Bare Bones Racing team is a conglomeration of west coast, like-minded people who just happen to have a penchant for zoom-zooming around race tracks. Along with their trusty racing-prepped Miata, Half Pint, Bare Bones has competed in some major competitions in ChampCar.
The Bare Bones Racing Team started when three car fiends kept meeting up at some high-performance driver education track days to enjoy unleashing cars on pavement.
“I started doing track days in the states,” said Matt Williamson, Co-Owner of Bare Bones Racing, Driver and Mechanic. Up in Canada, race tracks aren’t exactly common. “I decided I wanted to do track day driving.”
Williamson has been into cars since he was a kid – much like many in the community. He has an RX-7 with an LS3 swap, but the Miata has a soft spot in his heart. He went to The Ridge Motorsports Park and during the NASA event after his track day, he started meeting some of the eventual members of Bare Bones Racing.
As NASA was falling apart, Williamson and Dave Fosberg, Team Co-Owner and Driver of Barebones Racing, were wondering what to do next.
“I reached out to my track day buddies – I didn’t want to do it by myself,” Fosberg said. “Endurance racing is a fantastic event that you can do as a team where many people get to drive. I felt this was a perfect opportunity to fulfill the dream we had of getting into racing.
Williamson and Fosberg purchased a 1994 Mazda Miata that was prepped for racing from its former driver, and it even came with the spares and a donor car for other parts. Once the car was purchased and became known as Half Pint.
“She is not pretty,” Fosberg said. “She’s worn, but she’s got quite a racing legacy before we purchased her from Jess.”
Orginally, Half Pint had been a Spec Miata that rolled the car several times and written off by a former owner. Jess Heitman bought it and created an endurance racer for ChumpCar. Heitman and the original ChumpCar team won the inaugural ChumpCar Endurance race in 2007, but after the race the Miata sat under a tarp for 5 years until Fosberg and Williamson bought it in October 2015.
Buying HalfPint came with stipulations – Heitman had to come with the car. They were going to revive her for ChampCar. They were going to race.
“We’re just average guys, from relatively average backgrounds – almost anyone can do this,” Williamson said. “It’s a lot of fun.”
ChampCar racing (formerly ChumpCar Racing) is for anyone wanting to compete in points-based, endurance racing. Cheap cars are expected in the entry lists – well, cheap starting cars. All cars still need roll cages, racing seats and harnesses, on-board fire-suppression, shut-off switches and more. The low-cost entry point makes it a good choice for those new to racing.
“None of us have actually raced before, we’ve only done track days,” Fosberg said. “Part of the sales agreement between Matt and Jess and myself was ‘If we bought this thing, would you stay part of the team, help us get it back into shape, and pass along any race-craft over 50 years of racing and building race cars.”
Heitman, of course, said he would. Then came the fixing. But they needed more than three for a team. A team needs a pit crew, more than one half-driver/mechanic, they need a team.
“Dave Fosberg and I have known each other since we were three,” said Jared Stowell, part of the pit crew of Bare Bones Racing and Los Angeles resident. “We’re just really tight friends.”
Fosberg and Stowell have always enjoyed looking at hot rods and cars. Their mothers met at a sewing class and they two have been friends ever since. When Fosberg was at one of the HPDE events, Stowell timed his trips home for free rides and fun time with cars.
Fosberg asked Stowell if he’d be in on having even more fun and he was in. Stowell may not drive on track, but when the team needs anything, he’s on it.
With a team in hand and Half Pint fixed, it was time to race. With Heitman as the Crew Chief, they tackled ChumpCar at Portland International Raceway with one goal: Just Finish. Every two hours it came in for gas, a driver change, and a much-needed infusion of 2.5 quarts of oil.
“The engine was really tired and worn out,” Fosberg said. “But we accomplished what we had set out to do.”
Immediately, people started taking notice. At the end of the race, one of the organizers recognized the car. Bare Bones Racing received a full-ride scholarship to the Laguna Seca race.
With everyone’s help, the Team Fosberg called Stowell up and asked him to come help out in the pits.
“Hell yeah, I wanted to be there,” Stowell said. “I’m a competitor myself and if there’s a way I can help my closest, best friend – Of course I want to be there. I want to help them out.
The team was gathered and the stage set for an epic win, but that wouldn’t happen for the team’s first time at Laguna Seca.
“With 15 minutes left to go in the 6-hour race, Half Pint blew her engine,” Fosberg said. “And spread oil all over the braking zone of the world-famous Corkscrew of Laguna Seca and got towed in on a flatbed.”
This “Crucible Moment” made their resolve solid – they’d fix Half Pint. They’d return to Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. And they’d win the ChampCar series next year.
In the year between the engine blowing, they were determined not just to bring Half Pint to full glory, but also improve their team’s organization. Stowell wanted to make the pits and pit stops more efficient and others were working on their respective skills, getting ready for their major return to Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca.
It was during the return race that they were approached by a documentary crew covering the ChampCar race for Discovery Network’s Destination America channel. They were interested in featuring Bare Bones Racing Team in the show and were hoping the team would be amenable – which they were.
With the first year’s blown engine, they had unfinished business that the Bare Bones racing team wasn’t going to let go.
“It feels great, knowing where we started – a collection of track day buddies who had never raced wheel to wheel racing before to being able to drive and race at a bucket list track such as Laguna Seca,” Fosberg said. “It was almost a religious experience.”
Their revival of Half Pint ended jovially, and the team came to a triumphant finish, all caught on tape for Destination America’s ‘The ChampCar Grand Prix’. Sadly, the show was aired at 2 a.m. and if you didn’t have your DVR set to record (like we managed a scant 24 hours before the first episode), you’re out of luck. The show aired on Destination America, part of Discovery Network, so fans (of which we are part of) hope it will be replayed or available for streaming in the future.
The video teaser is available, but no where this journalist searched has the show for available to watch in full. Which is a shame.
“I think people are hungry for motorsports, I think they’re hungry to see normal average, everyday people go out and chase their racing dreams,” Fosberg said. “Bare Bones Racing personifies that because we don’t have a fancy car. We have a bunch of team members that come together.”
Bare Bones Racing team members include: Dave Fosberg, Matt Williamson, Jared Stowell, Brent Reno, Christopher Foreman, Craig Merrill, Jenneka Dohner (and her race day-saving welding skills), and Keith Maher. They are sponsored by 425 Motorsports.
Those hungry for more motorsports can keep up with Bare Bones Racing news by following their Facebook page: www.facebook.com/barebonezracing/.
Photos Courtesy of the Bare Bones Racing Team.