Sonoma Raceway had a slew of storylines occurring throughout the weekend. Sometimes, it was unfolding before race activities were beginning.
Last weekend’s DoorDash 250 in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series had a few headlines ranging from driver swaps to grand opportunities, such as what Brad Perez had with Reaume Brothers Racing.
A man who has multiple roles on and off the track, Perez has grown a strong following among his peers and fans alike. However, the trip to “Wine Country” had its challenges as Perez documented his journey to just get to Sonoma due to a series of flight alterations. Fortunately, Perez made it to Sonoma in time and was able to practice at the 1.99-mile road course.
Out of the 35 trucks that logged laps, Perez finished 30th quickest. He bested former Truck Series champion Austin Dillon and series winner Spencer Boyd.
Another fascinating story about Perez is how he got the No. 43 Chevrolet Silverado gig in the first place.
Although it marked his second start for the team after finishing 20th at Circuit of the Americas early this season, tremendous fan support granted the Floridian the chance to compete in NASCAR Again.
With support from the band “I Set My Friends On Fire,” the vision of racing grew. As long they were able to sell 300 shirts, it was game on. They succeeded beyond expectations and Perez could compete.
In the latest edition of “Up to Speed,” I spoke to Perez prior to Saturday’s qualifying and again after the race. Without further ado, here’s the interview with the man nicknamed “Bread.”
NOTE: This interview has been edited for clarity.
Luis Torres: Big day ahead of you. You’re looking to get into your second Truck Series race with tremendous help, but how do you feel your truck went during practice that’ll probably help you during qualifying?
Brad Perez: Honestly, I think that if we just put down a solid lap, I don’t think I have to go really crazy. We’ll probably end up being in the show.
We made like three pretty good adjustments in practice and kind of went in, went out, made it quick. We even had so much time in practice. We had probably like 20 minutes left by the end of it. And I was like, ‘Nah, we’re good.’ We just put it on stands.
Really good truck. Shout out to Greg (Rayl, crew chief). Shout out to Teddy Brown. Shout out to Josh Reaume for putting us a really good truck together. So, just gonna keep it smooth and I feel like we’re gonna make the race. If we do, then I feel like for the race.
We’re just gonna ride around, just wait for the crash. We know it’s gonna happen. Other than that, I mean, just saving your tires. I know I have a pretty good mentor, Will Rodgers. He does really well here. I’ve been leaning on him for some advice and really not spending the tires, keeping the car from under you. He’s not going off track. That goes a long way here.
Torres: Of course, Will has had tremendous success here. Back in 2018, he won the West race. He’s won a couple times on the road courses. What is the one characteristic element that he brings to the table that has helped you a lot that people may not recall?
Perez: He’s just brutally honest and I think that’s definitely something that I appreciate. I like when people tell me I’m doing something wrong and be straight with me on it, and Will is kind of one of those people.
Whenever I ask him for advice and he notices that I’m doing something wrong, he’s not afraid to tell me that I’m doing it wrong. He’s very meticulous in what he does. When it comes down to even setup, you know, the dynamics of setup in comparison to what you’re doing on track and how that relates.
He definitely has a really good knowledge base for a lot of this stuff. So, I’m really glad I get to lean on him for it.
Torres: You made your debut at COTA. Now, it’s been a few months since you ran, what is the one thing you look back you’ve learned a lot from your debut?
Perez: Tire fall off! That is like the biggest thing. I’ve raced quite a bit, but not a lot. To the point where I’ve never really experienced true tire fall off.
I’ve raced road course series like in Spec Miata. We put on the set of stickers and the end of the race got greasy.
But, not like this, it falls off a ton like off a cliff. So, being able to manage wheel spin was something at COTA where I screwed up big.
I definitely want to come to this with a little better level-headedness when it comes to like being patient and true patience. I know [being] very aggressive out there. Definitely [need to be] way more patient than I was last time.
Torres: I recall back to Phoenix, you’ve been heavily involved with tire management as a crew member. Like, I’ve always been curious how people handle the tires, like trying to get it up to temperature. How does that kind of technique work for those who do not know?
Perez: Really, it’s just more about getting data of how much the tire is being used. We would like to mark the tires before the race, trying to see where like the tread depth holes. [See] how deep they are so that when we go run a couple laps on track, take it back off and see how much they wore and then what direction they wore in.
That’s really important when you consider a car setup and trying to see. ‘Oh, am I wearing the right front too much? Am I wearing the right rear too much?’ It’s really good information.
Torres: Have you thought having that experience helps as a helps you as a competitor?
Perez: Absolutely. When I’m on the radio with different drivers as a crew member, when they say, ‘This is what’s going on, this is what’s going on.’
And then you get to actually see the data and you’re like, ‘Oh, so when I do it now, I know what’s going to happen.’
You know, I’m better able to predict and understand what’s really going on as to what the driver thinks that’s going on, which is usually wrong sometimes.
Torres: I’ve seen in a garage like you, (Ryan) Vargas and Amber (Slagle) working multiple roles to kind of keep yourself busy out there and land opportunities that’ll ultimately land you rides like this weekend, do you take pride in that?
Perez: Yeah. I mean, I never thought that I end up being a crew member in NASCAR. Like, I didn’t think that was going be a thing that I would ever do. I’m just happy to do that. Obviously, I wanted to race, but it’s kind of just do what you got to do. We all want to race.
I know Amber wants to race full-time and Ryan’s getting to do that now, even though it’s kind of tough for him right now. That’s what we want to do. So yeah, I take pride in it, but more it’s like, it’s just what I want to do.
Torres: Now you got the sponsorship with I Set My Friends On Fire. How did that come along because aside from being a crew member and a driver, you also do merch or help the band out, is that correct?
Perez: Yeah. So, the main merch guy, we call him “Fish.” He couldn’t do a couple of the runs for them on tour. So, they hit me up.
Back home in Miami, I used to DJ. I used to work with a couple bands. I used to produce music. So, I was familiar with the whole deal. They were like, ‘Hey, we can just have Brad do it.’ [They] came over and did some tech work, sold some merch. It was pretty fun.
I know those guys and they’re really cool people. This whole deal came about because they were like, ‘Jared B Designs. I don’t wanna butcher his last name’, but he came along.
He was like, ‘Hey, you know what if we had a I Set My Friends On Fire truck?’ And I was like, ‘That’s a joke. There’s no way it’s gonna happen.’
The band was like, ‘Dude, what if we just sold merch and made up the money.’ And then they were like, ‘I’m down if you’re down.’ That’s how it happened.
Torres: That explains the rear bumper saying, ‘For the LOLZ?’
Perez: Yeah, it was total joke at first, but it’s serious.
Torres: Leading up to the race weekend, have you ever dealt with something bizarre with the whole fiasco about the flights?
Perez: Dude, I’ve had so many flights canceled. Like it is just an American Airlines thing, dang it. It is seriously them. Like, I’ve not had that many issues with Delta, anything.
I’m just going to say it. It’s just like I’ve had flight cancellations.
Last year when we were at Phoenix. Not last year, two years ago. We were at Phoenix and the lights in the airport went out. It’s like crazy stuff has happened. Like we’ve missed flights before.
At Road America, we missed a flight because the race got red-flagged, like, three times because of rain.
I’ve had a lot of stupid stuff happen, but like this one was just like, ‘Dang man! Like I predicted that it would happen, and it happened.’
Torres: Where does it rank? In terms of the worst, middle or one of the tamer ones? Because I imagine as a driver, it can be irritating when you gotta get to the track and race.
Perez: Oh no, I knew I was gonna get there regardless. If I had to buy another flight, I would’ve done it with another airline and I ended up doing it anyway. I bought a United flight, but I think like it’s probably like one of the top three worst travel experiences I’ve ever had in my life.
Torres: Trust me. I know we were talking about a little bit (Friday). The whole thing with Phoenix last year when my flight got canceled. Then not that long ago, it was the power outage. That kind of trapped guys, like reporters and team members.
Perez: Yeah. It’s bad.
Torres: You’ve had tremendous support on social media. You were able to sell 300 shirts within a few days. What do you want to say to the people that bought the merch and get you out there?
Perez: It was crazy because I totally underestimated the support that I was gonna get on that. I had said this in an early interview, but me not thinking that there would be this many people buying the shirts and then we went over like 500 in sales.
We thought originally, we were only gonna break even on the investment for the band and we surpassed it. That’s what makes this sport go around. Fann support.
I always say it doesn’t matter. You always see guys like, ‘We gotta thank the fans. The fans are everything, whatever.’ But no, seriously, I would not be talking to you right now if it wasn’t for all the fan support. I just really appreciate that.
Hopefully, that could help me out in the future with sponsors because people are going hard for me right now. I don’t know why, but I really appreciate it, and I just wanted to keep going forward.
Perez made the 36-truck field and rolled off 32nd. Throughout the 75-lap race, Perez attempted to stay out of trouble and at times battled with Matt Crafton. But as the sun lowered in the sky, visibility became a problem. He sustained heavy front damage, but continued and ended up completing the entire race distance.
As Kyle Busch scored his 62nd career Truck Series win, Perez crossed the line in 22nd.
After the race, I caught up with him as friends and family stopped to congratulate him. From compliments to phone calls, it was a time of reflection for the 25-year-old.
Torres: Top 25. You brought the truck to the finish, but what happened over there with the front?
Perez: We were riding around and after the restart, we were on stickers. It was like the first time we were on stickers all day. We were catching up. We were holding on with (Matt) Crafton, (Stewart) Friesen and all those guys.
But then, somebody spun on top of the hill in (Turn) 3, and I literally could not see. The problem is that’s a blind spot for the spotter, so they didn’t call it. I looked at it. I was like, ‘Man, I had nowhere to go.’ I feel bad about that.
Torres: Was visibility an issue throughout the day? With the sun going down and then with the wind, I’d imagine the dust really picking up a lot than usual.
Perez: Vision was bad because I took a tear-off at the end, but when I hit Crafton, my hood popped up and I literally could not see. I sit pretty low in the car, and I literally could not see a thing until that yellow came out. Thank God.
Then, they fixed it, so I had a little bit of visibility. Then the sun started going down.
Man, it was tough to see. A lot of blind corners here, so it’s really hard to see.
Torres: Second race in the books, what’s your ultimate takeaway from this experience?
Perez: Man, I just need to drive what I am capable of and stop overstepping myself. I tend to do that. I caught myself middle of the race just over driving a little bit. Sometimes I just got to recognize the situation from what we got. Finishing this position with the truck we got is A-OK.
The competitor in me gets mad about the tries to drive over myself. A good retrospect. Thanks to Josh (Reaume), he didn’t have to do this. He didn’t have to give me this opportunity, but he did. So, thanks to him.
Special thanks to Brad for taking the time to speak throughout Saturday at Sonoma for TPF!
Look for more content about Brad on TPF and follow his social media channels on Facebook, Twitter, TikTok, YouTube and Instagram! Also, if you are interested in listening to “I Set My Friends On Fire”, give them a follow on their social media channels on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, and Spotify! Finally, to get band merch, check out Plutonian Clothing’s website!