He’s the grandson of a legend. He’s determined like everyone else. However, this man believed he had hung up his helmet for the final time. Now, this man is back in NASCAR thanks to a second chance that he never believed he had coming.
Chase Pistone, 30, might be older than the other Rookie of the Year competitors in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series, but that hasn’t slowed him down. Entering 2014, Pistone had not raced competitively in a racecar since November 2007 in what was previously known as the Hooters Pro Cup Series (now the X-1R Pro Cup Series). Then, in late February, the life which he has known for nearly a decade took quite the detour.
“It is kind of odd. I got this call about two weeks before our first race. Dwayne Gaulding, who crew chiefed and took Gray (Gaulding) racing in the legend car stuff, I have had a relationship with for quite some time. I found out he was over there and he put a deal together for me quick. We had two weeks, and we tested I think a week before Martinsville. I didn’t know until late February that it would be possible. It was a rush deal, but I think we have made the most of it for sure,” Pistone said via a telephone interview.
In March, NTS Motorsports announced that Pistone will be racing 14 of the 22 events in the Camping World Truck Series. Prior to entering a Chevrolet Silverado for NTS, Pistone had just one Truck Series start under his belt, and that one track was Martinsville – his first scheduled event of the season. Moreover, his journey to get this ride was rather unorthodox.
During his time away from NASCAR competition, Pistone gave up his dream. Instead, he was helping others accomplish their dreams. He opened up Chase Pistone Incorporated – a company designated to help people race in Legends Cars, Super Late Models and other developmental divisions. With Pistone’s help, Gaulding , 16, began to get noticed by then NASCAR team owner, Kevin Harvick. As he now attempts to chase his dream for the second time, Pistone has taken the back seat to the business which he built from the ground-up.
“It is hard. I have my brother over here – trying to help me with the legend car stuff. I have a good group of guys that goes (to the races) with my customers on the weekends. All of my customers understand that my business has kind of taken a backseat,” he said about dealing with his business and racing. “So far, we are still having a lot of success with the late model races and the legends. If I can make it work and hire the right people, I am definitely not going to let it interfere with the driving side. My sponsors have done a lot for me, and I am grateful for that. “
So far, the transition back into a racecar has gone well for the North Carolina native. In his first two starts in the Truck Series, Pistone finished 13th and ninth, respectively. At Gateway, he was quickest in one of the practice sessions, and his ninth-place finish was good enough to be given the Sunoco Rookie of the Race crown.
Preceding the race at Gateway, Pistone also had the opportunity to jump back into a Nationwide Series car for the first time since his lone start in the division during 2006 – a year in which he also earned his lone ARCA Series top-10 finish. Turner Scott Motorsports had an opening when Kyle Larson could not run the race at Iowa Speedway due to a conflict with his Sprint Cup Series schedule. Dylan Kwasniewski, the regular driver of the No. 31 Chevrolet, moved over to the No. 42 – handing Pistone one of the best opportunities he has ever had in a racecar.
“I think it was a good opportunity to run Iowa because the No. 31 became available because the driver that drives the No. 42 (Kyle Larson) is at a non-companion weekend. There are no Cup Series drivers. It’s good for me because it gives me a chance at winning and running well, but I don’t mind when the Cup Series drivers are in there because it gives you an opportunity to learn for sure,” he said.
“The trucks were off for so long that I wanted to be in something. I had spoken with them about racing trucks earlier in the year. I was pleased with that organization and likewise, I think they were with me also. Anytime I can get in the seat after being out of the seat for so long, it helps me.”
After running inside of the top-15 for the majority of the 250 lap spectacle at Iowa, Pistone might have some additional opportunities with Turner Scott Motorsports as well. Larson will be out of the No. 42 Chevrolet five times this season – leaving Kwasniewski behind the wheel. Pistone said that he believes he is going to be racing for the team once again at Iowa (August) and Kentucky (September).
However, he has also begun to figure out his plans for next season. After being on a seven year hiatus from NASCAR racing, Pistone had two kids, and now he is able to share his passion with them. Unfortunately, achieving his dream has also made him spend less time with his children – something he hopes to change if he can get a full-time deal in 2015.
“Hopefully, once I figure out what I am going to do next year, I can start bringing them to the track with me. While I’m splitting time in my life between racing and my business, that side of my life has kind of been neglected. It is good and bad. It is good for me because I have a lot of pride in it and they get to watch it on TV and stuff like that. But again – it just takes me out of their life a little bit,” he said.
That opportunity might just come. He believes that he will be racing in either the Nationwide Series or Camping World Truck Series next year. If he races the Nationwide Series, it likely won’t be the entire schedule. However, if he were to race in the Truck Series, he would be racing the full season – enabling him to contend for a championship.
Until he got the official word from Gaulding, Vice President of Operations for NTS Motorsports, Pistone was content with the lifestyle he had created. Now, he has a second chance at becoming what he had always dreamed of.
“I haven’t raced anything competitively since 2007. I had already done that in my mind. It was a tough decision when I got this opportunity. I had to make sure everything made sense that I could make a living doing this. I don’t know if I deserved to, but he had to make it that way so I could focus on the racing side of things because it takes me away from the business.”
As he continues to adjust to the competition and long races, Pistone understands he needs to improve his physical fitness. Entering this second opportunity, he was worried that he didn’t have enough stamina to contend well late in races. However, with perseverance, he has been able to prove himself wrong.
“It has been a lot easier than I thought it was going to be. I wasn’t planning on racing again. I wasn’t in bad shape by any means, but that was the biggest thing. We haven’t raced when it is 100 degrees either, but every race has been a learning experience for sure. On the physical side – that was the one thing I was worried about, but everything has been fine so far,” he said about his physical condition.
Moving forward, Pistone wants to show his children what their father’s true passion is like. Although he seldom works with his grandfather, legendary racer, “Tiger” Tom Pistone, he wants to bring the once synonymous name back into NASCAR, and for a long time.
“I have had a lot of support to get our name back into racing. There are people that like it and people that hate it. At this time, I hope that I can bring it back in a positive way. I think so far, we are doing a good job – kind of flying under the radar and not causing any issues, just getting valuable seat time and learning.”
Brennan Newberry started chasing his dream at seven-years-old. Newberry hails from Bakersfield, California – the same city which the Mears family materialized along with NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver, Kevin Harvick.
Newberry, 24, is racing for his father’s organization in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series and K&N Pro Series East. The California kid is extremely likeable. His positive attitude combined with his drive to succeed has created a young man that wants to win. But luck has never quite been on his side.
“The best way to explain my season thus far in the K&N Pro Series and the Truck Series would be – we have speed everywhere we go. We are always fast,” Newberry said in a 35-minute interview with Speedway Digest on Monday.
“We know we have the speed, we just unfortunately – we have had not really any mechanical (problems), but it has been the wrong place at the wrong time. We had some really good runs taken from us and had some tough luck just like any race team. There are just small things that we are working on. I guess the best way to describe it is tough luck. We have the speed. We have the equipment. We have the team to go and perform well. Just putting it all together has been our weak point.”
The 24-year-old has developed a reputation which no driver wants. A reputation that every driver fears will come their way. But sporadically making 10 Camping World Truck Series starts in 2012, Newberry attempted to tame NASCAR’s third-tier division on a full-time basis in 2013. Besides winning the pole at Daytona to start out the season, his luck dwindled along with the team’s results. In 2013, he was involved in more than six accidents which brought on a change at NTS Motorsports this season.
His father partnered with Dwayne Gaulding, Gray Gaulding’s father. Since then, the team has moved into the now defunct shop which was utilized by Kevin Harvick Incorporated. The shop is approximately 70,000 square feet in size, providing an adequate-sized facility for the organization which also partnered with Joe Denette prior to the 2013 season.
“I guess when it comes down to it – we were coming from a brand new shop," Newberry explained. "We started in a small shop in Denver, North Carolina, which is where I ran my first part-time season in the Camping World Truck Series. When we moved into a bigger shop, that was the old Kevin Harvick Incorporated building, we put a whole new team together. I had Eddie Pardue as my crew chief. We were working with a whole bunch of new people. Whenever you can’t build the relationships you are trying to build, it takes a little bit of time. We were doing what was correct here and there, but it was a lot of research and a lot of building – just like what we are doing this year."
"We were running decent at Kentucky (drive shaft issue) and we actually had a lot of mechanical issues in 2013. We had problems with our transmissions, with our bell housing and we were trying to fix it every week. We found out ways to make it better. We always did our best to find the problems and find the solutions and really make our trucks better. That’s really how my truck seasons have been over the last three years. We always have the speed, and if we didn’t have the speed – we would keep working on it to make it better and get ourselves into a position where we can compete, but we haven’t been able to do so because like I said – the wrong place at the wrong time.”
In the midst of adversity with criticism and even a lack of confidence at times, Newberry and the entire NTS Motorsports crew have persevered. This year, they have teamed up to run Newberry in 12 CWTS events with Gaulding running 10. The rest of the races have gone to John King, Chase Pistone or former NASCAR Camping World Truck Series winners, Austin Dillon and Justin Lofton. Having the use of drivers with experience has made a great difference in the team’s results this year.
Through seven races, NTS Motorsports has two top-fives and five top-10s – including a runner-up finish by Lofton at Texas. Gaulding is still adjusting to the Truck Series, but sits third in the K&N Pro Series East standings in the team’s second full-time car in that division.
“It makes you not want to have confidence at what you’re doing, but I know that with NTS Motorsports and the entire team that we put together since I started racing go-karts since I was nine and late models since I was eight," Newberry said. "We’ve built this thing from the ground up, and we continue to make our vehicles better and we get better each week at the race track. Every time we show up somewhere, we get better. That’s really what we do. We persevere. We make our trucks get better. I get better. Our team gets better every time we go out on the race track."
“I feel like Chevrolet has put a lot into it, NTS Motorsports and all of the other Chevrolet teams have been involved in making our program better. I think we are just going to continue to grow and get better. The fact that I have been to places before and I have my teammate, Gray Gaulding, he’s been running well. He is really fast and really hungry. I need to break down the trucks to – what do I need to feel?”
But a lot has gone on in Newberry’s young career since he graduated from Bakersfield College with an Associate’s Degree in Business Administration.
Facing Criticism, but Gaining Confidence
A lot of people have written off Newberry because of his 22.5 average finish last season. However, there is plenty of hope for him.
“I feel like we just need to improve on luck (he laughed),” he told us. "The saying that I have been using is: you can work your butt off, but you can never buy luck. And that is true. I just feel like our trucks are improving. I feel like Chevrolet is improving and making changes and trying to do the right things as we go onto face the Toyota trucks, or even beating the other Chevrolet teams in the K&N Series. They have been a (very) big help to us."
With wrecks and mechanical failures occurring nearly on a weekly basis, it has been a rough journey for Newberry. Entering this season, the team had hopes of winning the K&N Pro Series East title with him, but those hopes are slowly diminishing with just two top-10s in nine races. That doesn’t hurt him, however, on the emotional side at least.
“How you deal with that takes a very strong mind," Newberry said on how he deals with criticism. "There are two different ways to look at it – you can criticize yourself. To me, criticism is a negative work. Criticism means that you are putting a lot of pressure on yourself, you are pointing fingers and you are going at it the wrong way. If you critic yourself and you say: okay, what did I do wrong? How can I make it better? You look at it at a whole different approach."
“People come up to me and call me bad names or say I messed up or man, you aren’t that good. You have negative people in anything. It doesn’t matter if it’s your job, or a sport or whatever. Unfortunately, you have to deal with negative people every day. You have to deal with negative people from the media, from other crews and more. But it takes a very strong-minded person and a lot of will power to say: okay, this person said this about me, I have to let it go. If it’s not possible to, don’t let it get out of my mind. If I didn’t do well here, I have to go back and critic myself. Maybe they’re right. Maybe I did this or maybe I did that. That’s the way of turning a negative into a positive. You take criticism and you turn it into where you are eventually critiquing yourself. You are trying to make yourself better, and there are negatives, but you can definitely make it a positive.”
That is what keeps the 24-year-old going, and it is working. In a handful of starts in the Truck Series this year, Newberry has been relatively fast each week. Well, that’s until the bad luck comes his way. At Daytona, Kansas and Dover, he was running near or inside the top-10 when he got into someone else’s mess. It wasn’t his fault, but the statistics don’t show that. That’s when people start judging his ability.
In an article published in Athlon Sports on Tuesday, Newberry was labeled as the “most frequent crasher in Trucks and the K&N East.” Although the numbers cannot lie, it is all a part of the learning process.
The same has occurred in the K&N Pro Series East. Take it or leave it – some of the incidents were of his own doing, and he knows it. No one needs to remind him of that. But the driver of the Qore24 machine has run inside of the top-five when everything goes his way.
Saying Goodbye to Racing Full-time in the Truck Series in 2014
Usually, when a baseball player makes it up to Triple-A, he doesn’t expect to get demoted. In racing, it doesn’t matter where you are developing your skills until you are racing with the best competitors in whatever division you are in.
Newberry was not competing for top-10s in the Truck Series. This year, he took a step back. That step back was a tough one, but a wise one. Now, he’s racing full-time with drivers a lot younger than him, including his teammate. However, the competition is just as strong in that division, and that is what he believes will help him moving forward.
“The toughest part is telling myself that I’m going to be getting into a truck in a couple of weeks. The toughest thing is that I want to be in a truck now. We took a step back and really thought about what would make our program better. We had an opportunity to bring Justin Lofton in and Austin Dillon to make our program better because they are winners in the Truck Series, and we felt that putting people in that are on our side are going to help us improve our program so that every time I get in the truck or Gray gets in it, we do better. There was a conflict where we weren’t going to be able to do any races.”
At one point, Newberry was unsure whether or not he would even be able to run in the Truck Series on a full-time basis. Gaulding can’t do so until 2016, but due to sponsorship coming into play – both drivers have been able to run full-time schedules in the East Series along with a few races in the Truck Series.
“That is our goal – to race more. I feel like we are taking every opportunity to get on the track more and get more experience. I feel like I have more of an opportunity in the vehicles I get in. We always want more. You want to be in the seat all of the time and you want to be at every single race. Sometimes, logistics and the human body don’t allow you do that. The hardest part is just staying patient and telling myself that I will be in a truck again soon. I will be out there running fast. Shoot, it doesn’t matter if I’ve been out for a month or a weekend – my goal is still the same.”
Having the chance to race with Dillon and Lofton has been immense for Newberry. It gives the team more opinions. Moreover, it also gives them confidence. When he sees them running up front, it enables him to understand that the equipment is capable of doing so.
Working with Multiple Crew Chiefs
There has been a constant over the years with Newberry, he seldom swaps crew chiefs. Entering this year, he had only worked with two crew chiefs in Truck Series competition for NTS Motorsports –Dan Deeringhoff and Eddie Pardue. Deeringhoff won the 2008 Nationwide Series title with Clint Bowyer while working for Richard Childress Racing. Meanwhile, Pardue was an experienced Nationwide Series crew chief – mainly with Roush-Fenway Racing and Turner-Scott Motorsports.
Now, Newberry is working with multiple crew chiefs. The team has swapped him back and forth between the No. 9 and No. 24 truck this season. But the most difficult part about racing in both divisions has been getting to know the men above the pit box.
NTS Motorsports has put him to work with John Monsam in the K&N Pro Series East. He won the 2002 Truck Series championship with Mike Bliss, and he has a total of eight wins in the Truck Series while sitting on the pit box 213 times over the course of 12 seasons. But in the Truck Series, Newberry has worked with three different crew chiefs in four races – Gere Kennon (1983 and 1984 champion in the Nationwide Series), Doug Howe and Ryan McKinney. The team appears to be leaning on McKinney to lead Newberry for the immediate future, and he is perfectly fine with that.
“Well, we have a lot of communication," Newberry said on McKinney. "There is a lot that goes into learning how each one speaks and thinks. Having a game plan going into the race is a big deal. I try to sit down with Ryan and John every week – whether it is my next truck race or K&N race. Ryan and I are already trying to figure out how to get better, and I actually had the chance to work with Ryan at the ARCA Series races that I ran. I ran at Pocono, Daytona and Talladega, so that was very helpful for me to work with Ryan there. That’s been translating over to the trucks this year. He and I already had a common ground because he already knew what I liked and I knew how he called races. That was a really big help in the trucks."
“But then starting out with John (in the K&N Pro Series East), I feel like he is a very good person and he works hard to teach me what he is thinking or what he wants to do. We are just constantly working. It is really easy to get along with John and work with different crew chiefs. I have had three different crew chiefs since the start of my Truck Series career until now. That is just a part of the game – to communicate with whoever is put with you. We feel like we are one team, one dream. I wouldn’t be upset if we changed little things here and there because everyone works together anyways. When I walk into the shop, it isn’t the No. 20 crew, the No. 24 crew or the No. 9 crew, everyone is under the NTS banner and we are able to work well together. We all have the same common goal to go out there and compete together. It is easy for us to try to make our team better. We all have a common goal and that is to go out there and win races.”
Creating that relationship with one crew chief is difficult enough. Now, he is working with several different men – each of which has extensive experience in NASCAR. What can he do to speed up the learning process then? Well, he is absorbing all that he can. The entire NTS Motorsports organization is like a giant family he said. It doesn’t matter what car or truck he is driving, everyone is helping each other out, and that is how they have begun to find speed on the race track.
In mid-May, NASCAR announced the NASCAR With Dad program. The program enabled fans to share their best moments that were NASCAR-related which they had with their father. This is right down the road which the Newberry’s have gone done.
It all started when his father helped him race go-karts as a young lad. Ever since, Newberry and his father, Bob, have grown a hobby into a way of life. Although his father isn’t at the shop due to working on his day-to-day business, he still participates in the daily activities which it takes to run a NASCAR operation.
“He gets to come to the shop every now and then and see the program that we have made. But right now, we have put everything into the hands of Dwayne Gaulding. He is our competition director and I feel like he is making the calls that he needs to make. He is making our team better and stronger and more competitive. My dad and he talk on a daily basis about their ideas and about what needs to be done. He might not been involved everyday in the shop, but he is involved in talking to Dwayne and creating the direction that we want to go and how we want to make our teams better and stronger,” Newberry said on how his father creates a winning environment.
“We have to kind of separate it (being father and son)," he continued. "Sometimes it is best not to bring business home because it will make things stressful, and I think any business is stressful when it comes to people having different worries. It is something we are very involved in and have a lot of passion for. I think we do really well. My dad and I enjoy each other’s company. We can still go fish together and have as much fun as we did when we were late model racing when I was younger. I feel like things haven’t changed much. We’ve taken our passion and drive for racing and we’ve moved it to a bigger operation.”
However, since he races for his father, Newberry is receiving the same negative attention that Paul Menard and John Wes Townley have experienced. Each of these drivers has one thing in common – they have all raced at the highest ranks in stock car racing due to their father’s wallets. Some may argue that these drivers don’t deserve to be racing at any of NASCAR’s top-three divisions. Others believe that they are taking up a seat that can be used be a “more talented” driver. However, there is nothing wrong with having your family help you get your career started, or helping a driver throughout their entire career such as the Menard family.
“I guess that the best way for me to describe it is – racing is something that my dad and I always did," said Newberry on his relationship with his father. "It’s something we put a lot of heart into. I feel like we both put in our time. We put in our man hours, all of our heart and soul and we do the best that we can. I don’t know any driver that has been able to make it without being with their family first or having that financial backing."
“The business is up and down with Dale (Earnhardt) Jr. and his dad, or Paul Menard and his dad. You always need that financial support, but for me – you need that family support. You need that environment. I have been fortunate to race with my father over the years. We have discussed that if I do go race for another team, the relationship won’t change. He’ll support me and put his heart and soul into it. Fortunately, we are where we can both put our heart and soul into NTS Motorsports which has been a family-run team since we started it.”
It might be difficult to ignore all of the naysayers which he has to deal with. However, Newberry believes it helps him. With his positive attitude, he is able to take advantage of criticism and turn it into positive feedback.
Working on the Future
The results might not be present at the moment. However, Newberry and NTS Motorsports are on their way to working on plans for next year.
Gaulding will run a similar schedule to what he will run this year – a mixture of the Truck Series on a part-time basis with a full slate in the K&N Pro Series East. Newberry’s plans are still up in the air. But he has time to figure them out.
Sponsorship is going to be the key part to deeming what division Newberry will run, along with how many events he will be entered in. No matter what the scenario will be, he knows that NTS Motorsports will be able to field him in a vehicle in 2015.
“I do know that I have the opportunity to run in the Truck Series, the K&N Pro Series or any division that NTS Motorsports decides to put me in. We all do what is best for the company. We will do what is best for our drivers moving forward and make our whole team look good. We have been (working) really hard to make our trucks and cars have the ability to compete well. We haven’t been able to sit down and discuss what we’re going to do moving forward. I do know that NTS Motorsports will have K&N cars and trucks. Whatever we do decide, we will go out there with the same heart and goal and team.”
As Newberry continues to show people he is a talented racer, the journey towards the top of the stock car ranks will only grow. It is a long journey, but at the end – it is all about chasing a dream that not many have the chance to chase. That is what Newberry is grateful for.