The road course ringer is still alive in the NASCAR Cup Series thanks to Live Fast Motorsports. On Tuesday, the team announced sports car star Kyle Tilley will make the jump to stock cars when he débuts at Circuit of the Americas on 23 May in the #78 Ford Mustang. He will also race at Road America (4 July), Watkins Glen International (8 August), and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Road Course (15 August).
In January, Tilley won the Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona LMP2 class with Era Motorsports, driving an Oreca alongside Paul-Loup Chatin, Ryan Dalziel, and Dwight Merriman. The endurance race featured fifteen drivers who have NASCAR experience with three—Austin Dillon, Chase Elliott, and Cody Ware—currently competing full-time in the Cup Series. Ware and Dillon were also in the LMP2 class.
Tilley, Dalziel, and Merriman continued their strong start to 2021 by finishing second in the 12 Hours of Sebring in March. He has also raced in the Pirelli World Challenge and what is now the Michelin Pilot Challenge.
Outside the Americas, his sports car experience extends to the Asian Le Mans Series and European Le Mans Series with IDEC SPORT. He and Era won the former’s LMP2 Am title over the winter as they swept all four races; coincidentally, the class championship was won by another Cup team Rick Ware Racing (for whom Ware and Dillon drove at Daytona) the previous season. Tilley also ran the 2020 24 Hours of Le Mans, where he and IDEC’s #17 Oreca finished fifteenth overall and eleventh in LMP2.
The British driver’s résumé also includes single-seaters such as the FIA Masters Historic Formula One Championship. In 2019, he won three races and finished third in the Pre-1978 Fittipaldi/Stewart class.
Circuit of the Americas is a new track on the NASCAR schedule, though one on which Tilley has raced in sports cars. He scored an LMP2 podium at Road America in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship in 2020.
“To say I’m excited would be an understatement,” said Tilley. “I have always been a big fan of NASCAR and the close racing it provides. To have the opportunity to go up against the best at COTA is going to be both a huge challenge and learning curve, but one I am really looking forward to.”
Battle Associates and Bremont Chronometers will sponsor his #78, both also new to the NASCAR world.
“Kyle Tilley is a force on the track,” Battle Associates vice president Andrew Woodward added. “His ability to win in everything from the LMP2 class to FIA Masters Historic Formula One prove he can deliver results in challenging and varied environments. These traits require a consistent work ethic and commitment to achieve, and we work hard to incorporate these same traits into the Battle brand every day.
“We are looking forward to the NASCAR Cup Series this season and can’t wait to see great moments from Kyle on the track. He has demonstrated all of the right attributes to represent our brand, and Battle Associates is honoured to be on Team Tilley.”
Bremont, a British luxury watch maker, has partnership with Williams Racing in F1 as the team’s official timing partner.
“Following the success of Kyle and the Era Motorsport team at iconic Le Mans 24 and Daytona 24-hour races, it seemed only natural to follow it up by supporting Kyle in the world-famous NASCAR Series,” Bremont owners Nick and Giles English commented. “The high technical performance and precision of NASCAR is reflected in the creation of our mechanical watches […] truly a little piece of Britain in the pinnacle of American motorsport.”
Tilley will be Live Fast’s second road course expert after Scott Heckert finished twenty-eighth at the Daytona Road Course in February. It was not immediately announced as to who will run the other two road races—Sonoma Raceway in June and the Charlotte Motor Speedway Roval in October—on the Cup schedule.
For the oval races, the #78 has primarily been driven by team co-owner B.J. McLeod, whose best finish is twenty-third in the season-opening Daytona 500. Shane Golobic, also a Cup newcomer like Heckert and Tilley, ran the Bristol Dirt event in March. The team is currently thirty-third in owner points as it embarks on its maiden season.
Road course ringers have become increasingly rare at the Cup level as the playoffs—which requires drivers to run every race to be eligible without a waiver—and a rising need for versatility have rendered them mostly obsolete. While the last full-time teams to use specialists are typically multi-driver organisations chasing owner points rather than driver titles like Live Fast, Heckert was the lone such driver in the Daytona event (A.J. Allmendinger, who also ran the Rolex 24, was in a part-time car). As the 2021 Cup schedule features a series-high seven road events and the 2022-bound Next Gen car is more RC-friendly than its predecessors, drivers are further pushed to excel on both ovals and circuits.