One-on-One with Bill McAnally

by Joseph Shelton On Fri, May. 05, 2017

Bill McAnally stands with his sable of full-time drivers for the 2017 K&N Pro Series season. From Left: Todd Gilliland, Chris Eggleston, Derek Kraus, and McAnally. Photo Credit: Bill McAnally Racing

Known as the namesake for Bill McAnally Racing, Bill McAnally is no stranger to success. Aside from being the owner of a seven-time K&N Pro Series West-championship organization, McAnally also teamed up with two-time Pro Series West champion (both titles were won with McAnally) Brendan Gaughan and his father Michael Gaughan to win two Camping World Truck Series races and the Rookie of the Year honors in 2002.

Aside from also winning the 1990 NASCAR Whelen All-American Late Model championship at Roseville Speedway as a driver, McAnally has also fielded cars in the K&N Pro Series for several drivers such as Austin Cameron, Clint Bowyer, and Gaughan. McAnally also holds one of the longest sponsorship associations in motorsports, as his teams have been sponsored by NAPA Auto Parts for 27 years.

What is it regarding the K&N Pro Series that has helped your organization thrive?

BM: Well, we worked our way up through NASCAR’s weekly series, and actually captured a championship back when I was driving, and it was just the next step in the progression. Back then it was just known as the NASCAR Winston West Series, and I bought a Winston West car and the thing that I found about the NASCAR regional touring series is that it was easier to find support to get into some of the markets, especially on the west coast. I mean, we’d get into very popular markets like Spokane, Washington; Seattle, Washington; Denver, Colorado; that have no NASCAR racing at all, so when we come in we’re a real good sales tool for our partners in having a NASCAR race.

So I was able to find support; at the regional level it’s much more hands-on if you get your sponsors in and up-close. We were just at Greenville-Pickens Speedway in South Carolina, and it’s just a lot more that can fill ownership of it, so much better. The customers from NAPA Auto Parts, the shop owners, the store owners, the Toyota dealers and their employees and their key customers; they can just get in and fill ownership and get so much closer to it.

After several years in the K&N Pro Series that have seen your organization win multiple championships, what is it that keeps you in that division?

BM: It’s a very rewarding series to help develop the young drivers that are coming up. It’s a lot of fun for me because it’s a great series where you can work weekends, and you aren’t traveling as much as you do with the national touring series.

I got to build a Camping World Truck Series team back from 2000 to 2002 for Brendan Gaughan, and we ran trucks there for several years. We got Rookie of the Year in 2002 and won both races at Texas our rookie year. But there was just so much traveling and you were gone so long that you couldn’t have the family time and tend to my other business.

Brendan Gaughan celebrates a Winston West (now K&N Pro Series West) victory at Auto Club with his Bill McAnally Racing crew in 2001.
Courtesy: Bill McAnally Racing

So the K&N Pro Series, there are less races, especially here in the west and the traveling is fairly close so you don’t spend so much time on the road. It’s a fun series, helping these young drivers achieve their dreams and moving up the latter. We’ve had amazing drivers over the years, Brendan Gaughan, we’ve worked with Clint Bowyer, Sarah Fisher, Cole Custer, currently Todd Gilliland, just a lot of great, young drivers trying to achieve their dreams and it’s fun to be able to help them do that along with the crew members who have gone through our programs and get jobs at the national touring series level in NASCAR. To walk through the garage area and see all the guys living their dream that actually used our program as one of those steps is very rewarding.

As a K&N Pro Series owner, do you feel that the lack of a gimmick (Playoffs, stage-racing) in this division helps it maintain a separate identity from the other divisions?

BM: Yeah, I mean it definitely has it’s own identity. It’s gotten to the point now that drivers are stepping through it so quick. In years past, you’d have drivers that would run the series such as Andy Santerre, Doug Fadden, Matt Kobyluck, and out here in the west you had guys like Austin Cameron and Eric Holmes who were just staples in the series. Back in the day you had Ron Hornaday and Rick Carelli; they were here and that’s what they did.

Now, today where they’ve changed their rules and allowed 15-year-old drivers to get into the series, they’re here and gone before anybody could learn who Daniel Suarez was or Kyle Larson was, or the people who used the series recently as a stepping stone, they’re now out of the series before they could really get a fan following. So it’s definitely changed a lot.

How do you feel about the competition product that the K&N Pro Series puts out at each event?

BM: It’s amazing. Every year it’s a challenge to be competitive and to contend for the championship. About the time I think it’s going to be easy because somebody’s moved on or moved up there’s always somebody else that steps up and makes it a challenge that you’re battling to win races and championships.

With the current state of change in NASCAR, do you feel that the K&N Pro Series could use similar changes?

BM: Yeah, I mean, they’re continually changing things; we’re making changes, not at the level of the national touring series, but we are making changes such as spec engines and a new body. These changes help strengthen the series and make it better all the time.

Considering that the K&N Pro Series visits the smaller, older home tracks that were popular during NASCAR’s Golden Age in the 60s’ and 70s’, are there any tracks you feel the division could benefit from visiting? 

BM: It’s funny you ask that because it is a double edged sword. It’s amazing that we get into markets like Spokane, Washington, Seattle, Washington, and Denver, Colorado because no other NASCAR touring series goes through those markets, even though they’re very strong markets. It’s great that we get into those markets as well as for the sponsors that we have (NAPA Auto Parts, Toyota, etc.), corporations that support our racing efforts, love that we get into those markets that have no other form of NASCAR touring racing.

But when you’re developing drivers you like to develop them on the national touring tracks. So like I said it’s a double-edged sword. Developing a driver, I would love to be taking them to [Auto Club] Speedway, get them out here on the west coast; Chicagoland, you know, take them to Kansas City, run the tracks they’re going to run as they move up the ladder and gain some more experience on the national touring tracks.

But then again, like I said it’s a double-edged sword. It’s just so great that we get into these markets and we have such a hands-on, up-close series that our sponsors can utilize and use us as a marketing tool in areas that have no other form of NASCAR racing.

What is it about Bill McAnally Racing that has kept it as the premiere organization in this series?

BM: It’s the people. We’ve got a great bunch of people and we’ve been very fortunate through the years to keep a great group of people and they care, and they do what it takes to be the best. They’re willing to work hard and put in what it takes to be competitive week in and week out, and that’s what it takes. It takes great people and we’re fortunate to have them.

There’s also the great sponsors that give us what we need to go promote them and be able to race, to live the dream. If we didn’t have the great people and we didn’t have the sponsorship support, it wouldn’t be happening.

Todd Gilliland wins his third K&N Pro Series West race of 2017 at Irwindale Speedway.
Photo Courtesy: Bill McAnally Racing

With the success you’ve had this season and last with Todd Gilliland, is there any other driver that you’ve worked with that you can compare him to, or is he in a league all his own?

BM: We’ve been fortunate to have a lot of great drivers, and Todd is just, for his age, I’ve never had a driver with the experience, the knowledge, the know of what he wants out of a race car. Not just to qualify, but what he needs in the race car 100 laps into the race to have the car good. Todd’s just got an amazing knowledge of that at his young age.

At his age, I had Cameron Hayley for awhile at the age of 15, but Todd is one of the youngest drivers that I’ve ever had, and his knowledge compares to drivers who have been driving race cars at this level for many years. He’s very special, unique, and he’s got a very bright future in front of him.

Speaking of, how would you describe the chemistry between the three of your drivers (Gilliland, Chris Eggleston, Derek Kraus)?

BM: We’re one corporation, one company, and we all work together. The drivers, the crew chiefs, every team member, we work together to be the very best that we can be. That goes for the drivers too. Anything they can do help each other, they’re more than willing to work together.

You’ve brought in a lot of young, great talent, some of which have gone on to accomplish a lot in the sport. How do you feel about BMR’s position as a stepping stone for some of those up-and-coming drivers?

BM: Personally, I feel we’re one of the best in the business, and it’s because of the people we have. Not only do we help you develop on the racetrack and learn the skills that veteran drivers, (three-time K&N Pro Series champion) Eric Holmes works for me as a spotter and a driver coach. We surround our drivers with people who can help them develop as quick as possible not just on the racetrack but with their marketing, speaking in front of sponsors, and even doing autograph sessions. We have show car and driver appearances, interviewed on radio and television, we work really hard to put our drivers in position so they can also develop their public relations skills and working with the media while working on their driving skills.

We just try to give them a well-rounded development program as a whole, and I don’t think there is a better place to develop a driver in the NASCAR ranks, in the K&N Pro Series level, than at BMR.

Thank you to BIll McAnally and Kevin Green of Bill McAnally Racing.

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