By Dustin Albino

Prior to a warm, humid night at Daytona International Speedway, BJ McLeod did something he’s never done in his 12-year NASCAR career. He told his wife, Jessica, he felt a top-10 finish coming after 400 miles of racing.

“I said, ‘Tonight‘s the night,” McLeod said to his wife. “She said, ‘What are you talking about?‘ I said, ‘We‘re getting a top 10 tonight.””

Lofty goal for a driver that hadn’t earned a top-10 finish in his first 274 NASCAR starts. But little did he know what was about to happen.

Per usual when it comes to superspeedway racing, McLeod hung out at the back to avoid the chaos for the majority of the race. He was just hoping to miss the guaranteed wrecks and have a fighter’s chance at the end.

His night went according to plan.

With a trio of late crashes — including one on the final lap — that tore up the majority of the frontrunners, McLeod passed for 10th position on the last lap. Not only was it his first top-10 finish in NASCAR, but his team, Live Fast Motorsports, which he co-owns with Matt Tifft and Joe Falk.

Top 10!!!!! LETS GO!!! @teamlivefast so incredible thank you everybody @Gatorland @BoggyAdventures @keenparts @MSportgames everybody this is so huge. Who would‘ve thought!?

— Matt Tifft (@matt_tifft) August 29, 2021

“I just do,” McLeod said of his feelings of calling his shot. “It‘s weird every now and then. In 11 years of NASCAR, I never said it once. Tonight, I told [Jessica], ‘Tonight is the night that we‘re going to get it done.‘ Literally pass for 10th right off of [Turn] 4.”

It turned out, McLeod finished ninth after Chris Buescher was disqualified for failing post-race inspection because of an issue with his track bar mounting assembly.

Live Fast Motorsports is among the underfunded teams in the Cup Series. Realistically, being a first-year team, McLeod’s goals are to crack the top 30 on a weekly basis. He knows the team won’t compete for wins.

Entering the night, the No. 78 team sat tied for 32nd in the owner standings, accumulating just 164 points through 25 races. But McLeod was able to avoid the madness and score the top 10.

For many, a ninth-place finish is just another day at the office. For McLeod, it’s much more.

“It‘s huge for me, personally, as a driver because this is my 11th year since the first Truck race,” McLeod said. “It‘s huge to finally be able to get a top 10 and be through with that barrier, and trying for a top five now will be the next thing.

“It‘s huge for the team, too, because it‘s a new team this year. This is the Cup Series, it‘s the hardest thing in the world when it comes to a stock car and we‘re [26] races in right now and we‘ve got our first top 10 this year. I know Kaulig [Racing] won their first [Cup] race and I‘m so happy for them; I called Chris instantly and just tons of respect for that, but this is our own win, getting a top 10.

“This is all we could have asked for.”

What a special moment for @bjmcleod78, @matt_tifft, @Joefalk33 and the No. 78 team after the first top-10 finish of the season!

— Live Fast Motorsports (@teamlivefast) August 29, 2021

McLeod said the last time he called his shot was when he was running super late models over a decade ago. He was running third on the final lap and the two leaders took themselves out. He scooted by for the win.

His last top-10 result also came while running super late models, as he won the World Series of Asphalt right before coming to NASCAR. Though the majority of fans don’t know of McLeod’s success, it’s there. Just not on the big stage.

“I won three races and didn‘t finish worse than third all week,” McLeod said of his last few races before NASCAR. “I won two championships right before that. I won probably 10, 15 races over a two-year period. So, I went from winning anything I came to in a super late model to can‘t run 10th. But, I had no choice. I was coming from where I was at financially and career wise and I just wasn‘t going to get.

“I‘ve just never stopped and I‘ve worked and said we‘re going to keep moving forward. I don‘t know how good it‘s going to be, but I‘m just going to keep going and that‘s where we‘re at now. ”

McLeod celebrated his big night by taking a family photo in front of the scoring pylon with Jessica and their new puppy, Remy. The couple just got their pekingese this past Monday.

McLeod said, “My new puppy got to come out and take a picture with me. That was pretty special to [Jessica] and I.”

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