They say nice guys finish last, but that just isn’t the case for the new kid in town, Brandon James. You may have heard his name before, he’s the winner from Mega Cash Days. That’s not something to scoff at, at all. Brandon James is one of the younger guys in the NoPrep scene, but that isn’t slowing him down at all. Brandon grew up in Modesto, California; which is about an hour and a half south of Sacramento. “The greatest thing about the area that I live in is that I am 3-4 hours away from mountains, ocean, basically anything and everything”. With all the traveling he does Brandon now finds it more efficient to store all of his belongings at his mother’s house, while he travels with his racing and his dad. Brandon, his dad, and a few other guys all travel for the NoPrep life. It is time consuming but definitely the chances and experiences of a life time.
It all started for Brandon and his dad when they went to a Frank Hawley drag racing school. They started him off in a 9 second car and after that, they just wanted to keep going faster and faster. “Never in a million years would I think I would be at this high of a level with these guys and gals. If it wasn’t for Boddie seeing the determination from me, I wouldn’t have this chance I do today”. Traveling all over and being on this journey that started off from watching TV has been the dream of a lifetime for Brandon.
Brandon’s first car is a 1956 Chevrolet Bel Air that he still has and is building now. It’s his now famous red Bel Air that he has been taking down the track and making more of a name for himself. Brandon started off with the 1968 mustang with a small block Chevy with twin 88’s. That car he was super successful with. With the great success came great headaches. Sadly, he ended up wrecking the car and Brandon and his team needed something as soon as possible. After the crash he wasn’t able to get the mustang going like he needed, His friend Dan came to the rescue. Dan had a 1967 Nova with a screw blown hemi in it, which he and Brandon worked out, and Brandon is able to use it for NoPrep. “The rules right now do not favor the twin turbos and the hemi as we had versus the change to the screw blown hemi, it was the smartest decision to go this route. The rules keep changing, so we have to adapt to them to keep ourselves going and moving forward”. Brandon has been establishing himself as he has been the winner of cash days, which has really put the spotlight on him. He was the new guy who gave the biggest upset at those races. Although Brandon is new to the NoPrep scene, he is no stranger to racing. Over the years his favorite event is the Street Car Super Nationals in Las Vegas. “Mostly all street stuff is my favorite, it means more driving and more tuning, there’s a lot more sport in it. It’s not about the biggest pocket book out there. I love all this NoPrep stuff, who doesn’t?” “My dream car though is a 1969 Camaro. Even though I started with the Mustang, switched over to the Nova, there isn’t a thing I would change about the 69’ Camaro, it’s so beautiful and badass”.
Lucky for Brandon he has a supportive family that pushes him to achieve his best. His dad is his travel partner, his mom holds down the front at home, and he has siblings too that help encourage him with his dreams. His father owns a construction company that Brandon is lucky enough to be a project manager and a main electrician. Between racing and his job, there really is not a lot of free time for Brandon to have other hobbies. When you have your dream job though, all this traveling and hard work doesn’t seem to be so bad. “I get to do what I love, I can’t be mad at it”.
When you are younger, you watch television and think to yourself “I wish that was me”, well in Brandon’s case, it is. He grew up watching the first 12 seasons of Discovery’s Street Outlaws, like many of us fan did. “I always wanted to be part of it as I watched, and now here I am racing with these guys”. It is one thing racing with this group, it is another to be established. There are so many different personalities and tactics that are floating around out there in this sport it can be hard to remain true to your roots. Brandon is finding his way with each pass and event. “I feel like I am doing well for myself, I have a lot more winning to do. Not only winning but I also want to stay relevant in this world”. With all these big personalities it can be hard to remain true to yourself. Brandon is a laid back and quiet kind of guy, which can be difficult to get noticed in this chaotic driver’s world, also not get taken advantage of either. “I’m learning how to be more assertive. I want to be polite as I possibly can, but I am not here to be every body’s friend”. All this new found fame and attention can be daunting to the newer drivers that come around, but that is not making him shy away from what he loves. “I am very quiet and shy. This TV stuff is hard for me. It’s getting easier to talk to others, but it’s still a shock. It’s humbling and wonderful all at the same time”.
Without the fans who watch on TV and those who can make it to the races, it would impossible for these drivers to be able to pursue their dreams. Not a single driver has ever thought anything different, and Brandon follows suit. “The fans have been super nice and respectful. Not only to me, but to the car too. They understand that we need time to work on the car. I try to give them as much time as I possibly can, I am so thankful they are understanding of it all. I am very lucky to have them”. New found fame has not changed Brandon’s personality. It is an adjustment just like anything else. “The attention is difficult at times, but they (the fans) are so appreciative of the work we put in and the hours, blood, sweat, and love we all put into our cars. It makes it all worth it. Before I used to be able to work on the car and tune it. No one knew me. Now people recognize me and it’s crazy. Without the fans though none of this would be possible. I have to learn how to balance racing and seeing everyone too. It is why I am so appreciative of those who are letting me learn.”
Each driver always has their favorites and their stories. Even the ones who are just starting out have their stories and top picks. Brandon’s top tracks to go to are Sonoma Raceway in Sonoma, California, and Sacramento Raceway Park in Sacramento, California. He would go to Sonoma once in a while, and Sacramento was basically his home town track being only an hour and half away from home for him. Brandon works extremely hard to make it to each and every race. He drives his own truck and trailer by himself and his dad meets him out there. He just drove from coast to coast, it was a rough 50 hour drive, but it was worth it. Brandon enjoys driving from track to track, he gets to see and experience things he never would have imagined. One time Brandon drive 6 hours to a race. Only to wait 4 days in the rain to never get to race at all. Dedication is part of this sport and life style.
Over time Team California evolved. Brandon was honored with being bought into it. “Boddie took me under his wing and all the guys on the team are great”. Brandon is the youngest team member out of the 6 of them. Team California consists of Eric Kvilhaug, Mike Bowman, James Strang, Jerry Jahnsen, Jay Boddie, and now Brandon James. “Out of everything, I just want to be remembered as just being me. That through all of this and the highs and the lows, that I am the same person. I want people to know that the me they met 10-15 years ago is the same person they know today”. Without support many, if not all, of these amazing drivers would not make it very far. Brandon would like to thank Joe Bettencourt, Jeff Galasco, Dan Crisp, Shannon James, and Jestena Mattson who runs the merchandise and social media. “Without them there is no way I would be successful, not by myself”.