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Ed Rueda Jr. is a Hispanic racecar team owner in the world of NASCAR


The driver of what is so far a predominantly self-sponsored Chevrolet is 17-year-old Ali Kern, a rarity among NASCAR drivers in both age and gender. Helping him line up contacts and market his team is Kendra Miller, an African-American attorney.

Rueda is actually half owner of the racing team, sharing ownerships with the driver's father, Mike Kern.

While Rueda is proud of the diversity of his team, and proud of being a Hispanic owner, he says the diversity has not been a factor in his acceptance into the NASCAR world.

"Everyone has gone out of their way to help," he says. "Connections are everything."

His team manager is Bob Beckstein, who, among many NASCAR connections, was the manager of Penski Reaching.

He has also been helped by Pierre Kuettle, who has a 20-year connection with Jack Roush racing, and by Mike Phillips, a high-ranking NASCAR official, along many others.

The problem has been finding sponsors.

"Nobody wants to sponsor a Hispanic-run and operated NASCAR team," he says.

He finds it especially strange that he is having such a hard time finding sponsorships when Hispanics are such a big part of the NASCAR audience. "Hispanics make up 40 percent of the NASCAR fans," he says.

But Rueda is not about to give up trying.

"My mom told me, &‘If you want something badly enough, you'll get it. If you don't get it, you didn't want it badly enough,'" he says.

And, Rueda wants to be a success in NASCAR racing very badly. He always has.

A native San Franciscan, Rueda attended his first NASCAR race at what was then Sears Point Raceway. He earned the visit by winning an oil-filter selling contest at the Grand Auto store where he was working.

That one visit was all it took to settle Rueda into his life's work, and his life's passion.

"I loved the smell of the cars, the sounds — everything," he says.

He became an auto technician, but held on to his dream of owning his own race team.

"I've pretty much always been an auto technician," he says. "I've tried other things, but they didn't work out."

He was one of the first to realize the need for qualified mechanics to service the quickly growing numbers of hybrid vehicles, and was the first certified hybrid mechanic in Marin and Sonoma counties.

He has owned Hybrid Haven on Second Street for three years, specializing in the repair of hybrid vehicles.

"I probably have 150 hybrid cars in the system," he notes.

He is also very interested in electric vehicles and hopes one day to establish a race series for electric cars only.

At Hybrid Haven, he also does research and development work on parts for hybrid and electrical vehicles for several Chinese companies.

One of his main goals is to give young people a chance to develop the skills they need to have careers as auto technicians, and even enter the world of racing.

"I want to give something back to the community by giving kids the training they need to find jobs," he explains. "There are a lot of great kids out there. You just have to give them a chance. I want to give them some help."

He says two of the biggest influences on his life were his mother, Pauline Rueda, and his uncle, Leo Doredo.

"What he taught me about cars, morals and life," you can't buy," he says of his uncle's influence on him.

Rueda is single with a 20-year-old son, Eddie Rueda, who works and attends Santa Rosa Junior College.

(Contact John Jackson at acsports@arguscourier.com)