This weekend, Brent Sherman will do the unthinkable. He’ll return to NASCAR National Series competition for the first time in nearly a decade-and-a-half as he slides behind the wheel of the No. 28 RSS Racing machine for the NASCAR Xfinity Series The Loop 121 at the Chicago Street Course.
Where has Sherman been since his last start? The Illinois native has kept himself occupied with raising two children, his 17-year-old son Cooper and 15-year-old daughter Madison, and he has begun growing his own small business, a laundromat named I Wash Laundry Service.
Sherman is a hands-on owner, and will actually be completing laundry order deliveries personally the day before the NASCAR Xfinity Series race that he is set to compete in this weekend.
Sherman, who last competed in NASCAR in the 2009 NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series event at Chicagoland Speedway — a race he finished 16th in — is looking forward to the challenge and says he had originally planned to attend the race as a fan before the opportunity with RSS Racing surfaced.
“I had purchased tickets to go watch the race and then next thing you know, I you know I didn’t want to be watching,” Sherman laughed. “Of course, it’s not fun when you’re a race car driver to watch racing — I mean it is, but obviously way different than being involved.
“A month ago I was going to be in the stands and now I’m going to be running [the race]. I started working out and training and you know I’ve tried to stay in shape. I’ve always wanted to get back in the car.”
Sherman points back to a one-off ARCA Menards Series start back in 2016 as proof that he’s been trying to find his way back into a race car. Sherman says while returning to the track has always been on his mind, the state of NASCAR and its current youth movement has made things very difficult for seasoned veterans like himself to make a comeback.
Sherman believes the fact that he was able to come back cold turkey and finish ninth in that ARCA race at Chicago back in 2016, which featured a star-studded field of current NASCAR Cup Series talent including Christopher Bell, Chase Briscoe, and Austin Cindric signals that he will be able to acclimate himself well this weekend.
“That’s kind of what I’m comparing it to really,” Sherman admitted. “I mean I know I barely got out-qualified by Austin Cindric, who obviously has done some great things, and he was in a Penske car. You know, those are the only comparisons I can make really is when I’ve raced with these guys the last time, but that’s what another six years ago. But you know, and it had been, I think 9 years since I had been in a car for that race. Yeah, I mean I don’t know. I trust myself I feel like. I have my veteran experience, I guess that just kind of takes over.”
The now 49-year-old racer says the opportunity to run the race actually came from a perfectly timed post on his personal Facebook account.
“It was pretty random. I Was posting some photos of my kids on Facebook and somebody liked it that is in the racing industry. I still have a lot of racing friends in the industry and I Just happened to mention, ‘Hey, any availability for Chicago? I’m looking to try to get back in the car,'” Sherman recalled in an interview with TobyChristie.com. “[Turns out] it was a marketing guy for RSS [Racing] and they said, ‘funny enough, Kyle [Sieg] decided he didn’t want to race the road courses. We may have a seat available.’
“So I said, ‘Hey, what is it going to take? Let’s do this. And yeah, they’ve been great. They were all for it and went out and tried to find some sponsors, been looking for some local sponsorship and we were able to put a deal together.”
While the deal for Sherman to run this event for RSS Racing raised some eyebrows, and most likely caused younger fans to light up Google in an effort to figure out who Sherman is; Sherman will be one of the few drivers in the field on Saturday with previous experience on a street course.
Sherman spent the 2008 season running in the Indy Lights division, and he competed in two events at the St. Petersburg Street Course that season.
The racer, who was a journeyman in the NASCAR ranks, feels this ride with RSS Racing is one of the best opportunities he’s ever had in his stock car racing career.
“In my racing career, I was never really with a top team. I got a late start at 24 [years old], so I was always trying to move on to different series and move up the ladder as quickly as possible, which never allowed for a long-term relationship with a top team. I always felt like I was in over my head and never could really showcase my talents,” Sherman explained. “I feel like this is a good, solid team. They’re established in the series. We’ve got a good motor for the race, a Roush-Yates motor. Kyle, I think, normally runs an in-house motor. I feel like I’m going to be given a good opportunity to where I’m not blaming the equipment. Basically, it’s on me.”
While NASCAR no longer allows testing, aside from Goodyear tire tests, like in Sherman’s original run in the sport, the driver is set to prepare for the race by utilizing a sim rig from Chicago Race Sim — something he’s never done in the past.
He’ll also borrow a Ford Mustang from his sponsor HawkAuto.com, and he hopes to log a few laps around the course in that car to get acclimated to the layout as well.
Sherman is excited to get on track, and he hopes that if all goes well, he’ll garner some attention for additional starts with RSS Racing, or other teams in the NASCAR Xfinity Series.
However, Sherman feels fortunate to be approved to run this race. As he was getting the details together with RSS Racing, there was some concern that his 14-year layoff in the NASCAR National Series would serve as a red flag for Brett Bodine and the NASCAR license approval team.
“Yeah, there was definitely a concern. I just didn’t know,” Sherman explained.
As it stands, Sherman says he is only approved for road course events in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series and NASCAR Xfinity Series, and he says a combination of his road racing background, and his decision to run that ARCA race in 2016 more than likely tipped the scales in his favor when it came to his license being approved.
“Brett Bodine, you know, he took a look at my past career, my road course experience. But it was definitely a question that I had. I think the layoff going back to the nine years I was off and then running that ARCA race competitively showed them that I was able to come back after a long period of time and run a clean, solid race and prove that — I’m lucky that I did that race because I think that proved to them that I was able to perform after a long layoff and be competitive with some great drivers,” Sherman stated.
While Sherman concedes that NASCAR isn’t just going to give him full reign to run anywhere he wants to out of the box, he says he did have to painstakingly wait for his approval for road courses.
“They did make me sweat a little bit just because I didn’t know either, you know,” Sherman said. “Other people have had that question, like how can he do it? Well, I had the same question. But as I said, I was confident in my ability. And NASCAR, I think took a look at my past racing history with Indy Lights and that helps because it’s a lot of road course racing involved there.”
The racer says his realistic expectations for this weekend are a top-15 to top-20 run, but says he isn’t limiting himself on what he feels he can do. If he finds himself in a position to compete in the top-10, top-five or better, he’s going to go for it.
If Sherman can get through this weekend’s event with no drama, and he is able to get NASCAR approval for oval race tracks, he says he’d like to run a race at Michigan International Speedway — and for good reason.
Sherman won the 2006 ARCA Menards Series event at Michigan. Can Sherman, at 49 years old, go on a career rebirth? If so, it all starts this weekend at the Chicago Street Course. But regardless of how it turns out, the veteran racer is just happy to be back for one more race.