NASCAR’s 2021 season is going down as one of the most exciting seasons in the sport’s history. The organization added seven road courses for the first time in 50 years, raced on dirt at Bristol, and made its long-awaited return to Nashville Superspeedway. NASCAR has also seen new teams in both the Xfinity and Cup Series grow and reach impressive success, bringing exciting racing to fans across the country.
One of these teams is CEO and founder of Big Machine Record Group Scott Borchetta‘s Big Machine Racing (BMR) which boasted its first-year NASCAR driver Jade Buford. BMR has racked up 11 top 20 finishes this season with Buford in the No. 48 Chevrolet and crew chief Patrick Donahue. The team’s success this season is truly amazing when you remember that this is the team’s first year, as well as Buford’s first full season driving a NASCAR stock car. Borchetta, however, is not surprised by their quick success.
“I expected us to do this good, honestly. Jade’s a very talented driver and Patrick is a very talented crew chief,” says Borchetta. “I thought we could run this well, and I think that when I look at the rest of the season, we’re a top 15 threat every week. Once you’re a top 15 threat, you’re a top 10 threat. I can see us getting a couple of top 10 finishes before the end of the season.”
Out of the 18 races Buford has driven in so far, he has only failed to finish four times, even scoring a top 10 start at the Lottery 250 at the Nashville Superspeedway in June. Buford, a 33-year-old Brentwood native, has been racing most of his life in sports cars and in the Porsche Club of America Racing. As he shares with The Sports Credential, his transition from sports cars to NASCAR was quite the difficult one.
“This is the most challenging thing I’ve ever done,” says Buford. “Every weekend is kind of a big question mark. ‘How’s this going to go? Is it going to come easy or is this going to be pretty difficult to learn on the fly especially with no practice and no qualifying?’”
Even with the uncertainty, Buford is proud of what he and the BMR team have done so far in their inaugural season. He is currently sitting at No. 23 in the Xfinity Series Driver’s Poll out of 66 who have competed this season. NASCAR is a difficult sport to compete in, not to mention to see consistent and positive results. However, the Nashville-based team is doing just that.
“It’s been pretty incredible. Watching the team grow has definitely been really cool to be a part of from the ground up,” Buford shares. “I think it’s a pretty impressive transformation. Then to rack up 11 top 20 finishes… We exceeded our expectations, if nothing else.”
Buford and Borchetta met at the Circuit of the Americas track in 2018 racing sports cars, sharing a plane ride home back to Nashville. They quickly became friends as Borchetta invited him to race Enduro motorbikes, soon putting him behind the wheel of an Xfinity car. Borchetta knew Buford had talent and wanted to give him the chance to race in NASCAR fulltime.
“I think it’s all driven by talent. If you don’t have the talent, what do you have?” explains Borchetta. “While we sponsored other drivers and race teams, [Buford] was someone who was super talented but wasn’t going to get a shot which led to me sponsor him for some races last year in Xfinity. We got to the end of the year and I knew he deserved a chance to drive full time.”
Starting a NASCAR team was not a longtime plan-in-the-making for Borchetta, but actually came about from the opportunities that had come his way. With a driver like Buford, an experienced crew chief like Donahue, and Borchetta’s passion and knowledge of the sport, he felt that BMR might be able to give the NASCAR Xfinity Series a shot.
“There wasn’t a premeditated idea to start our own team at any point, but I’ve always loved the idea,” admits Borchetta. “Once we started going through the opportunities, I went to Jade and Patrick Donahue, and said, ‘What if we just start our own team? We know how to race. We can figure out the rest of this.’ From there, the stars aligned. It’s unreal what happened from the time we decided to do it–getting the cars, getting the team together, and putting the race cars on the track. I was already was looking in our advertising budget and was going to allocate that much to Jade’s sponsorship. Looking at all the numbers, for not that much more we could go by our own assets and have our own team and be in full control. So that was the decision.”
This Sunday, Aug. 8, NASCAR returns after its break to race at the historic Watkins Glen International road course, a track that Buford won at in 2018 when he raced in the Pirelli World Challenge in the Mustang GT4. It’s a track he loves and one that he’s been waiting for all year.
“I hope we unload well. If we do, we should have our best day of the year there,” says Buford. “I’ve had a lot of success there. It’s a track I’m really familiar with, and Patrick and I have already talked about what we really want to do there.”
With the season more than halfway finished and 14 races to go, Buford and the Big Machine Racing team have already proven they can race and compete at the professional level. However, Borchetta had no plans of being a one-shot deal or a “one hit wonder.”
“Oh, yeah, we’re not here to visit,” Borchetta states. “We’re here to stay.”