Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Keith Bumgarner feature



(NOTE: This story appeared in the Hickory Daily Record in 2012.)
Winning driver races when he can

By Tom Gillispie

Keith Bumgarner has made the most of his starts and finishes.
Bumgarner’s Late Model win last Saturday was his fifth in nine starts at Hickory Motor Speedway. He has eight top-five finishes.
“The first part of the year, we were waiting on a motor; it wasn't ready,” Bumgarner said. “We don't have the money, the sponsors, to run every week.”
With only nine starts, Bumgarner is 114th in NASCAR’s national Division I driver standings. Another HMS competitor, Kyle Moon, is one spot (and one point) ahead of him with 14 starts.
Bumgarner, 33, says he doesn’t have a racing budget.
“We’ve done a lot with a little,” he said. “Whatever we win, it takes every bit of it to go back and race. We’re doing it for fun, and so far we’ve been able to do that.”
Why all the wins?
“This year's been good,” Bumgarner said. “A lot of it's been being lucky and being blessed. I guess we’ve been very fortunate, and we’ve been working hard.”
Of the five victories, “I’d say they've all been pretty good,” he added. “You don't know which one will be the last, so you treat each one like it’s the first one.”
He says he got the racing bug from his dad.
“Our dad was racing when we were small,” he said, “but he passed away before we even got started racing.”
Bumgarner, a 1997 graduate of St. Stephens High School, says he and his brother Kevin started out racing go-karts, and Kevin raced at HMS a bit in the 1990s. Now, Kevin helps on Bumgarner’s car, along with car owner Ed Rosamond, cousin Wayne Williams and friend Tommy Taylor.
“Without them, I couldn't go racing,” Bumgarner added. “It’s a group effort to get to the racetrack.”
Bumgarner says he once might have wished that he could drive for a NASCAR Cup team, and, indeed, he now works for one. He says he’s a chassis man for Front Row Motorsports, which fields Cup Fords for David Ragan and David Gilliland. That team is based in Statesville in the buildings once occupied by former Cup owner Travis Carter.
Because Bumgarner hasn’t been a steady Late Model competitor, he probably doesn’t know all of the competitors.
“I wouldn't say that I’ve got any friends at the racetrack,” he said. “I go to the track to race; I don't go to socialize.”
That’s not totally true. Wife Wendy and children Michael, 9, and Alyssa, 5, usually are at the track. Michael sometimes joins Bumgarner in the pits, and Keith says Michael has already started racing go-karts.
Bumgarner says it’s been strange running this year, since he thinks Ashley Huffman is the only Late Model driver he’s raced against much in the past.
He says that some of the younger Late Model drivers sometimes race beyond their experience. “They don’t care if they tear up equipment,” he said. “Sometimes I don’t know who I can or can’t race against.”
But he quickly adds that 18-year-old Austin McDaniel, the Late Model points leader, isn’t one of those drivers.
“He's pretty good, especially for his age,” Bumgarner said. “Me and him's battled back and forth. He’s one driver I can run side by side with and we never touch each other and have a good race. He probably wants to win as bad as anybody, but he knows his limits. He’s not going to drive over his head and tear stuff up.”
As for Bumgarner being a patient driver, “Yeah, I would say that I’m very patient,” he said. “A lot of that comes from having to fix the car yourself, although I’ve got people to help me.”
He says his upcoming schedule is pretty sparse.
“This weekend, they’ll have a 100-lap (Late Model) race, and I’ll try to run,” he said. “Then, it’ll probably be two or three weeks before we try to race again.
“After that, we’ll see what happens and try to have a good time.”

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