NASCAR Born and Raised – Kristin and Kendall Bumbera

Katy Lifestyles & Homes Magazine – Cover Story

Two local racing prodigies carve out careers in a male-dominated sport

By Melanie Saxton

One of Kristin Bumbera’s earliest memories is of racing Go Karts in Waller at the age of eight against the likes of AJ Foyt, IV. “By the time I was competing in a Super Mini Cup around age 10 I knew I wanted to race professionally,” says Kristin. “I didn’t want to do anything half way, so if I wasn’t racing I was at the shop learning about high performance engines. I didn’t have much time for a social life but had racing friends.”

With an October birthday, she’s just turned 24 and is married to Ricky Jester. Happily, she’s joined the ranks of other female drivers such as Ashley Force and Sarah Fisher who have recently had babies. As of Aug. 17 her son Bentley entered the world, and Kristin is combining parenthood with her career just as her own race car driving parents had done.

She and her sister Kendall entered NASCAR as part of a family dynasty. Their father, Kenny Bumbera, currently drives in various NASCAR, NASA, IHRA, NHRA and other series when time permits. Their mother, Cheri, earned Rookie of the Year racing against all men in 1990 in the NASCAR Stock Car Division. Only her daughters have done that since, Kristin in 2003, and Kendall in 2007 and 2009.

As for being a new mom, “I was getting less than three hours of sleep when Bentley was first born,” says Kristin, who is recuperating during a one-season leave. “I look forward to getting back in the seat. It’s what I do.” The wonderful experience of raising a newborn son has her looking forward to bringing up a third generation in the family tradition.

Racing Acronyms Explained
NASCAR: National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing, nascar.com
NASA: National Auto Sport Association, nasaproracing.com
IHRA: International Hot Rod Association, ihra.com
NHRA: The National Hot Rod Association, nsra-usa.com.

Kristin, Kendall and little brother Boyd were raised in their parents’ shop with an air chuck for a teething ring — literally — and Bentley will follow suit.

As Kristin’s racing career accelerated, Kendall was showing and riding horses. “I’m 18, five years younger than Kristin, and the family traveled to races all over the country. So when the opportunity came I gave up horses and joined in,” says Kendall, whose car flipped three times and landed on the roof in her very first professional race. “A competitor was reckless and I crashed,” she says,  unfazed. “It happens, and you learn from it.”

THE DANGER OF LIFE IN THE FAST LANE

Kristin agrees. “I’ve had more crashes than I can remember and have gone to the hospital once, plus a few rides in the ambulance. In 2008 the throttle stuck and my car flipped, causing a severe concussion while I was in California.” This accident was one of the few times Kristin was alone, without either of her parents. “Kenny or I try to be at all the kids’ races,” says mom Cheri. “I’m the spotter on the radio, helping them to avoid wrecks by being their eyes on track. That’s my way of feeling like I have some control and it’s how I cope as my children compete.”

The sisters have earned wins and titles through old-fashioned elbow grease. “When I wanted to compete at the next level with a faster car, my dad said, ‘Sure, as long as you can build it.’ And I did,” says Kristin, who works in her family’s shop as well as behind the counter. Kendall also knows her way around cars. “When customers come in and ask for a mechanic, I go find one. Then I sit in on the consultation and surprise them by what I know about high performance cars. People learn quickly that I’m not the receptionist.”

Kristin and Kendall point out that a strong work ethic is required to operate in the world of racing. “The biggest misconception is that daddy’s money is thrown at us,” says Kendall. “That’s not true. We work extremely hard for what we have and raise money to fund our races.”

For years the sisters ran their own company, Super Bouncers, and rented out moonwalks to earn income. They assembled and disassembled the 400- pound structures, loaded and unloaded them, and also handled the business end — by themselves. As part of the family business they also load and unload haulers (18-wheelers) before and after competitions. Some may consider it suffering for the sake of the sport, but both Kristin and Kendall wear Nomex fire-suits that weigh 12 pounds. “It gives us an extra 12 – 15 seconds to get out of a fire safely,” says Kristin. “It may be 112 degrees on the racetrack, but it gets to be 150 degrees in the driver’s seat,” adds Kendall. “It’s common to lose eight pounds after a race.”

 

PRETTY,  AND PRETTY SMART

Both young women just happen to be gorgeous with model-like looks, the recipients of their father’s Indian and Sicilian genes plus their mother’s French Canadian and Irish heritage. Yet their image is strictly wholesome. They’ve been raised to be ethical, moral, polite and down-to-earth. Kristin passed up a NASCAR opportunity by choosing not to pose in questionable attire. “I’m not interested in posing in anything but my racing gear like any other driver,” says Kristin.

Kendall agrees. “We take our professional responsibility to our sponsors off and on the track very seriously.” The family has been approached three times to do a reality show, is contemplating book deals and has been profiled in the media. Kristin appeared in Sports Illustrated with Danica Patrick in 2008. According to Kristin, the novelty of being female helps as far as advertising and publicity. Kendall feels the disadvantage is that NASCAR is dominated by men. The sisters are constantly kicking in the ceiling, proving themselves, and convincing sponsors that they are the best investment on the racetrack.

With 16 wins, 52 Top 5’s and 94 Top 10’s, Kristin brings powerful racing credentials to the table. She has two NASCAR Whelen wins in the All American Series, and is also a 4-time pole winner. In 2008 she was honored as the NASCAR Drive for Diversity “Participant of the Year.” She was also the first female to ever lead a late model points championship in Texas and was a 2-time Rookie of the Year, breaking two late model track records in California and Louisiana.

Kristin also made history as the first female to compete in and lead a race in the Rocky Mountain Challenge Series. In 2009 she became the highest-ranking full time female driver in NASCAR at the age of 21. In between she managed to graduate in three years from Sealy High School (where she played softball) and went on to earn her marketing degree at University of Houston. “It’s a degree that’s useful,” says Kristin. “Marketing and promotion are a huge part of what we do as a racing team. “

Kendall graduated last May from Faith West Academy where she played volleyball. She’s enrolled at Houston Community College with plans to enter University of Houston. She’s currently single and is proud to have just bought her own set of wheels. With Kristin on maternity leave, Kendall has now taken the lead for the family’s Next Generation Racing Team and is the sole driver in the seat.

 

THE EXCITING ROAD AHEAD

Having already won Rookie of the Year titles in 2007 and 2009 at the ages of 14 and 16, she is the test driver for the Bumbera’s Perfor­mance Associates new BadFast Race Car #06, developed with a chassis that is lighter and easily adjustable. She returned to Thunderhill Raceway in Kyle, Texas this fall driving in the NASCAR Late Model Series — the toughest in the state. Already she’s taken home two Top 5 finishes. She recently earned the best finish of her racing career placing second, and led for 15 laps of the race, more than any other driver.

As race after race awaits, the sisters rely on their crew to build and maintain their cars. They also rely on their sports agent, Holly Chervnsik of Stinger Sports, to land the sponsorships and hired her because she’s one of the few female sports agents in the nation and understands so well the challenges of competing in a male-dominated
profession.

“It’s a never-ending challenge to find sponsors who share our values and vision,”says mom Cheri. Their sports agent agrees. “To give you an idea, competing in the NASCAR K&N Series requires a minimum of $750,000 for a full season,” says Chervnsik. “But with the girls’ achievements, looks and personalities we appeal to a wide range of corporations who care about the sport and about the women behind the wheel. It’s always exciting to be a part of the most famed series of races, sit trackside, visit the pit crew, travel on promotional tours, and watch the incredible teamwork unfold.”

It’s also extremely rewarding (and novel) to support talented women as they beat their male competitors.”

To learn more about Kristin and Kendall’s adventures visit

kristinbumbera.com

kendallbumbera.com

badfastracecars.com

stingersports.com

bumberas.com

You can also find Kristin and Kendall on Facebook.

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