…” Keep the elbows up and not let anybody by. 

 

Race Reflections

Jones: Let’s do a “sentence association” for your first three races of the season. Simply share a few sentences about how the day went for you or maybe something you learned to carry over to the next race at that track.

Daytona International Speedway

Brown: It was definitely nerve-wracking. Even though we’re in Daytona and not Vegas, (laughs) it’s a giant crapshoot on who’s going to wreck, who’s going to cause “The Big One,” be part of “The Big One,” are we going to miss it? It’s so crucial.

You know, it’s a lot easier for our team to stay afloat and tread water than it is to try and swim back to the top. It’s kind of the boat that we get put in. But Daytona was just important to get all the laps run. That was our goal at the beginning of the season. We were standing in the hauler and said, “The goal is to run all the laps, complete the races. Because if we do that, we can be there at the end.”

Daytona Road Course

We felt we have had decent performances at road courses, and we can probably fight within the top 15, and maybe scrounge out one of those. There was so much emphasis on staying on the track. “Stay on the track. If you run off the track, you’re gonna destroy the car. The grass is wet and the splitter’s gonna go. You don’t get a chance to finish the race if you do that.”

We saw that! One of the first cars in Stage 1 spun into the infield and it looked like the front-end just grenaded. There was so much emphasis on that.

Turning left and right was not a struggle for Brandon Brown at the Daytona Road Course. The night saw him bring home back-to-back top 10s to start off the season. (Image: Brandonbilt Motorsports)

The Daytona Road Course saw Brandon Brown bring home back-to-back top 10s to start off the season. (Image: Brandonbilt Motorsports)

At the end of the race, we had a late restart, and the mindset was, “Get everything you can! This is what you got!” I had newer tires compared to the others, but not brand new. And everyone went.

It looked like a sea of 20-wide (laughs), but realistically, it was like five-wide, going into turn one. I just dove to the inside and the first two corners, I went from 18th to 8th. They’re like, “Keep going! Keep going! No caution!” That’s all you can do at that point. Just push as hard as you can, and you’re like, “Throw the checkered!” (laughs)

Homestead-Miami Speedway

Then we go to Miami. We started the day, “Okay guys! We can do this!” The green flag dropped, and I was like, “What is going on?” Then, I heard all the back-firing, popping, and smelled the exhaust. At that point, it was just managing the day and stay out as long as possible. If other people wreck out, we get their positions. It was just nursing a car. But, it felt pretty cool to pass people on seven cylinders! (laughs)

Then to add insult to injury, it was the water pump that went bad. We were just losing water pressure. Every eight laps or so I was having to come in to get new water pumped into it, then go back out and try it again.

We tried and tried, but decided instead of burning out the motor, just trying to salvage 28th instead of 30th, we’d save the dollars on that one. There is no worse feeling than when you’re out there, just nursing a car around. It’s terrible. You’re looking at people you’re normally competitive with running up front, and you’re like, “Of course! This was the one I could have won!” (laughs) It was a bummer of a day.

Miami did not go as the team planned. However, the season is long, goals are in place, and the drive is strong. (Image: Brandonbilt Motorsports)

Get the checkered flag – even if it’s green!

Jones: I can’t even begin to imagine! Finally, I want to talk about season goals. You touched on this a little earlier with ‘running all the laps.’ What do you and your team hope to accomplish in 2021?

Brown: So, running all the laps is Doug’s (Randolph, Crew Chief) way of saying, “Don’t be a superhero. We need this car. Let’s finish the race. If you finish all the races, you have a way better shot at repeating a chance in the Playoffs.” That became the big goal – we want to go back to the Playoffs.

Then, when we get to the Playoffs, improve on the 11th place finish. We want to get to the top 10, we want to make it to the Round of 8. That would be a huge win for us. I think the way the schedule falls, it might allow for that. Especially having Talladega in the Playoffs. We really want to get back there.

But the other goal is to make sure we’re capitalizing on stage points. Last year, I guess that’s one of the things I got schooled on last year, is just how important stage points are. Those are points they can’t take away from you. If you’re running up front and get those points and something happens at the end, say you wreck out and end up 20th, if you got four stage points, that’s like finishing 16th. 

I noticed there were a lot of guys that, on average, we were beating, but they were ahead of us in points, and I was like, “What is going on? How does that happen?” Ah, stage points. 

And then another: go win a stage. If we can’t win an overall race, if it’s a track we’re going to get outspent at, then use some strategy and go win a stage. Get the checkered flag – even if it’s green!

I don’t know. (laughs) If we win a stage, I might go ask the flagman for the green checkered flag to put in my apartment! 

 

Be sure to follow Brandon on his social channels (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram) and Brandonbilt Motorsports (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram) for all the latest news, on and off the track.

 

Thank you to Brandon Brown for being willing to participate in this series. Additional thanks to his Public Relations Representative, Mac MacLeod, and Brandonbilt Motorsports for making this, and future interviews for the series happen.

Terra Jones

As a life-long NASCAR fan and lover of words, I'm fortunate enough to put the two together here at The Podium Finish to bring our readers and motorsports fans news, features, and interviews from the world of wheels. Originally from the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains in Virginia, I moved westward to graduate from Middle Tennessee State University. I now reside in central North Carolina with my husband, our three boys, and our dog, Charlotte. While my heart is at the race track, I also enjoy watching baseball, as well as college football and basketball. 

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