When you think of NASCAR families what names come to mind? I’m guessing Earnhardt, Petty, Waltrip, Labonte etc. These families, and certainly many others, are NASCAR’s royalty. They though are not alone in their contributions to a sport that is full of family tradition.
The tradition of fathers and sons (and daughters) following each other into NASCAR is as old as the sport itself. As anyone who has spent time around racing can tell you, once it is in your blood, it is hard to do anything else, and if you have spent your entire life around it, it can be even harder to break away. From the Parrotts to the Houstons to the Pembertons, NASCAR is chock-full of great families.
The Pembertons are a family that are involved in every aspect of the sport. Oldest brother Robin Pemberton is NASCAR’s Vice President of Competition. Prior to that he worked for Ford and served as a crew chief for Kyle Petty, Rusty Wallace and Mark Martin. Second in line is brother Randy Pemberton who has, off and on throughout the years, worked as a NASCAR broadcaster. He currently works for Speed and DirecTV. Ryan Pemberton is a new hire over at Red Bull after a recent stint at Michael Waltrip Racing. And finally youngest brother Roman is a spotter who was most recently with Michael Waltrip Racing.
Perhaps the best known family of crew chiefs are the Parrotts. Buddy Parrott has been around the sport for over 30 years beginning his crew chief career with Darrell Waltrip. From there he spent time with Rusty Wallace and Jeff Burton, eventually ending his career at Roush Racing. His son Todd was with Robert Yates from 1995 until just a couple of weeks ago. He was Dale Jarrett’s crew chief when he won the championship in 1999. Younger brother Brad was also part of that team, serving as car chief on the #88 at RYR until 2001. After a stint at Roush Racing he joined Chip Ganassi Racing where he is the current crew chief for the #40 Nationwide car.
Another family, perhaps less prominent, but still influential are the Houstons. Tommy Houston is a former Busch Series driver, competing from 1982-1996. In that time he made 417 starts and had 24 wins. During his career he also made 13 Cup Series starts. His sons Marty and Andy followed their father into the sport, each had driving careers of their own. Andy had 29 NASCAR starts across the Nationwide and Cup series and 121 starts in the Truck Series from 1996-2005. He racked up three wins in the truck series. Last I knew he was with Kevin Harvick Inc. spotting for the #2 truck. Marty has 63 starts in the Nationwide and Truck series. His last run was with Fitz in the Nationwide Series in 2001. He currently works on the test team at Gillett-Evernham Motorsports. The family’s most famous member though is Teresa Houston, best known as the third wife of Dale Earnhardt. She is Tommy Houston’s niece and a cousin to Marty and Andy. She, as everyone knows, currently oversees Dale Earnhardt Inc.
I will stop there because I could go on all day doing profiles like this. But there are countless other families in the sport. The Hillmans at Germain; the Zippadellis, Greg at Joe Gibbs Racing and Scott at Braun Racing; the Hornadays, Ron at KHI, Ronnie at Evernham and son-in-law Drew Blickensderfer at Roush; the Showalters, Chris a truck chief at Randy Moss Motorsports and his father Gary, a truck chief at Key Motorsports just to name a few more.
Because this sport is so time consuming, often times working along side your wife, sister, brother, father in the sport provides an opportunity to spend time together that you would otherwise not have. There are sons and fathers who work together on pit crews, and husbands and wives who drive haulers from track to track. Having the chance to do what you love and spend time with your family is a pretty cool thing.
One of the obvious benefits of having family that work in the sport are the connections they have and can give you. As I have said many times before, it is not what you know, but who you know; and I am not afraid to say, nepotism is alive and well in NASCAR. Why do you think Richard Childress’ son-in-law runs his team, or why Rick Hendrick’s runs his? I’m not saying this is a bad thing, but it certainly contributes to the number of families in the sport.
Overall, my point is NASCAR and families go together like baseball and hot dogs. You don’t need one to have the other but the latter sure makes the former better.