Crisscrossing Europe and competing in iconic motorsports cities such as Le Mans, France, and Spa, Belgium, American Brent Crews was among the stars of the international karting circuit by the time he was 10 years old.
Now 15 and pursuing a future in NASCAR racing, Crews recently ventured to the rolling hills of southern Indiana, where the high-banked, half-mile oval at Indiana’s Salem Speedway has been challenging the sport’s bravest wheelmen since 1947.
Crews was there to make his fourth start in the ARCA Menards Series. His first three produced a trio of podium finishes — third at Watkins Glen, first at Springfield and second at DuQuoin.
The Salem stop didn’t go as well.
An issue in post-qualifying inspection, resulted in Crews being relegated to the back of the 19-car starting field. He quickly sliced through traffic, however, and his No. 25 Venturini Motorsports Toyota was running among the top 10 when a flat right-front tire sent it hard into the outside wall.
The impact ended Crews’ night but didn’t bruise his enthusiasm.
“It was a blast,” Crews told SPEED SPORT when asked about his first visit to Salem. “You could run the top in three and four, and do what you would call a diamond line in one and two. It had all the characteristics. I love that place. It’s my new favorite oval track.”
Crews has built an unprecedented résumé, ranging from international and national karting titles to this year’s Trans-Am TA2 championship. He’s won in midgets, raced sprint cars and starred in micros and Outlaw Karts.
And it all started because his mom thought dirt bikes were too dangerous.
“Actually, when I was 5 years old, I started running around on an old dirt bike, around the neighborhood and stuff, jumping hills,” Crews recalled. “We saw some of those people getting hurt and my mom didn’t like it at all.
“We learned the nearest go-kart track was Trackhouse Motorplex, which is in Mooresville, about 15 minutes from where we live. We took the hike there, looked at everything and it looked super fun. We ended up trying one of my buddy’s karts and loved it so much that I got my own. Around 5 years old was pretty much when it started in karting and then everything progressed from there.
“I kind of went the dirt path straight from karting. Got a mini Outlaw Kart, which is super-fast. Kyle Larson says it’s the fastest thing to drive at Millbridge (Speedway) other than a 410 sprint car. And I would definitely agree with that as I’ve driven both,” Crews continued.
“A mini Outlaw Kart goes crazy-fast for how close you are to the ground. That jumped me up through my age group at the time. Since then, I got into a micro sprint, a midget, a sprint car and then progressed through the asphalt stuff that I’m in today.”
This year, Crews earned a spot in the Toyota Driver Development Program.
“Their program is amazing and their facility is so nice. I started last year and we signed our contract like three months ago,” Crews said. “They help me train five days a week. I just finished some lifting that helps me prepare for wherever we are racing this weekend.
“If you think it’s going to be super-hot, they have a heat room where you can train for heat tolerance. Normally, we lift four days a week and have a day of rest when you can take an ice bath,” Crews continued. “We also have nutrition meetings and stuff like that, so you can learn about how to fuel your body for that specific race weekend or just in general.
“Then, you have meetings with your strength coaches to make sure you are training 100 percent and you are getting everything out of it.”
When asked about his biggest racing accomplishments to date, Crews doesn’t hesitate.
“In karting, I won a couple of world championships when I was like 10 years old that were really cool because it was against people from all over the world,” he responded. “You’re racing people in France, you’re racing people in China, you’re racing people in Belgium, and then you’ve got your American friends too, so I would say that is definitely up there.
“Also, winning the ARCA race at the Illinois State Fairgrounds in Springfield was super cool, especially on the NASCAR side of things.”
It’s been a busy season for the teenage sensation from Davidson, N.C., so busy in fact he has trouble listing the various race cars he’s driven.
“Let’s see, I’ve raced a midget, an ARCA car, a 600 micro — no sprint car stuff this year — a late model, a late model stock, a pro late model, a go-kart, my full-time ride in the Trans-Am car, and I’m sure there are a couple I’m forgetting,” said Crews. “Honestly, I don’t have a favorite type of car. I love all of the cars equally — they are all a blast.”
Despite his impressive ability to wheel a race car, Crews has to rely on his parents to get from point A to point B because he’s still too young to obtain a North Carolina driver’s license.
“I actually just got my permit like two days ago, but I cannot drive alone,” Crews shared with SPEED SPORT. “I’m able to drive with my parents and that’s about it. It definitely sucks that I’m not able to drive anywhere without them having to take me.”
Crews’ 2023 racing calendar was built around his successful effort to win the Trans-Am TA2 title.
“Trans-Am was our full-time car this year. We were focused on winning the championship in that,” he said. “In Trans-Am, I drive for Nitro Motorsports, which is the same team I drove for in karting.
“We won a bunch of kart races with them and traveled everywhere with Nick (Tucker), who is one of my good friends. He’s been with me since I was probably 8 years old and we are still racing together.
“We ran Trans-Am full time last year (2022) and we were able to finish third in our rookie season, and that was pretty cool. It is an honor to win it this year while racing against all these guys that are super good.”
Somehow, Crews finds time to be a student.
“I go two days a week to a little, private Christian school,” he said. “I’m super fortunate to be able to do that. It’s Tuesdays and Wednesdays and then I’m able to take a worksheet home and work from that. My fellow students don’t really care about racing – most of them care more about football.”
Interestingly, Crews claims his brothers are not race fans.
“I have two little brothers that are 10 and 9. They hang out at home, then they go to school and they do all that fun stuff,” he said. “It’s fun being able to watch them grow up and see what they love, because they want nothing to do with racing.”
In looking to the next chapter of his career, Crews finds himself in a unique position.
“It’s tough because you can’t go full time in an ARCA car or anything above that because you’re not 18, and you can’t run on a track over a mile other than a road course,” Crews shared. “You can go full time in a late model if you want. There are some things that haven’t been fully disclosed yet on what we’ll be doing next year, but I’m sure it will be released in the next couple of months.”
Putting two and two together, Crews is a client of KHI Management, and KHI’s Kevin Harvick is among the group that owns the CARS Tour. A schedule weighted toward late model racing could be on the horizon.
“We plan on doing the Chili Bowl again, but I don’t really have anything confirmed beyond that,” Crews said. “I want to try and win as many races as I can, and winning races definitely changes a lot of things. The goal, obviously, is to be a Cup driver in the near future — getting there as fast as we can and being prepared when we do get there.”
This story appeared in the Nov 8, 2023, edition of the SPEED SPORT Insider.