When your parents are well-known in NASCAR circles, and you’re named for a brand of oil, chances are that your destiny at some point will be fixed around motor racing – as a sport and business.
Until two years ago, Kendall Haechten was enjoying that role, working as a NASCAR-licensed driver and one half of the Bumbera Sisters racing team. Haechten – now a Marketing Specialist at Lee & Associates in Houston, Texas, and recently married – spent five years scorching race tracks around the United States.
“I started racing at 13. People thought my parents were crazy for allowing their 15-year-old daughter to get her NASCAR license before her driver’s license,” she said. “I went on to win Rookie of the Year that season, making me the third female NASCAR driver to do so in Texas. The others were my mom and sister.”
At 13 years old, Kendall Haechten was driving at Houston Motorsports Park in a car borrowed from a family friend. A photographer caught part of the action: “I was hit from the right rear coming out of a turn and it sent me rolling down the front stretch,” Haechten recalls, adding that she received most of her bruises from being pulled from the car. “My mom was my spotter on the radio – which I mistakenly thought had flown out of the car – and she could hear me breathing. That helped, but she still was freaked out.”
At 17, Haechten (left) and her sister, Kristin Bumbera (right), competed in NASCAR’s K&N Pro Series, a step away from the premier NASCAR Monster Energy Cup Series. Their dad, Kenny Bumbera, a respected classic car restorer, hot rod builder, NASCAR and NHRA driver, is crew chief with mom, Cheri, as radio spotter. They raced 75- to 200-lap events on three-eighths to half-mile ovals. Cars ran at speeds topping 150 miles per hour.
“When you’re racing, you’re watching the engine temp and oil pressure gauges. You don’t think about how fast you’re going. These cars don’t have speedometers, anyway,” she said.
The cost to campaign a team of two race cars, a spare car, spare motor, tires and tools, requiring a large truck and trailer, can exceed $1 million per season after adding the costs of a pit crew, hotels, meals and entertainment.
Growing up in the family’s specialty automotive business – Bumbera’s Performance Associates in Houston and now on Highway Boulevard in Katy, Texas – gave Haechten a good look at the commercial side of racing and relationships with customers, sponsors and fans. Past and present sponsors of Bumbera’s race cars include local merchants No Label Brewery and Wide Open Energy Drinks and national brands like Shell Oil and, of course, Kendall Motor Oil. Haechten continues to help the family business, which has added services for electronic fuel injection engines.
“My dad was trained as a mechanic by the engine builder to A.J. Foyt and is the only guy in Texas or in the country who knows how to build and repair carburetors. He’s had his business 25 years. People ship him cars from all over the world. But with the racing industry moving toward EFI, many of our current and future customers will want these services. I’ve been producing videos to promote that specialty and I love the video production process. It’s as much fun as driving.”
Haechten took her hiatus from driving while finishing her sports marketing degree at Texas A&M before joining Lee & Associates. Her sister and 19-year-old brother, Boyd, continue racing.
“When my senior year came around, it was time for me to buckle down. After graduating, life started moving really fast: new job, new husband and new house. But you’ll always find me at the racetrack when my brother and sister are driving,” she said, adding that she “may be getting back into the seat soon.”