Wednesday, May 25, 2022
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Interview: Brad Perez’s Wild Three Year Journey From Valet to Race Car Driver Culminates in Truck Series Top-20 Finish

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Brad Perez NASCAR Camping World Truck Series 2022 Reaume Brothers Racing Circuit of the Americas COTA GreenTech Energy
Brad Perez has defied all of the odds in becoming a competitor in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series, and after defying the odds further by finishing top-20 in his series debut, he’s ready to further beat the odds to run more. Worldwide Copyright ©2022 Daylon Barr Photography

Brad Perez is an interesting case study. He’s an upbeat, quick-witted young man, but by watching him work in the NASCAR garage, you’d expect that the 25-year old has been there forever. However, in just a three-year period, Perez, who has seemingly never met an enemy, has gone from being a valet at Margaritaville in his hometown of Hollywood, Florida to being a NASCAR Camping World Truck Series competitor.

As fictional character Ferris Bueller, played by Matthew Broderick, once said, “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”

Perez, who made his NCWTS debut driving the No. 43 GreenTech Energy Toyota Tundra for Reaume Brothers Racing this past weekend at Circuit of the Americas was kind enough to take time out to talk to TobyChristie.com in an exclusive interview about his race weekend.

Heading into the race weekend, drama had already struck for Perez and the RBR team, as their Truck Series hauler was involved in an accident at Atlanta Motor Speedway, where the truck attempted to exit the speedway through a tiny “service” tunnel. The truck was too large for the tunnel, and bad things happened.

The top of the hauler, which was hauling precious cargo — the team’s two NASCAR Camping World Truck Series trucks, was peeled open like a can of sardines. Fortunately, the trucks were unharmed. Unfortunately, a lot of work remained if the team was to get the hauler unloaded and the trucks prepared for COTA.

Perez likened the process of getting things prepared for Circuit of the Americas to a trip through fire and brimstone.

“It was hell week to say the least,” Perez admitted. “Considering we did not have a hauler, the hauler came back to the shop, obviously, it was peeled up and stuff. We had to transfer things from that hauler to the backup hauler, which was for the Cup car. This was the first week of the year, other than Daytona, where [Reaume Brothers Racing] were going to bring two trucks, an Xfinity car and a Cup car all to the racetrack altogether, all while having one hauler.”

Perez credits RBR team owner Josh Reaume for keeping everyone on task to make the seemingly impossible turnaround, possible.

“That in itself was — Josh [Reaume] was running around like a chicken with his head cut off, and I applaud him because he kept his cool, when I would have absolutely went crazy trying to make sure all of that stuff was done right,” Perez said.

After finally getting the No. 43 truck loaded in the wee hours of the night on Wednesday — or was it early hours of the morning on Thursday — Perez said he bolted home to get some quick shut-eye before embarking on the journey to Austin, Texas.

Time For Practice / Qualifying

When the trailer backed into their spot in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series garage and the team was preparing to get the No. 43 on track for practice and qualifying, the nerves set in for Perez.

“Qualifying day, I was so nervous,” Perez recalled. “Like that was probably the most nervous I’ve ever been for any racing related anything that I’ve ever been in. The first time I ever raced in an actual motorsport race in go-karts, I was probably less nervous that time than I was for qualifying at COTA. Because I was like, if we miss the show, that is going to suck. I put a lot of pressure on myself.”

As the team unloaded the truck for practice and qualifying, it was obvious from the get-go that something was wrong with the truck’s setup. People on Twitter, including short track racer Landon Huffman, were speculating that the No. 43 truck didn’t have it’s sway bar connected due to the truck leaning severely in the turns during practice.

While it looked like a severe issue for the No. 43 truck, Perez explains that it was simply the result of team owner Josh Reaume needing to set the truck up by himself on a very tight schedule as the staff at RBR were stretched to the absolute limit.

“I feel like that’s what contributed to the setup being all weird. Josh had to setup the cars himself. And having to do all of that stuff, you can’t get everything perfect. He tried his best. Absolute props to him. Getting all of that done in such a short time, that’s a feat that only the Reaume Brothers could pull off. With this few of employees and a lot of volunteers, that’s tough.”

So, what were the issues with the truck?

“It was a combination of us being bound up a little bit in the front. I think, we obviously got our heights kind of there-ish, but I know we even had to mess with our shock mounts on the setup plates. That, plus the rear being super soft, our platform kind of wasn’t really there. We had recently gotten new A-arms for the truck to see if we could get it right. Even still, it was a big chase. We spent like hours on pulldown and we only did probably like 30 minutes of work, just because of everything we had going on.”

As Perez pulled back toward the staging area for Truck Series qualifying, and his team began to thrash to alleviate the binding issues in the front end, he got a sinking feeling in the pit of his stomach that the dream debut was about to end in a nightmare DNQ.

“Not going to lie. I was not confident,” Perez stated with emphasis. “After I got out of the truck for practice, I was pretty mad, well, I didn’t even get out of the truck. That 10-minute period, I was looking around at guys getting out of the trucks and stuff, I stayed in. I was like, dude, I need to think and marinade in here, you know, it’s kind of hot. I’m just chilling and thinking about what I could do better. We made a couple of adjustments, that were not big swings, but they were like decent at the time.

“In hindsight, I would have done a bigger swing. But at the time, I was like, I don’t know what else we could do to this thing to make it better, or I don’t know what I could do to be better. I definitely just had to think and I was like, I’m going to go hard and that’s all I can do. Try to get a lap in and see what we can do.”

What Perez could muster out of the No. 43 truck in qualifying was the 33rd-fastest qualifying speed. As only the top-31 speeds are locked into the field, it became a nerve-wracking game of math to see where the RBR team shook out in owner points to determine whether or not Perez would make the field.

Fortunately, Perez and the No. 43 team had built enough of a place in the standings that his spot in the field was secure, and he would slot into the 32nd starting spot for the race.

Race Day is Here

As Saturday’s race began, it appeared that the goal for Perez was to survive the potential chaos early, diagnose potential issues with the No. 43 truck and be around to capitalize for a decent finish at the end of the race.

At the mid-way point of Stage 2, Perez was called to pit road so the team could check to make sure the oil lines were fastened properly under the truck. Perez, who was running around 30th to 32nd at the time, was shocked when he heard a strange voice on his team’s radio.

It was FS1’s Michael Waltrip checking in with him on the race broadcast.

Perez, who sounded shocked at the time to be called up on the broadcast, was equally, or even more shocked, days later.

“Hell no [I didn’t expect to be called mid-race]. Not even as a joke. Not even as a prank, did I think that would happen. To the point where when [Waltrip] queued up on the radio, and said that, I kind of looked at Josh because at the time I was jacked up in the truck, Josh was in my peripheral [view] and I kind of looked at him and was like, ‘are you on the button?’ I had to pause and I was like, ‘okay, don’t say anything stupid.’ After a little pause, I was like, ‘Oh, hey Mikey, what’s up?'”

The interview was iconic, and it instantly showcased the side of Perez that has drawn so many in the garage area to become friends with him, to the viewers on FS1.

As the race moved into it’s closing moments is where this story takes a turn. Perez had already beat the odds and made it into the field for his NCWTS debut. Now, it was his time to somehow find a way to score an unexpected good finish.

As the field lined up for the first, of what ended up being two green-white-checkered finishes, Perez felt he was going to be in good shape to score a good finish as chaos began to erupt around every turn.

“The second to last green-white-checkered, I remember going into the esses, I decided to pick the top, because I figured [Zane Smith] was going to want to go,” Perez called back. “So, I got out of the way, and went to the outside, and I figured if somebody spun at the top of the hill, I could just go on the top. If I went on the bottom, I would probably have to stop. Then, I saw Kaz [Grala] spin and going off [course]. I see someone else spin and going off. And I’m like, wow, I just got two spots.

“[I] Go up the top of the hill, I was like, oh there’s two more spots. [Then] Somebody else [was] spinning in front of me. I saw a whole bunch of spins, it looked like a Michael Bay movie.”

But just as it had appeared Perez got the luckiest of restarts and was on his way to a solid finish, the caution came out and the field would be re-racked for another overtime finish attempt.

“After that, when the yellow came out, I was like, ‘Damn!’ Man, this is going to suck,” Perez chuckled.

Whether he was truly ready or not, whether his truck was up to the challenge or not, Perez was ready to summon all of his road racing prowess that he had built up in go-karts, Spec Miata racing and a start last year in the ARCA Menards Series. It was go time.

For Perez’s recollection of the final restart, reference his track map for his unique terminology for turns where things happened.

“[On the] Last restart, I decided, ‘Alright, this is the one, I’m going to be aggressive.’ Took the green and I saw Will [Rodgers] go three wide right in front of me, trying to peek holes in there. And I was like, ‘Oh damn okay, like, if he’s going to be that aggressive, I’ll be that aggressive.’

“Going into the esses, I try to pick a lane and try to sneak my way back. I think I almost got [Tate Fogleman], [I] passed [Dean Thompson] and then going to the last lap, going into the supa-wide hairpin, I went in there and had a run on Will and Spencer Boyd. I was thinking about going three-wide by them, then I was like, nevermind.

“I took a line, I think [Boyd] went wide and shoved Will behind me. Then, I was side-by-side with [Thompson], and Will shoved me past [him]. And then as we were catching Boyd, and going into the ‘Boss Battle’ at the end of the straightaway, I ducked to the inside to pass [Boyd], and Will took me three-wide. So, we were three-wide going into the ‘Boss Battle’ and Will locked up [the brakes]. I crossed Will over.

“Then me and Spencer, I was right behind him, he cleared me. We went into the ‘Disney World line’, the last left of the Disney World line, [Boyd] went a little wider, and I had a little bit of a run and was like, ‘let’s see if I can do it.’ I rolled in there, I was basically rolling the same speed that he was, but my car was so on edge on left turns that it stepped out on me. When I tried to save it, I hit Spencer and spun him. I still feel bad about that.”

When the dust settled on a chaotic finish, Perez had somehow, some way rallied to finish 20th in his Series debut. While the finish was nice, Perez felt guilt for spinning his friend Boyd on the final lap.

Perez explained that Boyd was very upset with the last lap contact and even made a point of it on their way back to the garage area.

“He was mad,” Perez stated. “On the cool down lap, he bumped me. He flipped me off. I get it. You’re mad. I understand. If he had done that to me, I would have been that mad, so I get it.

“After the race, he came up to me and I was like, ‘dude, I am sorry, I claim it.’ He aired his grievances and I [understood]. I like that whole 12 team. I helped put together their Vegas truck. I’m good friends with the Young’s people. I love those guys.”

Following the race, Perez reached out to the crew chief on the No. 12 team, Ryan “Pickle” London to offer to help fix the damage he caused to the No. 12 truck.

“I hit up Pickle, who is the crew chief on the No. 12 and I offered to go into the shop tomorrow,” Perez said. “Hopefully, they welcome me with open arms, but they’ll probably give me shit.”

A Touching Tribute

Another unique wrinkle in Perez’s weekend was the fact that he had a special person riding on the passenger-side name rail of the No. 43 truck — his grandmother Pelegrina Perez, who passed away unexpectedly about a month ago.

“It’s definitely something I definitely thought about the moment that — trying to get this ride kind of was almost derailed by the super tragic passing of my grandmother,” Perez explained. “Flew to the Dominican Republic and went to her funeral. Probably one of the first open-casket funerals I had ever been to and it really hit me hard. I just thought about all of the things that she had done for me. She helped raise me when I was at home and was going to school when my parents were working really hard.

“We, when I was growing up, had a language barrier because I didn’t really speak Spanish growing up, but then I started developing it and started to get to know her more and learn more of her story. I kind of wish I got to hang out with her more, but COVID and me being busy kind of screwed that over. Definitely, it was a good reflection for me to have her riding there. Hard work is why she was able to live the kind of life she was able to live. And sometimes you get lost in that. In remembrance, I felt like it would be proper.”

It was a touching tribute, and Perez took his grandmother for an incredible ride on Saturday.

What’s Next For Brad Perez?

So, where does Perez, whose day job is being the tire technician on the No. 25 Rackley W.A.R. Racing Truck Series team, go from here? Well, if his sponsor for the race — GreenTech Energy — has any say in it, he’ll be doing this more often.

“Rich from GreenTech Energy texted me and he was really happy about how it all came out,” Perez explained. “I’m just glad having the GreenTech folks out there, like Mariano and Blaine the GreenTech Associates and obviously, Rich the CEO. They were there, and they haven’t really gotten to many races. Rich has been a longtime race fan, so them going to COTA and getting to experience it was really cool.”

That being said, where should we expect to see Perez, the man known affectionately as “Bread” run next? And in what series?

“Right now, it’s too early to tell. Funny enough, I’m doing laundry right now. In front of me is a white board of all of the races I want to do,” Perez explained. “First race of the year was ARCA at Daytona, that didn’t happen. Had a couple of things on that board. Then the next board on there, it says COTA Trucks and then — funny enough — I wrote this deck in Daytona — and next to COTA trucks it says, ‘Reaume?’ So, that happened. It’s kind of crazy. Then, it says ‘COTA Xfinity, Reaume?’ Well, Will [Rodgers] did it, so, thanks Will. The next one [on my list] is Portland Xfinity. Maybe we could do Portland. Road America Xfinity has GreenTech next to it, so, hopefully we could do that. That would be pretty cool. Fourth of July weekend at Road America. That’s where I also did my first runoffs, so that would be really cool.”

Perez says it’s all about having the right opportunities coming together at the right time. While he enjoyed his roller coaster weekend with the Reaume Brothers, and he sees them as a solid underdog organization, he is going to keep his options open as he looks at potentially running future NASCAR National Series events.

“…This next opportunity, I have all of my options open. I always try to think logically and see what would be the best fit for me. Sponsorship, obviously, is king, but definitely where you take that money matters,” Perez said.

Advice For Others From Brad Perez

While watching Perez go from a Valet at a beach resort to notching his name as a NASCAR National Series competitor in such a short amount of time has been nothing short of amazing, Perez has advice to anyone looking to be the next Brad Perez — be ready to work your tail off.

“It sounds super cliché to say it, but you just have to put in the work. If you want to do it, you have to think about the how. That how may not be super in your face, but if you poke your head enough, it’ll happen,” Perez explained. “I couldn’t get in front of the GreenTech people if I wasn’t trying to put myself into a race car all the time. And I couldn’t put myself into a race car all the time, because I didn’t have any money. So, what did I do for money? I worked for it.

“I go to the racetrack as much as I can, even if I get paid very little, being there, you never know who you’re going to meet. Just plugging away and putting yourself in front of people. A sponsor can’t find you, if they can’t find you. If you’re not there, how do you expect them to find you? And how do they expect to get anything if you’re not anywhere?”

Perez says that although he seems super outgoing nowadays, he has had to really overcome a lot within his own personality to get where he is right now.

“I’m an introvert, you may not think that, but sometimes I don’t like being around anyone or anything,” Perez admitted. “I’ve had to just eat it a little bit and force myself to be an extrovert a little bit, and I’m not doing it in a way that I’m trying to negate my personality, but I’m trying to be there. And as much as you’re there, sometimes, some way, someone will find you and understand you and they’ll try to help you.”

Brad Perez is living proof. If you want something bad enough, and you are alright with working your tail off for it, no goal is truly out of the realm of possibility.

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Toby Christie
Toby Christiehttps://tobychristie.com
Toby is the Founder, and Editor-in-Chief of TobyChristie.com. Toby is also the co-host of The Final Lap Weekly Podcast. Additionally, he is a NMPA (National Motorsports Press Association) award-winning writer, and has followed the sport as a fan since 1993.

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