Rangers Lewis, NASCAR star Harvick have Bakersfield bond

ARLINGTON, Texas – Texas Rangers pitcher Colby Lewis has a hard time getting his son Cade excited about going to baseball practice.

Now racing, that’s another story.

“He cracks me up,” Lewis said. “If I tell him he’s got to go to baseball practice, he’s like ‘Argghh.’ But if I tell him let’s go get in the dwarf car, he says ‘Let’s go.’ Maybe that’s his niche.”

While baseball may be in the blood of 6-year-old Cade, it’s racing that’s in the water. That’s because the Lewis family lives in Bakersfield, Calif. Not only is Bakersfield where Lewis grew up, it’s also the hometown of Sprint Cup star Kevin Harvick. And if young Cade Lewis needs some racing advice, he doesn’t have to go too far for answers as his father and Harvick have struck up a fast friendship over the last couple of years.

Bakersfield is that kind of town.

“We try to keep up with people who are doing things in Bakersfield,” said Harvick. “There are more athletes that come out of Bakersfield than most people realize. We kept track of Colby, especially though his World Series run as they were going through those weeks of game. It’s been fun.”

Lewis and Harvick went to the same high school but rarely crossed paths. While Lewis was a freshman at Bakersfield North, Harvick was a senior. And before Lewis established himself as a baseball standout that would go on to be a No. 1 draft pick of the Rangers, it was Harvick who was putting Bakersfield on the map with his racing success.

“I didn’t know him at all,” said Lewis, who had Harvick’s cousin as his catcher in high school and college. “I’d read like the paper and it would be like ‘Harvick wins again.’ I thought it was cool that a high school kid would go down and win at the track.”

The two ended up going their separate ways, with Harvick making it big in NASCAR and Lewis going on to star with the Rangers during their back-to-back trips to the World Series.

Even though Harvick no longer lives in Bakersfield, he still is active in the community and that led to the two of them to get acquainted.

Harvick has several fundraisers in Bakersfield and the two of them starting talking there. Since then, Lewis has been to Sprint Cup events as a guest of Harvick. Harvick hasn’t been able to go to a Rangers game, but he followed Lewis as he helped lead the Rangers to back-to-back World Series runs.

The two text each other, with Lewis careful not to bother Harvick too much during the Sprint Cup season. But last offseason, they were able to hook up long enough for Harvick to come to the Lewis house for a couple of days.

What he saw there was impressive.

Lewis and his brother Zach built a racetrack in the backyard of Lewis’ house. It’s not your average track built by weekend warrior’s eithers. It has lights, a grass infield and a sprinkler system. Lewis also has a garage full of go-carts.

Harvick couldn’t believe what he saw in Lewis’ backyard.

“I don’t even think he realizes exactly what he has in his backyard,” Harvick said. “It’s definitely the coolest go-cart track. I’m not the biggest dirt-track fan. It’s not your typical go-cart track. It’s short enough and wide enough and the corners are banked enough that you can run multiple grooves and everyone can be competitive the way they have it set up. It’s pretty cool.”

Harvick wasn’t the only one impressed in the two nights of racing at the Lewis house.

“Kevin said he loved and that the next time he’s coming out he’s bringing a tape measure,” Lewis said. “I was thoroughly impressed with him. He came out and kicked our butts. He never gets sideways. He always keeps it straight.”

And what was Harvick’s impression of 6-4, 240-pound Lewis behind the wheel of a go-cart?

“Colby has the coolest go-cart track I’ve ever been to in my whole life,” Harvick said. “That makes it a lot of fun to go over there and watch him attempt to drive the go-cart, which he does pretty good. The big disadvantage that Colby has is he’s a big guy. Racing against a guy like me he should make us add weight. He’s competitive and races pretty hard.”

As impressed as Lewis was by Harvick’s prowess on the racetrack, it means just as much to him that Harvick hasn’t forgotten his roots.

“It’s great what he does,” said Lewis, who makes his 2013 debut tonight in a rehab start for Triple A Round Rock. “He has big concerts. He does his foundation stuff. He bought wrestling uniforms for the high school. He does a great job of coming back and supporting Bakersfield.”

Harvick feels the same way about Bakersfield that Lewis does.

“I was fortunate to grow up in Bakersfield,” he said. “Usually being from California there’s not a lot of racing history, I guess you could say. In Bakersfield it’s a very well supported racing community with asphalt, dirt, everything you could think of racing wise. I can see why his son wants to race. I’ve seen him drive his go-cart and he does a good job with it.”

So maybe young Cade Lewis is right to stick with what’s in the water instead of what’s in his roots.