Miguel Paludo is back in NASCAR and back at Daytona as part of JR Motorsports’ four-car team for this weekend’s event on the 3.61-mile road course.
It’s a place where Paludo has had success, earning a top-five and two top-10 finishes in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series. The 37-year-old Brazilian will carry sponsorship from BRANDT Professional Agriculture on JRM’s No. 8 Chevrolet Camaro, furthering a relationship forged in the Porsche Carrera Cup Brasil that has resulted in six championships.
To be sure, the sleek Porsche GT3 that Paludo drives in his home country is a different animal than the Chevrolet Camaro he will drive at Daytona—and again this season at Circuit of the Americas (May 22) and Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course (June 5)—but racing is racing.
“It’s a big accomplishment for me to come back to the series after running the Porsche Carrerra Series in Brazil for BRANDT, and it couldn’t come at a better time and with a better organization,” Paludo said in the run-up to his NASCAR return. “I think I’m in the best time of my career, and I always want to come back to NASCAR. All the puzzle pieces came together at the same time, and it is even better than I imagined to come to JR Motorsports, have BRANDT as the sponsor and run three road-course races.”
Paludo’s relationship with BRANDT in Brazil is strong, extending to CEO Rick Brandt and his family. JRM’s Justin Allgaier has journeyed to Brazil to co-drive with Paludo in the Porsche Carrera Cup on several occasions.
“Having him as my BRANDT teammate has been such a fun time, getting to know him on a much more personal level and getting to hang out with him and his family…I’m excited for him to have an opportunity to come back here and do what he loves to do,” Allgaier said. “He wants to get back into NASCAR and have that opportunity again. What better way to do it than to have “Double Trouble” with BRANDT on both cars and to hopefully go out and try to put both those cars in Victory Lane?”
When BRANDT was expanding into the Brazilian market, Paludo played a role in getting the word out.
“We started in 2013 in NASCAR, in the Truck Series, for the first time,” Paludo said. “They (BRANDT) sponsored me, and we had a relationship back then. When they decided to purchase a company in Brazil, we were still in touch. It really started with the sponsorship relationship, but we go beyond that.
“To me, BRANDT is a family to my family and it is an honor to represent them in Brazil, where they’re growing tremendously. I’ve been part of that growth every step of the way. In 2013, BRANDT only sold products through distribution in Brazil and now they have their own manufacturing and are one of the biggest players in the Brazilian market. Rick, Sierra and Kristie are family to us.”
As for the racing aspect of his return to the NASCAR Xfinity Series, Paludo does not quite know what to expect when he gets back to Daytona this week.
“(It’s a) good question,” he said with a chuckle. “Without practice, I have no idea. I know it will be tough and there will be a lot of things for me to get used to. The car, the brakes, the gearbox…everything is new to me, even though I raced in the Xfinity Series a few years ago, everything is different. I don’t know the track that well, just on the simulator and some iRacing practice. At the end of the day, it’s racing and that’s what I’ve done my whole life so I hope I can adapt pretty quickly and use the stages to my advantage and move forward, do what I need to do.”
Paludo knows the oval track, having competed three times in NCWTS races. He finished fourth in 2011, won the pole and led 56 laps the following season before being eliminated in a Turn 4 crash, and was a solid seventh in 2013.
He’s got some experience on road courses in the Trucks as well, finishing third at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park in 2013. That was the race in which Chase Elliott and Ty Dillon came together in the final corner, with Elliott taking the victory. At Pocono that same season, Paludo led 10 laps and finished second to Ryan Blaney by just .270 seconds.
When it comes to the racing on the big road course—which plays host to the annual Rolex 24 that kicks off Speedweeks—Paludo thinks his road-racing experience will pay off in the end.
“You can shuffle back and forth…I was watching the previous Daytona race on TV this past weekend, and at one point a lot of guys, six or seven, missed the first corner,” Paludo said. “Things happen, because those cars are heavy and this is new to everyone, even if they’ve been racing road courses for the past few years. I hope I can adapt and not make mistakes, hit my marks and try to get the win.”
Allgaier has no doubt that Paludo will be a strong addition to the BRANDT legacy at JRM.
“I think Miguel is going to do a great job,” he said. “Obviously, his prior NASCAR experience is going to be super helpful, but his road-course prowess, his personality, his drive and ambition…there are so many things that he does well. Those are going to be a big part of his success in getting back behind the wheel of a NASCAR stock car.”