Local NASCAR shop boasts Bakersfield connection
Back in the day in country music, there was the Bakersfield Sound heard in hits by Buck Owens, Merle Haggard and others.
Currently in Kernersville, there is a Bakersfield connection that has nothing to do with music but has everything to do with racing.
It is a connection that brought back to life the race shop that sat mostly dormant last year after Bakersfield native Kevin Harvick shut down his Kevin Harvick Inc. NASCAR Nationwide and Truck teams.
The fellow responsible for the revival is Bob Newberry, a longtime friend of Harvick and his dad, Mike. Newberry, who started going fast as a speed water skier at age five and owns a construction business, raced on the short tracks back in California. The racing bug eventually transferred over to his now 23-year-old son Brennan, who started racing go carts at nine and progressed on to midgets, late models and NASCAR’s K&N West Series.
Harvick’s father served as crew chief for both Newberrys during their late model racing days. The elder Newberry gave up late model racing when Brennan started racing go-carts at age nine.
“He was my first ever crew chief, and that’s something I’ll never forget because he has so much knowledge,” Brennan Newberry said “And he got Kevin Harvick where he was. We’ve been so fortunate to use his guidelines and expertise.”
The Newberrys got their feet wet in the NASCAR Truck Series last season. Deciding to go fulltime, Bob Newberry needed a base on the East Coast while continuing to field late models and K&N Pro Series cars in Bakersfield.
He and a partner purchased the KHI complex, which served primarily as storage for Harvick last year, and merged their operation with that of Joe Denette – who took some of KHI’s trucks and fielded a team for four-time Truck champ and former KHI driver Ron Hornaday Jr. out of a rented building in the complex last season.
“When KHI shut down there was infrastructure built for this facility,” Bob Newberry said. “This is the only race shop in Kernersville. That was a big blow to Kernersville when it closed. Here was this big facility and it was being used to house Kevin’s personal items as a museum almost. So he started saying, ‘I’ve got this facility’ and I’d been in here a number of times. But, I thought, ‘that’s a big animal; is that something I want to chew on?’”
The merger resulted in Newberry’s NTS Motorsports (which carries the same name as the construction company) fielding entries for Brennan Newberry and Hornaday in the Truck Series for the entire season and for Newberry in some ARCA races.
Bob Newberry said a number of employees are holdovers from KHI days and that he had to bring in his own equipment to help get the team up and running.
“I’m in NASCAR for the long haul,” Bob Newberry said. “Brennan’s been racing since he’s nine. You want to do your best as a team but you also want to do your best for your kid, whether it’s swimming or hunting or football or racing or whatever sport they elect to do. I’m not unlike any other parent. If you’ve got the resources to surround your loved one with some of the best in the business, why not.”
The Newberrys celebrated something of a milestone on Wednesday, announcing sponsorship from Qore 24, a hand purifier, for at least 10 races a year for 10 years.
Evidence that KHI existed is gone except for two large pictures in the lobby of the two Truck championships Hornaday won for Harvick and decals of the fireballs that were the KHI logo. Harvick leases office space on the upper of two floors while his collection that covered the main work area is now in a building behind the shop.
The elder Newberry has plans for an expanded gift shop and reopening an area where visitors can walk upstairs to a balcony and look at the shop floor. He knows where on the property he will put a separate shop for a Nationwide team if his son moves on to the next level.
First things first. Hornaday believes Newberry has put enough pieces in place that he could win championships this year and next.
“It’s cool to be back in this shop,” Hornaday said. “Last year with Joe, we just put the wrong people in the wrong places. To see what Bob and Joe have put together in a short amount of time is amazing.”
The younger Newberry, who will make his 15th Truck start Friday night at Charlotte Motor Speedway, right now wants to finish in the top 15 and is trying to win the rookie of the year award as Hornaday serves as his mentor.
“For me the goal is Cup like anyone else my age,” Brennan Newberry said.
“That’s the ultimate goal. I knew to get to Cup that I needed to go through the ranks. But Dad and I can’t believe we’ve come this far in a short period of time.”