In this week’s interview, Speedway Media catches up with former Busch Series Owner Clarence Brewer, quite possibly one of the most underrated owners. He owned a team from 1995 to 2007 and had some of the most notable drivers in the sport for his team through the late 90s and mid-00s. The list of drivers includes Mark and David Green, Casey Atwood, Kevin Grubb, Jamie McMurray, Kevin LePage, Jeff Purvis, Chase Montgomery, Johnny Sauter, Greg Biffle, Jason Keller, Bobby Labonte, Ken Schrader, Scott Wimmer, Ward Burton, and Johnny Sauter to a name few.
During the interview, Brewer talks about how he formed the team Brewer Motorsports, what got him into racing, his successful years, closing up shop, and if he would ever own an Xfinity team again.
SM: Describe where you came from and what you were doing before getting into racing.
CB: “I am from Muhlenberg County Kentucky, home of the Everly Brothers and John Pine, (John has the coronavirus and our prayers are with him),” Brewer said. “I owned a manufacturing company Brewco Collision Repair Systems, which built frame straighteners and paint booths for body shops and I owned a local community bank.”
SM: Talk about getting interested in racing. Were you always interested in racing from the beginning or did it happen by circumstance?
CB: “I will blame getting into racing from Ken Schrader,” he said. “We provided a paint booth to his race team, which in return, Ken came to some of our trade shows and endorsed our products. We announced Ken was coming to one of our Trade Shows and when the doors opened, there were 200 people there to see Ken. I knew at this point, I needed to get a little deeper in the sport.”
SM: Did you have any aspirations of being a racecar driver or did you always want to be an owner?
CB: “My father owned a local dirt track in Muhlenberg County when I was a kid,” he continued. “So I was around racing early. However, the second race in the Busch Series I went to, I was an owner.”
SM: When did you realize you wanted to start a Busch Series team?
CB: “After seeing the popularity of the sport, I knew my company needed to get in as deep as we could afford,” the former Busch Series Owner said. “The Busch Series at the time was the entry level I could best afford. And at the time, there were 50-60 cars showing up, selling out a lot of tracks.”
SM: You started your team 25 years ago in 1995. How did you go about becoming an owner? Talk us through the process.
CB: “There is a lot of racing talent in the Owensboro, Kentucky area,” he said. “I contacted Todd Wilkerson and Mark Green, who were racing late models in Nashville and other areas. So, we set up a meeting. At that point, they talked me into having a car built, buying a motor and putting a mostly volunteer team together.”
SM: Your first driver with the team was Mark Green. How did you persuade him to drive for you?
CB: “Mark was driving a concrete truck for his uncle and racing on the weekends,” Brewer said. “I convinced Mark to quit his job and come on full-time. He was the only employee at the time. We attempted to qualify for four races in 1995 and raced in two. I realized real quick, this was more costly than I anticipated and did not want to fund it all myself. Marketing and sales was my background. So, I spent the winter securing a 10-race deal with Swedish Match’s Timberwolf Brand for the 1996 season. They then signed on for full sponsorship in a three-year deal.
SM: In 1999, you decided to go to two cars, the No. 27 and 37. Why two cars? Was it a risky financial move to go to two cars as a team?
CB: “Nashville, Tennessee is only an hour or so from Kentucky,” Brewer said. “Casey Atwood was performing well at the late model levels. Then, he came to the Busch Series and a ran few races with an underfunded team. We convinced Castrol GTX to sponsor the car and we signed Casey to a two-year deal. Ironically, Casey was 17 and we had to go through the court system to allow a minor to sign a contract.”
SM: You had some success throughout the first couple of years of being an owner. Really though, it was Casey Atwood and Jamie McMurray who finally got you to victory lane as an owner. Casey won twice in 1999 at Milwaukee. Do you remember anything about that day? What was it like finally getting that first win off your back? Then eventually, a second win came later that year. Do you feel as though that second win was validation for your team that “We’re here. We can challenge for wins and Championships?
CB: “Milwaukee started out as a disaster,” he said. “Casey overslept and missed the first practice, the Truck Series raced the day before and we had convinced Jack Sprague to get in the car; he was about Casey’s size. Finally, Casey shows up and leads practice, qualifies well and gives Jeff Green a nudge on the last lap to win the race. Later in the year, Casey held off Randy LaJoie to win Dover. Casey was a natural.”
SM: 2001 came and you got connected with Jamie McMurray, who went on to become one of the biggest stars in the sport. He had three top 10s in 2001 and two wins in 2002, finishing sixth in the standings. Talk about how you got connected with Jamie and the times you guys had with each other at Brewco Motorsports? Do you have any favorite stories about Jamie or favorite memories while he was driving for you?
CB: “Jamie was a young man from Missouri who was showing promise in the Truck Series,” the Kentucky native said. “Casey was leaving to join Ray Evernham’s new Dodge team. So we brought Jamie on board with the Williams Energy Sponsorship. Jamie started out a little slow in 2001 but in 2002 he won two races and was a contender every week. Jamie bought a house in Muhlenberg County and really became part of the community. One day, he came in the shop with a pink crush velvet shirt. I asked where he was going and he said to a party at Danny Byars. Well, I know Danny Byars and his friends. I told Jamie, if you wear that shirt there, you will have big problems. He took my advice and changed shirts. Jamie is the driver who has always seen the big picture, he knew how to treat fans, sponsors and team members. Personality with talent will get you far in this sport.”
SM: Fast forwarding to 2003 with David Green. Three wins, 11 top fives, 21 top-10s and you finished second in points. What made that year so special and what more were you needing to win the championship?
CB: “When Jamie left to drive for Chip Ganassi, we were searching for a driver,” Brewer said. David (Green) had been filling in for Ricky Hendrick and was doing well. We brought him in to fill Jamie’s shoes and he did a wonderful job. We had great team chemistry with Jason Ratcliff as the crew chief and Stewart Cooper as chief mechanic. Our downfall was our engine program. We had three or four engine failures early in the season and GM convinced DEI (Dale Earnhardt Inc.) to build engines for us for the last few races. Too little too late. At Homestead, in the final race, we cut a tire early and went three laps down. We raced our way back to the end of the lead lap and lose by 14 points I think, and this was before the lucky dog to get the laps back.”
SM: After the 2006 season, you still had some solid runs here and there, but eventually those started to become fewer and farther between. Was it starting to get financially tough competing with the bigger teams with better equipment?
CB: “In the earlier years, the Busch cars were very different from the Cup cars,” he said. The engines were very different as well. So, the Cup drivers would come over to the Busch Series, but not too many Cup teams. When NASCAR made the engines and cars very similar, it destroyed the Busch series. Our engine bill went from $300,000 per year to $1.2 million per car. Then, all the Cup teams started fielding teams. We were competing against Roush, Hendrick, Childress, their engine shops, their pit crews, etc. I voiced my concern to NASCAR several times to no avail. That’s when I decided It was time for me to exit.”
SM: Your last season was 2007 at Homestead. How tough was it to close up shop after being successful in your early years?
CB: “Actually we were very lucky,” Brewer said. “Gary Baker, a Nashville businessman and Mike Curb, who owned a music company, purchased the team and moved it to Nashville, TN and kept it going for a few years. Most of the employees went there and continued on.”
SM: Despite those later years, you had 10 wins and finished as high as second in the standings. What are some of your favorite moments as an owner as you reflect back and is it hard to believe that it’s been 25 years ago?
CB: “Meeting great people, having great sponsors, at one point we had Kleenex and Timberwolf who were the longest-running sponsors in the sport,” he said. “I have great memories of some great people and memories of heartbreak. Like Jeff Purvis breaking his neck at Nazareth, PA in a Brewco car and a car running through our pit at one of the early short tracks injuring some of our people.”
SM: If someone came to you today and asked if you were interested in starting up a team, would you be open to owning a team again? Is there anything you would do differently?
CB: “Probably not,” Brewer said. “Once we got the team on its feet, we spent most of our dollars and time on attaining sponsorship and not wasting it at the track. When we made our presentations to sponsors, we proved what we could do for them and not what they could do for us and I think this would still work. And as I said earlier, if the NASCAR model changes”.
SM: I am sure you are aware of the virus that is going on. If something like this had occurred when you were owning a team, how do you think it would have affected you financially as a team owner?
CB: “I am sure it would be very difficult,” the Kentucky native said. “However, I would go to the sponsor and tell them to lower their payments, to only cover payroll, to keep the people in place until we could crank the cars back up. I’m betting this is what’s happening in the sport now.”
SM: Wrapping up. What does a day in a life look like for you in 2020? Do you miss racing at all?
CB: “I live in Florida nine months of the year and Kentucky the rest (of the year),” the former Busch Series Owner said. “I sold my bank in 2019. So, this is the first time in my life I’m unemployed. I recently told my wife, I can’t golf every day. Instead, I’m developing homes in Miramar Beach, Florida. I can hardly watch the Busch races anymore. Only three-four drivers have a chance to win. I do watch some of the truck races because Johnny Sauter drove for us and I’m a Johnny fan. I tape all the Cup races and watch mostly the last 100 laps.”
During Brewer’s career, he earned 10 Busch Series wins with drivers like Casey Atwood, Jeff Purvis, Jamie McMurray, David Green, and Greg Biffle. In addition to those wins, he also achieved 64 top fives and 161 top-10 finishes along with 11 pole positions and 1,773 laps led. Brewer’s best points finish came in 2003 with David Green, as they earned three wins, 11 top fives and 21 top-10 finishes. The Kentucky native was also inducted into the Kentucky Motorsports Hall of Fame in 2017.