For Big Machine Label Group president and CEO Scott Borchetta, racing at a younger age, Super Truck titles and influence from championship-winning crew chief Ray Evernham were just few pit stops en route to NASCAR ownership.
It was announced in January that Borchetta’s Big Machine Records company would start its own NASCAR Xfinity Series team for the 2021 season. The team will be called the Big Machine Racing Team with Jade Buford behind the wheel of the new No. 48 Chevrolet.
But it’s what happened years before that sculpted Borchetta’s desire to take on this new endeavor.
Borchetta attended his first major league race in 1970 when IndyCar made its inaugural appearance at Ontario Motor Speedway for the California 500. While playing for several different rock bands, the Burbank, California, native also raced motocross and quarter-midget events in Southern California.
In 1978, when Borchetta was 16, his father moved the family to Nashville to begin his own independent record promotion company after years of working for Los Angeles-based labels. Although he took a hiatus from racing, Borchetta returned to run legends cars in 1995 when country music duo Brooks & Dunn began the Summer Legends Shootout Series at what was then the Nashville Motor Speedway. From there, Borchetta moved up to the NASCAR SuperTrucks Series in 1999, rattling off three consecutive SuperTrucks championships from 2003-05.
“It’s always been part of my DNA,” Borchetta told NASCAR.com. “It’s always been part of my culture. To me, the music business and racing business are very similar. It’s like, give me that open lane and I’ll find a way to beat you. There’s a lot of similarities because it’s about talent and providing that talent with the best possible opportunity to do their best work. There are a lot of parallels for me.”
Borchetta’s most recent racing journey involves Evernham, former crew chief for NASCAR Hall of Fame driver Jeff Gordon. Evernham noticed how talented Borchetta was in a race car during an episode of his television show “AmeriCarna” in 2014 while taking Marty Robbins’ 1964 Belvedere for a spin.
Evernham later invited him for a track day on dirt, which Borchetta had never raced on before. Once again, Evernham was impressed with Borchetta’s car control, inviting him to race 1972 Corvettes in the Sportscar Vintage Racing Association, an opportunity he finally took after careful consideration.
“My hero wants me to come race with him, are you out of your mind?” Borchetta said. “When I got home, I talked to my wife Sandy and she said how can you not do this? This guy has been one of your idols, now he’s become a friend. Go do this.”
RELATED: Changes to know for the 2021 season
As he takes on what is sure to be one of his most difficult tasks to date with an ownership role, Borchetta refers back to the leadership of Evernham, which helped shape the mold for how he envisions his team.
“I always joke with my team … read the rulebook and then read it again,” Borchetta said. “It’s telling you how to win. So many people look at it and say, OK well, it’s telling me how to lose. No, it’s telling you how to win. It’s showing you where the line is. And then there’s the unwritten (rules), now go write the unwritten. Ray wrote the unwritten. The way that he led that team and the way that he and Jeff took the sport by storm. He was going to win, he was going to find new ways to win.”
Aside from his own driving, Borchetta now shifts his focus to providing the tools necessary for Buford to succeed. In 2020, the 32-year-old ran four Xfinity Series road-course races with backing from Big Machine Distillery and Big Machine Hand Sanitizer. Buford’s best finish was eighth at the Charlotte Motor Speedway Roval.
Not approved for the Daytona oval, the 32-year-old Brentwood, Tennessee, native will make his first full-time start in the second race of the season at the Daytona International Speedway Road Course. While Borchetta could have picked up an 18-year-old driver, which is the normal trend for owners these days, what did he see in an older driver like Buford?
Overall, Borchetta thinks Buford has “got the goods.”
“(Buford) lives to race, races to live,” Borchetta said. “He’s so technical about his approach and has this extraordinary humbling confidence. And it’s like, you know what, this guy deserves a shot. He’s not the youngest guy on the grid, but I think he’s going to show everybody … I mean it’s going to take a minute and I don’t have any false expectations. We have a lot to learn and build the team out.”
RELATED: Changes to know for the 2021 season
What stuck out to Borchetta the most was a track day at Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas, which serves as a new stop for the NASCAR circuit in 2021. Buford took Borchetta for a ride-along where he taught his future car owner how to improve his lap times around the road course. That lesson resulted in Borchetta decreasing his lap time by roughly a second. That was when Borchetta knew he found his future driver.
“If you are going to understand how to verbalize how to go faster, that means you have a very deep understanding of how to go faster,” Borchetta said. “Anytime you can verbalize and teach somebody, your brain is working in a different way.”
Borchetta’s decision was reaffirmed when Buford made his first laps on an oval in a Mike Skinner-owned race car recently, where Buford out-qualified Skinner.
“Skinner called me up and said, ‘your guy’s got talent,’ ” Borchetta said. “Some guy like Skinner … he’s not going to say that. He doesn’t care. That’s a hard-nosed racer for life. If he (Jade) wasn’t any good, he (Skinner) would have said he’s not any good or he wouldn’t have said anything.”
Buford was one of the reasons why Borchetta felt the 2021 season was the perfect time to start his journey as a NASCAR team owner, taking over Ryan Sieg’s second Xfinity Series team. The No. 48 Big Machine Racing squad will also be led by former NASCAR Cup Series crew chief Patrick Donahue.
“A lot of great things came together,” Borchetta said. “Last year with Jade and the road races we did, I learned a lot more about the inside of running that series. What it takes to do it, what it takes to do it right.”
Borchetta credits his efforts of gaining respect from those in the NASCAR garage, which includes Evernham and NASCAR Vice Chairman Mike Helton, for being provided this ownership opportunity today. Not only does he have eyes on making his team a threat on the race track, but he also sees new opportunities with his record label and vodka brands in the sport like his entitlement sponsorship of the Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway since 2017.
“It’s just nice to be recognized by the best of the best of having some talent,” Borchetta said. “I think that’s very satisfying for me because I always want to improve. Every time I get in the car, it’s about getting better. I take it very seriously. I love doing it so much. … I certainly had the desire to do it (at a younger age) but didn’t have the means to do it. I think that’s part of why I love to help young drivers.
“We’re only starting at zero because it’s a new team, but we’re bringing decades worth of experience to starting this team. … I’m very blessed to be able to help other race drivers in a sport that I love so much.”