The Frontstretch: Truckin' Thursdays: Introducing Brennan Newberry by Beth Lunkenheimer -- Thursday July 11, 2013

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Truckin' Thursdays: Introducing Brennan Newberry

Beth Lunkenheimer · Thursday July 11, 2013

 

I grew up in Bakersfield and was going to the race track before I could even walk. My dad was a speed skier growing up from the time he was four, and he had a need for speed from a very young age. I think he went professional from the age of 14 or so. As he grew up, he said he wanted to race. By the time I was about 8 or 9, my dad started to race a super late model. I never got to go in the pits because I wasn’t old enough, so I was always in the stands watching everybody. I didn’t know at that time that I wanted to be a race car driver, I just knew that I wanted to race, be with my dad, and have a relationship with him.

I told him one time that I wanted to go race his car because it looked fun. He explained that I needed to start at the bottom and that I couldn’t just jump in at that level. Obviously, when you’re young, your dad is your biggest hero. He told me that I had to start in go karts if I wanted to race his car one day.

I think I was 9 or 10 when we started racing in the Bakersfield Kart Club. It was pretty cool for me because I knew Kevin Harvick had raced there before and now I’d been seeing him racing on tv. After go-karts, I tried out dirt for a bit but decided that wasn’t quite the route I wanted to go; I didn’t like the idea of these guys flipping their cars so easily. I’ve raced late models, K&N, the old NASCAR Southwest tour, ARCA and more on my way to where we are today, but we’ll have plenty of time for those stories.

My dad never once pushed me to make the decision to race over doing something else with my life as a kid. The only thing he did do, was remind me that racing is a huge financial commitment and that we wouldn’t do it only part of the way. It would take a lot of dedication and hard work on my part. I’m very fortunate that my family has been so supportive through everything. My mom is probably my proudest supporter, my dad has always been there for me and worked hard to allow me to keep racing, and my sisters gave up multiple high school functions just so I could race. I gave up plenty of things too, but that was my choice because I was racing. They didn’t have to, but they did anyway.

Brennan Newberry’s career got the boost he desperately needed when fellow Bakersfield, CA native Kevin Harvick contacted his family about his former KHI race shop. (Photo from Brennan Newberry’s Twitter feed, @brennannewberry)

We sat down and tried to figure out what we wanted to do. Did we want to step back from the Truck Series and run a full ARCA Series to gain more experience? We weren’t really sure what was going to happen, but we were fortunate to have the choice to run where we really wanted. It wasn’t until December 1st where we had the opportunity to start a shop in the old Kevin Harvick, Inc. building. Kevin had contacted us to let us know he’d been trying to sell it. Up until the end of the 2012 season, we had been moving from warehouse to warehouse trying to get this team going. If we were going for anything in 2013, we wanted to have a home and a place where we’d all feel comfortable.

It finally started to come together when we talked to Bruce Cook, who had worked with KHI in the past. We told him what our plan was and he was into joining. He took on the role as our competition director and, at the time we didn’t know, but he ended up taking on the role of Ron Hornaday’s crew chief. Joe Denette Motorsports had their shop set up in the lot at KHI in Kernersville, while we had around 15 trucks combined. My dad got together with Joe and suggested that we combine our work but maintain our team names under one banner, and we ended up merging and combined all of their personnel with the equipment that we had.

I was impressed how fast everything came together. We began interviewing several crew chiefs, and decided on Eddie Pardue, who has worked with several Cup drivers. Right from the beginning, Eddie and I hit it off—he was a calm, cool guy that was eager to win. Suddenly before Daytona, we had a full crew that was working through the nights trying to get our Daytona trucks ready in time. It was cool to see how far we’d come in such a short amount of time.

Suddenly in Daytona, I had a whole new team and was in the process of moving from my California home, to our new home in North Carolina. I really didn’t know what would happen when the season began. It was time for me to build relationships with all of the new people because I’m very much a family and friends oriented person. I didn’t know what to expect at Daytona in a truck since it was my first superspeedway race in a truck. I went in hoping everything would be fine. Practice went alright but it wasn’t at all what I expected. You have to really work those trucks at the superspeedways, but I expected to just go in with my foot to the floor. Having a teammate like Ron brought a whole next perspective too. We decided to just be smart and make it to the end of the race.

When qualifying came around, I just did what I knew. In go-karts, the less you turned the steering wheel, the better. I felt good about my qualifying lap and hoped we had a decent spot. There were only five or six trucks left and Eddie told me we were P1. I didn’t care where we ended up but it was cool to think I’d been sitting with the fastest time, even for a little bit. I expected to lose the pole since there were some Turner Scott Motorsports trucks qualifying. I really expected for one of them to take the top spot since they’ve been doing this for a few years already.

Brennan Newberry’s NASCAR dream came to pass this February at Daytona, when he led the field to the green flag in the NexTEra Energy Resources 250 — in only his 11th start — and first on a superspeedway.

Still to this day, I start to tear up because I couldn’t believe that we’d just gotten the pole at Daytona, especially after all we’d gone through just to get the team set up in time. It was so much to take in. I was being interviewed by Hermie Sadler, already trying not to cry because I was so excited, and I turned around to see my mom, dad and two sisters all bawling their eyes out. I didn’t know how I was going to avoid the tears. I think there were five hours between qualifying and the race, and I don’t think I sat down once. It was a whirlwind of interviews and autograph sessions.

We got to the race and it wasn’t until I got in the truck that it hit me again. I couldn’t believe I was leading the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series into the first corner. In a split second, I had to transform from a kid to the race car driver that was leading everyone for the first corner. I just sat back before the green and looked at all the lights and the spectacle. I looked in the mirror once and vowed not to do it again because I hadn’t realized what having 35 trucks in my rear view mirror would be like. Once the green flag flew, I just went—it was amazing to go into turn 1 flat out. By then, I’d switched into driver mode and was ready to wheel the thing for the next 250 laps. It was an experience like no other driving with guys like Ty Dillon and Kyle Busch. Our race ended early when we got collected in another wreck. I was so disappointed because we’d worked so hard and pulled everything together so quickly, and I was having so much fun.

We ran well at Charlotte, and then went to Dover and had mechanical issues. I feel like we’re doing well and we don’t have the results to show for it yet. We went off to Texas thinking we’d have our best race ever and were running around the top 12 before we had two battery issues in the last 20 laps. In Kentucky, we had another mechanical malfunction. I know we’ve had our ups and downs, but we’re just trying to get our feet under us. I ask advice from Kevin and Ron all the time and taking it all in.

The one thing about racing is how humbling it can be—you’re on top of the world one moment and the next you’re in the pits, trying to fix your truck and making the difficult decision that you’re done. That’s what makes this sport so good—you never know who’s going to come out on top. That’s how racing has been my whole career, but it’s magnified when you get to a series like the Truck Series.

It’s been a roller coaster ride from Daytona until now because we’ve grown so much as a team. We’re only eight races in—we haven’t gotten a win yet, but it’s all going to come because we’re all working so hard and trying to make something big out of an idea that came out of Kevin Harvick’s mouth in October of last year. This has been a wild ride and a wild life since I started racing. It has become my life and something that I live each and every day.

Lately, it’s been that we go out, have fun and race while remembering that it can be taken away from us at any time. We don’t have to be doing this, but we get the opportunity to do. That’s something that my mom, my dad, my sisters and my girlfriend remember. Each week, our focus is on how we’re going to go faster at the track. It’s so amazing how fortunate we are, and I try to be as grateful as I can. I can be mad for a little while after the race, but then I better snap out of it because I’m one of a small portion of people that get to race at the top of NASCAR. I’m very fortunate that I get to do it.

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Today on the Frontstretch:
NASCAR Easter Eggs: A Few Off-Week Nuggets to Chew On
Five Points To Ponder: NASCAR’s Take-A-Breath Moment
Truckin’ Thursdays: Top Five All-Time Truck Series Drivers
Going By the Numbers: A Week Without Racing Can Bring Relief But Kill Momentum
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Tony
07/11/2013 02:14 PM
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