Spotlight on Crew Chiefs Randy and Keith Auwarter

Randy and Keith Auwarter were captivated by the sound of the engines, the scent of the exhaust and everything else they experienced as children watching their father, Don, race sprint cars near their home in Jackson, Mississippi.

As the years went on, the brothers became even more fascinated by all things fast, and after high school, Randy began racing cars, motorcycles and anything else that had wheels, and Keith began racing sprint cars.

But meeting NMRA Outlaw 10.5 and Fun Ford driver Conrad Scarry at the World Street Finals at Orlando Speed World in the early 2000s would change their roles and cement their resolve within the racing world.

As Randy so eloquently put it: “We got together, had a beer, went on to win four championships and set I don’t even know how many records.”

These days, Randy works on race cars and is a crew member for NMCA Boninfante Racing NA 10.5 and ARP Nitrous Pro Street standout Don Baskin, and Keith is a service technician for Mailroom Consultants and a crew member for 2016 NMCA VP Racing Fuels Xtreme Pro Mod champion Tim Savell and sometimes his Bankston Boyz teammates Billy Banaka and Kye Kelley.

“Randy and I have been friends for a lot of years,” said Baskin. “We work well together, and I have full confidence in him as a crew chief. I wish I had his brother, Keith, too, because the two of them truly make a great race team.”

We recently talked with Randy and Keith, who continue to live near Jackson, Mississippi, about where they began, and where they are now.

THE AUWARTERS AND CONRAD SCARRY CERTAINLY WERE FORMIDABLE FORCES WITH HIS MUSTANGS.

Randy Auwarter: Yes, we sure were. In 2006, Conrad won a Fun Ford championship, and in 2008, we set the world on fire and won championships in NMRA Outlaw 10.5 and Fun Ford. We were running a 550ci Tony Barker Racing Engines and ProLine big-block with twin 88mm Garrett turbos, and we were running mid-sixes. Then, we destroyed the car in the second round of qualifying at the NMRA race at Bradenton Motorsports Park in 2009. Something out of Conrad’s control caused it, and luckily, he was not injured. I remember it like it was yesterday. When it happened, I actually pushed people off the starting line so that the EMTs could get through. At that point, all we cared about was whether Conrad was hurt. Once we found out he was not, we got to work on a replacement car for him.

SOMEHOW, YOUR TEAM MANAGED TO REBUILD A REPLACEMENT CAR WITHIN TEN WEEKS.

Randy Auwarter: I knew where there was a car, or a piece of a car, I should say, for sale, and we bought it. I built it up with help from my brother, Keith, and our dad, Don, and we had some help from Hank Hill. VFN stepped up to the plate and gave us body panels, including the hood, front of the car, doors and bumpers, within five days. Strange Engineering helped us with struts, and Mickey Thompson sent a pallet with wheels, front tires and six sets of rear tires. Companies like UPR and TiAL Sport also helped make things happen. The wreck knocked the top end off the engine, but I repaired all that, and Garrett sent us some new turbos. I’ll never have a bad thing to say about any of those companies.

Keith Auwarter: We just knew we wanted to get another car up and running so that we could get back to racing, and we were figuring out how to do that. It’s just what we do. It felt good to be able to do that and get back to the race track.

YOUR EFFORTS WERE MET WITH APPLAUSE WHEN YOU RETURNED TO RACING.

Randy Auwarter: Our first race back was the NMRA race at Milan Dragway in Michigan, and we were there to do one thing, and that was to win. We ended up finishing third in NMRA Outlaw 10.5 points that year, but then we won the NMRA Outlaw 10.5 championship in 2011. We won so many races and set so many records, but by 2012, we weren’t racing anymore. I had been talking with Charlie Harmon and he wanted me to come hang out at the NMRA race at National Trail in Ohio. I was like, the Sweetcorn Festival is going to be there at that time, so I went. Not long after, I started working in the tech department for the series, and my brother, Keith focused on his 8 a.m.-5 p.m. job. I did that until 2014.

THE AUWARTER BROTHERS BROUGHT OUT THEIR OWN CAR IN 2014.

Randy Auwarter: Yes, we did. It’s an Outlaw 275 New Edge Mustang that we had started tinkering with. I drive it sometimes, and Kyle Megginson drives it sometimes. It has a small-block Ford and twin Garrett turbos.

HOW DID IT COME TO BE THAT YOU WOULD CREW FOR DON BASKIN, RANDY?

Randy Auwarter: He had a problem with his Cobalt at Memphis International Raceway, and I helped him out and then started tuning and crewing for him. He doesn’t always get me and I don’t always get him, but we reach an agreement, and it works. He and his wife, Renee, are good people, and it’s an honor to work with them. I’m glad he trusts me to work on the 47 million cars and combinations he has. I get to go to the races and hang out with them, and he’s one of the hardest-working people I know. His hobby is racing, and that’s his only hobby. It was very different working for Conrad than it is working for Don. If we broke the car with Conrad, we had to fix it before we could run, and with Don, if we break the car, we have the option of rolling another one out of the trailer.

TIM SAVELL AND THE REST OF THE BANKSTON BOYZ ARE SERIOUSLY SUCCESSFUL. WHAT’S INVOLVED IN CREWING FOR THEM, KEITH?

Keith Auwarter: It’s pretty easy to work with them. I just make sure they get all of the parts and pieces back together when it’s time to get them back together, and I’m the one who lines Tim’s car up on the starting line. There’s a lot of stuff going on with those cars at each race, and it keeps me pretty busy, but it’s worth it. When Tim won the Xtreme Pro Mod championship last year, it was his first Pro Mod championship as a driver and my first Pro Mod championship as a crew member, which meant a lot.

DO YOU EVER FIND THAT YOU AND RANDY ARE COMPETITIVE WITH EACH OTHER, KEITH?

Keith Auwarter: No, not really, because we don’t currently have any cars in the same classes. We’re both pretty focused on doing whatever we can to make the cars we’re working on go fast. We don’t really bounce ideas off each other either, but if I can help him with something, say wiring, I will, and if he can help me with something, he will.

WHAT WAS YOUR PROUDEST MOMENT WHLE WORKING FOR SCARRY, AND WHAT HAS BEEN YOUR PROUDEST MOMENT WORKING FOR BASKIN, RANDY?

Randy Auwarter: With Conrad, it was in 2008. We had been working on the car around the clock and we hadn’t slept for two days. We set the valves while the engine was on the engine stand and we had no time to do anything else before we had to pack up and leave for the U.S. Street Car Nationals in Bradenton, Florida. That Friday at 2:30 p.m., I was still working on the engine and we hadn’t fired it yet or made a qualifying run yet when they announced they were moving the last round of qualifying up from 5 p.m. to 3 p.m. We drove the car to the staging lanes rather than towing it to put some heat in it, and when we fired it, I listened to see if it was running on all eight cylinders, and sent Conrad to the starting line. He ran a 4.61 to qualify seventeenth. We couldn’t believe we had qualified. Then, we raced everybody who was somebody. There wasn’t a single duck in the whole darn race. Then, in the first round, we went 4.55 and won, and then a 4.42 in the next round and we kept plugging away until we won the race. We weren’t going there to be a class filler. We were going there to win. With Don, my proudest moment was in 2015. Before the NMCA/NMRA Super Bowl race at Route 66, I promised him we would win in Nitrous Pro Street, and we did.

WHAT’S THE DRIVING FORCE THAT KEEPS YOU AND YOUR BROTHER FOCUSED ON HELPING OTHER DRIVERS FLY, RANDY?

Randy Auwarter: It’s funny because when we were little, we didn’t like each other, and he would beat me up all of the time. But when we grew up and he couldn’t beat me up anymore, we started working on cars together and realized that we both really like to be part of a winning team. That’s the driving force.

Interview by Mary Lendzion and photos by Kevin DiOssi from the Aug. 2017 issue of Fastest Street Car.

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