The stock car racing industry has slowly centralized around the metro Charlotte, North Carolina area for the past quarter of a century, so it’s rare these days to see a top-level stock car team not based in that area. It’s even more rare to see a top-level team not based in that area succeed.
KBR Development, based in Grand Rapids, Michigan, is making its first full season run at the ARCA Menards Series championship. With two drivers splitting the driving duties for most of the season, a driver’s championship isn’t in the cards for 2019 but the potential to win races is.
Portage, Michigan’s Carson Hocevar wheels team owner Mike Bursley’s Chevrolets on the short tracks. Just 16 years of age, Hocevar isn’t eligible to compete on the tracks larger than one mile in length. Don’t let his age fool you, however. He’s already earned two General Tire Pole Awards, including one this season at Salem Speedway. In just seven career appearances in the ARCA Menards Series, Hocevar has four top five finishes and five in the top ten, including a career best third at Salem from the pole.
When Hocevar isn’t behind the wheel, Bursley has selected former ARCA winner Brandon McReynolds to drive on the big tracks. McReynolds won at Talladega as a 21-year-old in 2012 and won the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East race at Loudon last September.
McReynolds is the son of NASCAR on FOX analyst Larry McReynolds. In 1991 and 1992, the elder McReynolds served as crew chief for Davey Allison’s two victories at Michigan International Speedway. His family’s history at the two-mile D-shaped oval tucked in the lush Irish Hills of Michigan hasn’t gone unnoticed as he prepares for his fourth ARCA Menards Series start of the season in Friday’s VizCom 200.
“Anytime you can go to a racetrack where your dad has had success is really cool,” McReynolds said. “I always take pride in winning any race, but the ones that you can win where dad has won, is an awesome feeling.”
For his dad Larry, going to Michigan is always a special trip if only for the memories from those races in the early 1990s. It’s amplified this time around as he gets to watch his son try to follow in Allison’s footsteps.
“Michigan International Speedway is very special to me, winning back to back June races there in 1991 and 1992, with Brandon’s Godfather Davey Allison, Robert Yates Racing and that 28 car,” the elder McReynolds said. “No matter what manufacturer you race with, you want to win at Michigan, being so close to the motor city, Detroit, Michigan. To win at MIS, it takes every element of the team and racecar. Handling, aero, horsepower, strategy and pitstops! We’ll be watching Brandon in the #28 KBR Development Chevy, in Friday’s ARCA race live on FS1.”
Allison was posthumously inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame earlier this season. The son of 1983 NASCAR champion and 84-time Cup Series winner Bobby Allison, he was a second-generation driver who proudly carried his father’s name but also carried the pressure that name brought along with it. There was a sense of pride, but also the desire to make his own name at the same time. It’s something McReynolds is quite familiar with. Not only is he carrying his father’s name, he’s also racing with the number Allison won with 27 years ago: 28.
“A lot of people in and out of the sport think that I have it made and that my dad takes care of everything because I am his son,” he said. “It is one of the coolest things having Larry McReynolds as my dad and I have a lot to be proud of being his son, but it is no cake walk. Dad has made me earn everything I have ever gotten in this sport and I know that will pay off for me in the long run.”
It hasn’t been an easy haul for the younger McReynolds. Full-time jobs driving a racecar have been hard to find. His last full-time seasons were in the K&N Pro Series West in 2014 and 2015. He won twice in 2015, then went back to a part-time schedule in 2016. While still looking for a full-time opportunity for himself, he often spends weekends coaching other drivers and working on the managerial side of the sport.
“This is probably the hardest time to find a ride in our sport,” he said. “The most important aspects of being a great racecar driver are no longer just how you represent yourself and how much talent you have, you have to start with having money to race. I might not have made it to the Cup series like some of the people I grew up racing with and outrunning, but I am proud to say that KBR Development believes in me and are giving me an opportunity to help grow their team and continue my days as a driver. It is easy to just show up with your helmet and hop in a car and hope you go fast, but I take a lot of pride in making situations better. If I can be a small part of helping KBR Development become a household team, then that’s how I can lay my head down at night and know I have done something. I will never keep pushing to be a prominent driver in our sport because I know that I do a great job on and off the track.”
Nothing would help his current cause more than a win. McReynolds has been fast, and was up front in the season opener at Daytona until a crash coming to the white flag wiped out the entire pack he was in. He’d like to translate that speed into a victory at Michigan. It would be big not only for his career, but for his Michigan-based team as well.
“I am looking forward to going back to Michigan,” he said. “I remember testing there in an ARCA car right after the repave a handful of years ago. Any of the big tracks I am comfortable at. Hopefully we can have a strong day with our KBR Development team and put ourselves in position for the win.”
Practice for the VizCom 200 at Michigan International Speedway is slated for 8 am ET on Friday, June 7, followed by General Tire Pole Qualifying at 12 noon, with the 100-lap, 200-mile race slated to go green shortly after 6 pm ET. The race will be televised live on FS1. ARCA for Me members can access free live timing & scoring, live track updates, and live chat for all on-track sessions at ARCARacing.com. New users can register for free with a valid email address at ARCARacing.com/login. For ticket information log on to MISpeedway.com or call 888-905-7223.