Count Kansas City Chiefs General Manager Brett Veach among the legions of NASCAR fans. The Pennsylvania native didn’t grow up a race fan, but can now be found at Kansas Speedway during the spring race weekend when his schedule permits.
“My older brother got me into NASCAR back when I was in college,” said Veach. “… He used to always attend local races at Pocono and Dover. I wasn’t a big fan, but my older brother was. He used to go to races all the time. Finally, one summer I had a free weekend off and decided to go with him because I had nothing else to do. I saw one race live and I’ve been hooked ever since.”
And as race fans know, you have to have a favorite driver or two.
“Growing up, I was a big Hendrick Motorsports fan, so Jimmie Johnson, Jeff Gordon and Kyle Busch. Since moving to Kansas City, I’ve obviously adopted Clint Bowyer as my driver now. And as a fan of all sports, I can always appreciate a special and unique talent, so it’s always fun to watch Kyle Busch in whatever he is driving to go out there and display his talents behind the wheel.”
Fans also know that Bowyer is a huge fan of the Chiefs and shows his support around the race tracks by wearing Kansas City gear, along with his son Cash.
“When you move here, you start attending races at Kansas Speedway,” said Veach. “And you find out quickly that Clint is the hometown hero. He’s from Kansas and then to find out he is also a big Chiefs fan so the combination of wanting to pull for a local driver, who also is a Chiefs fan is an easy connection – an easy mutual interest and support of each other.”
And to prove how big a fan Bowyer is of his hometown Chiefs, last season he had the opportunity to take part in tradition of honor by “banging the drum” prior to the start of a game.
“I thought it was excellent,” Veach said. “We’re undefeated with him banging the drum. Our Sunday night game against the Bengals got moved and he was excited because they had a race that day (at Kansas Speedway). I had a chance to talk to him before the Cincinnati game, which was held after the race and we won that game. I thought he did a great job banging the drum before the Baltimore game (later in the season), so I do know last year we were 2-0 in the games that I saw Clint. I look forward to him doing it again.”
And the mutual respect runs the other way too.
“I have really enjoyed getting to know Brett,” said Bowyer. “I was really amazed, as big of a deal as he is in the NFL and that sport, how big of a race fan he is. I mean, he knew everything — stats, drivers, literally everything. He was very, very in-tune with what’s going on, and anyway he’s a stat guy in the NFL, so it’s no surprise that he was definitely on his game as far as our sport goes, so we’ve been staying in touch. I’ve had him out to the track a couple of times and I’ve gone to Chiefs games even getting to bang the drum. They are definitely a great bunch of guys over there.”
The connection between NASCAR racing and football runs fairly deep as several former football players, including Kansas City native TJ Semke, who works for Hendrick Motorsports as the Jackman for Chase Elliott and played football at the University of Kansas, are members of pit crews throughout racing.
When asked about what traits transition from football to a NASCAR pit crew, Veach, who spends a lot of time in his day job evaluating talent, pointed out several characteristics that fans should see.
“Agility, size and strength for those guys to get in and out of the pit boxes, move machinery and tires around and to move that quickly and efficiently.”
And what are his thoughts on Bowyer as a possible NFL prospect?
“He’s been in a lot of tussles…, so even though he’s undersized, I think he’d be good at linebacker because he likes to talk a lot of trash and likes to mix it up.”
And as far as current Chiefs players who might make good pit crew members?
“Certainly (fullback) Anthony Sherman because he’s one of the biggest NASCAR fans on the team. Not only is he a fan, but he’s built exactly how you’d want a pit crew member. I think Sherman would lead the crew and you would tag along a bunch of the offensive lineman. I think (tackle) Eric Fisher is a guy that’s also a car guy that would make a lot of sense. I think Sherman and Fisher would take the lead there.”
Typically during Kansas Speedway’s spring race weekends, several Chiefs players can be seen up and down pit road taking in the race and the entire experience of a Kansas Speedway race weekend. As for Veach, he’s had the opportunity to join a group of military veterans as the Grand Marshal, see a couple of his players serve as the honorary pace car driver and watch the race as a fan.
“I think during my time at Kansas Speedway, and the hospitality they’ve shown and having the opportunity to take part in the driver’s meeting and the pre-race, and getting to see all the action behind the scenes (has been some of the memorable moments I’ve experienced),” said Veach. “All the access that Kansas Speedway has allowed me has been the most memorable.”
As far as where he likes to watch the race from, it’s pretty much a no-brainer.
“I don’t think there is a bad seat in the house (at Kansas Speedway). It’s a great facility. But, ever since Clint invited me to sit on the pit box, it’s kind of one of those deals that once you experience the pit box, it’s hard to experience the race from anywhere else.”
And with the Chiefs playing Thursday (Oct. 17) night of race week, don’t be surprised if Veach takes a little break from football to catch the Hollywood Casino 400 at Kansas Speedway.