Ryan Pemberton Biography
CREW CHIEF, NO. 83
Birthplace: Saratoga, N.Y.
Resides: Mooresville, N.C.
Background: Crew chief, No. 83, Red Bull Racing Team (2009); crew chief, Michael Waltrip Racing (2008); crew chief, MB2 Motorsports/Ginn Racing (2003-2007); crew chief, Jasper Motorsports (2000-2002); crew chief, Nationwide Series (1995-96); mechanic, Team SABCO (1993-95); mechanic/tire specialist, Robert Yates Racing (1991-1992); mechanic, Roush Racing (1988-90).
ROUSH TO RED BULL
Ryan Pemberton broke into NASCAR in 1988, a skinny teenager doing whatever needed to be done around the Roush Racing shop. Sweeping and serving as team gofer didn’t even earn him a paycheck.
“I didn’t know if I was helping or not,” he said. “I just liked being there, being around all of those guys and learning. That was a steep learning curve in my life and career.”
Two decades later, Pemberton, 39, brings a wealth of experience as crew chief of Red Bull Racing Team’s No. 83 Toyota. He inherited a third-year team that in 2008 earned a pole, three top-five and six top-10 finishes. Driver Brian Vickers was a strong contender for the Chase before finishing 19th in points.
SUCKED DOWN SOUTH
Pemberton comes from a family that does little other than race.
His brother Robin, a longtime crew chief, is NASCAR’s vice president of competition. Another brother, Randy, is a NASCAR broadcaster. A third brother Roman worked with several Sprint Cup teams.
The Pembertons grew up in upstate New York, not far from Albany-Saratoga Speedway. They all played the traditional stick-and-ball sports, but it wasn’t until Robin hooked up with the Pettys in the 1980s when the whole family got sucked down south.
Ryan, of course, took an interest in what big brother was doing and even turned down a college basketball scholarship to do it. He caught on quick, learning all aspects of car and crew. Pemberton was part of the Roush Racing team that led Mark Martin to his first victory in October 1989 at Rockingham.
In 1991, Pemberton became a tire specialist at Robert Yates Racing with crew chief Larry McReynolds and the late Davey Allison. They won five races that season, finished third in points and started 1992 by winning the Daytona 500. He later was a mechanic at Team SABCO.
Pemberton’s first crew chief gig came in 1995 in the Nationwide Series with owner Mac Martin and driver Larry Pearson. He admitted to being hesitant about taking on such responsibility so early in his career, but several colleagues and friends advised him to do it.
One of the highlights of Pemberton’s career was Pearson’s victory at Darlington in March 1995.
“I was around 25 years old when we won that race so I was still really young in the sport, especially as a crew chief,” he remembered. “Our team was definitely at a disadvantage in terms of funding compared to the Cup organizations and to go out and win against guys like Rusty (Wallace), Terry (Labonte) and Mark (Martin) was amazing.”
STEP UP TO CUP
Pemberton graduated to Sprint Cup in 1997 as Derrike Cope’s crew chief at MB2 Motorsports. A year later, he and driver Ernie Irvan combined for three poles and 11 top-10 finishes. Pemberton then left for three years, from 2000-2002, for a stint at Jasper Motorsports.
He returned to MB2 in 2003 for what became a difficult season. Driver Jerry Nadeau sustained serious head injuries during a crash in practice, but Pemberton held the team together despite using five drivers to finish the season.
With Joe Nemechek behind the wheel in 2004, Pemberton earned his first victory as crew chief at Kansas Speedway. The team closed the season strong to set up a 16th-place finish in points the next year.
MB2 underwent an ownership change and became Ginn Racing for 2007. Pemberton’s career had come full circle. He was now crew chief for Martin, working for the same driver when he was sweeping the floor years ago at Roush Racing. In their first race together, they just missed winning the Daytona 500 by a few feet.
Before his move to Red Bull Racing Team, Pemberton’s previous crew chief stint came with Michael Waltrip Racing’s No. 44 Toyota. He guided driver David Reutimann to four top 10s in 2008.
Pemberton and wife Andrea have two daughters, Payton and Britton.