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Bakersfield's Athletic Mount Rushmore

Admin | November 21, 2023 @ 12:00 AM

Kevin Harvick

Among the most notable residents of Bakersfield is Kevin Harvick. Born in 1975 to a couple in Bakersfield the oldest Harvick seemed destined for racing greatness from the start, Kevin would grow up watching racing series like Indycar where he would see Bakersfield native Rick Mears compete for and win the world championship three different times. This could have inspired the young Harvick as he would start his karting career with Mear's son Clint after graduating kindergarten, From the start Harvick would display his potential for racing winning seven national championships as well as two grand national championships throughout his childhood and adolescence. During high school, Harvick would continue his racing career with a new challenge: stock car racing, specifically old model racing in NASCAR's Featherlite Southwest Series starting in 1992 all while going to class and trying to maintain normalcy. Racing was not the only sport Kevin was proficient at as he would play basketball, football, baseball, and soccer but his most successful sport outside of racing was the Olympic sport of Freestyle Wrestling, qualifying for the CIF Central Section title his senior year. He would continue his education at Bakersfield College in pursuit of an architecture degree before ultimately dropping out to pursue racing full-time. Harvick would compete in the Craftsman Truck Series starting in 1995, debuting in his hometown at the Mesa Marin Speedway where he would finish 27th in a family-owned car sporting the 72 number. The following year would see Harvick participate in just 4 races in the aforementioned 72-car but would see an improvement to 11th place at Mesa Marin. Mid-season personnel changes would propel Harvick to his first legitimate team, Spears Motorsport where he would score two eighth-place finishes that same year cementing himself as a driver worthy of the opportunity. The following season Kevin would turn up the dial in his first full season posting 3 top-fives and finishing 17th in championship points which would earn him a promotion to the NASCAR Grand National Division AutoZone West Series in 1997. During the 97-98 season Harvick would win five races on his way to winning Spears Motorsport a WInston West Cup Championship. Kevin would continue his rise driving in the NASCAR Busch Series starting in 1999 debuting at Rockingham Speedway with a strikingly new number two car competing in his only race that year the Kmart 200 where he would start 24th and finish 42nd due to engine failure. Signing with the legendary Richard Childress racing team alongside iconic Dale Earnhardt, despite failing to qualify for the second race of the season at Rockingham, Harvick would go on to win the NASCAR Busch Series Rookie of the Year with three wins, eight top-five finishes, and 16 top-tens as well as garnering third-place points finish. The 2001 season would be a vital one in Harvick's career as he would be thrust into a full-time Winston Cup Racing spot following the tragic death of his teammate, and racing legend Dale Earnhardt during that year's Daytona 500. Harvick would race in a renumbered car the following week at the Dura Lube 400, which took place at the Rockingham Speedway in North Carolina, this race marks the start of Harvick's illustrious racing career. He put the grid on notice three weeks later at the Cracker Barrel Old County 500, beating veteran Jeff Gordon by just six one-thousandths for the first win of his career. This win would be one that broke the record for the earliest career start to win a race but would ultimately be a win mard by the death of a driver as great as Earnhardt, after his maiden win Harvick drove around the track backward holding three fingers out of his window in memorial to his late teammate's car number. Harvick's first full year driving would see him win for a second time and the Chicagoland Speedway in Illinios, as well as score six top fives and 16 top tens, on the road to winning NASCAR Rookie of the Year. Though he would only finish ninth in points standings driving in the Winston Cup series, Harvick would win the Busch Series Championship in dominant fashion scoring six pole positions, becoming the only driver to win a championship in one series while actively competing in the other. The following year would see the young driver focus almost exclusively on the Winston Cup Series. making his first start at a Daytona 500 starting second next to the legendary Jimmie Johnson for 148 laps before crashing with the infamous Jeff Gordon triggering an 18-car crash. 2002 would be one of the worst seasons of Harvick's career but ultimately an exception in an all-time career. Harvick's decades-long career places him among the very best stock car drivers of all time spanning multiple eras, regulations, and drivers even racing with Dale Earnhardt's son.

Corbin Burnes

The athletic talent in Bakersfield is not exclusive to motorsports, baseball also has a talent pool in this city of median population. Corbin Burnes has emerged as the best baseball talent produced by Bakersfield. Born in 1994, Corbin attended Centennial High School in Bakersfield where posted a 2.23 ERA with a record of 9-4 in 22 starts. While not lighting up the stat sheet the young Burnes would show his promise to scouts and be given an opportunity to continue his playing career at Saint Mary's College of California, a small, private, institution with no pedigree of winning. Burnes would satisfy his need for elite competition by playing for the Orleans Firebirds in the Cape Cod Baseball League beginning during the summer of 2015 and posted a 9-2 record on 16 starts with a 2.48 ERA the following year. Burnes would see his dreams of being in the major league realized the same year, being drafted by the Milwaukee Brewers was a bittersweet moment as he was selected in the fourth round. Being underestimated seems to be a constant part of the Bakersfield native's career, and so is his response, Burnes would go on to make his professional debut in the Arizona League Brewers briefly before being promoted to the Wisconsin Timber Rattler posting a 3-0 record with a 2.02 ERA. Burnes seemed to respond well as the competition got better and would ultimately be promoted the following year, first to the Carolina Mudcats then to the Biloxi Shuckers earning a staggering 1.05 ERA after ten starts. He would end his 2017 campaign with an 8-3 record with an ERA of 1.67 between the two teams and be awarded minor league pitcher of the year, the rapid success of the young pitcher would lead the Brewers to promote the white-hot Burnes to the Colorado Springs Sky Sox for the start of the 2018 season. The following season, Burnes got his opportunity on July 10, scoring a save with two scoreless innings with a strikeout in the middle of the regular season, he would continue his dominance as a rookie in the playoffs as well. Burnes pitched four scoreless innings in relief across two appearances, earning the win in the clinching 6–0 Game 3 victory. In the 2018 NLCS, Burnes got the last six outs of their game-six win against the Dodgers. once again showing the impassioned response Burnes has to doubt.

Jake Varner

Another sport that Bakersfield has a stranglehold over is wrestling, Jacob Varner is the perfect example of this. Often referred to as "Jake" the Bakersfield resident was born on March 24th, 1986 to a wrestling family. Varner's uncle would serve as his first head wrestling coach as he competed in the 96 kg division while being assisted by his dad as assistant coach. Varner would rack up accolades not normal to Bakersfield schools, his performance in 2005 earned him the Junior Schalles Award for top high school pinner and punched his ticket to the next level of competition. Iowa State would offer the young Varner a scholarship after a high school career that would see him win two state titles. College was no different for the young Bakersfield native as he would stand out from the start. Varner made it to the final match for the National Championship all four years he was in college ultimately winning two of those matches his junior and senior year. American Freestyle Wrestling has been a staple in Olympic competitions for a very long time up until recently, whether other countries are getting better or the United States talent pool is getting worse, the results have not been there. Varner sought to change this during the 2012 Olympics where he competed at his natural weight of 96 KG. Varner is only one of eight Americans to win a gold medal at the Olympics for Freestyle Wrestling since 2000, a feat that has been much more common in the previous decades. Verner is the exception to the rule that seems to be becoming more true each year but he is determined not to be the last one. Following his gold medal victory Varner would be offered a job coaching at the Penn State Nittany Lions facility where he would mentor the incoming youth from 2016 - 2021. The gold medalist would prove adept at coaching throughout his half-decade of mentoring young athletes and would be promoted to the Olympic Regional Training Center, a place where he can make a substantial impact on future Olympic challengers. Varner's career has been one of dominance, both in competing in and coaching the sport of wrestling, he would be recognized for his impact in 2022 by being inducted into the Wrestling Hall of Fame.

Jordan Love

The most prominent athlete from the city of Bakersfield has to be Jordan Love. Born in 1998 to a police officer and a highway patrol woman, Love would grow up playing football and being coached by his dad until his tragic death when Love was just 14 years old. The news devasted the young man and made him reconsider even playing football. Love would be convinced by his mother to continue his play even though the undersized Love was set to be the backup quarterback of his high school team and stick through it. Midway through his junior year, the Bakersfield native would be propelled to the position of starter on the varsity team where he would remain for the rest of his high school career. During his senior year, Love would rack up 2,148 passing yards with 24 touchdowns along with 806 rushing yards and eight touchdowns while leading his team to the state semi-finals, a dazzling campaign for a quarterback who had not started the year before. Regardless of Love's impressive year, he was considered a flash in the pan by most D1 colleges looking to recruit quarterbacks. From the start of his freshman year of high school to his freshman year of college, Love had grown nine inches in stature and put on 80 pounds. This would solve the biggest physical concern coaches had about the young quarterback; stature, shorter quarterbacks have not had success due to the nature of the quarterback position. Love sought to prove coaches wrong at his next destination. Utah State, the quarterback would end up at the only school to offer him a scholarship to play quarterback. Love's freshman year would see him sit out the first six games of the season as a redshirt freshman where he would have a standout performance against UNLV. The performance would set Love up for an outstanding sophomore year that would see Love start all thirteen games and set the single-season passing record at the school, Love would throw for 3,587 yards with 32 touchdowns on just six interceptions. At this point, Love was considered a first-round talent for the NFL draft if he had been eligible to go out. The following season was a rollercoaster the likes of which Love had not experienced before, Love's junior year would see him lose a large part of the coaching staff including the head coach along with the offensive coordinator as well as four-star players drafted to the NFL. With a gutted team, Love would regress to his statistically worst year, Love started all 13 games, completing 293 of 473 passes for 3,402 yards with 20 touchdowns and a career-high 17 interceptions. His team slid to a 7–6 record with the changes to the roster and coaching staff that would convince him to not return for his senior season. The NFL draft would be the most controversial stop yet for the young quarterback as he would be selected 26 overall by the Green Bay Packers to replace franchise quarterback and 4-time MVP Aaron Rodgers. The Green Bay Packers have a tradition when it comes to replacing quarterbacks, the tradition entails pushing out the previous quarterback as their play decreases before any sort of embarrassment to the franchise. The tradition dates back to Bart Starr in the '70s, followed by Brett Farve in the mid 80's-90's and then Aaron Rodgers until the modern day, Love being drafted set him on the path to replace Rodgers following an MVP-winning season drawing ire from Packers fans around the world. The coaching staff of the Packers would end up being vindicated spectacularly this season as Love would see his first start following the exit of Aaron Rodgers. After starting 2-2 Love has been on an MVP campaign on a drastically reduced team throwing for 2,800 yards as of week 13 and earning an average rating of 90+ across the whole season. Will Love be the next franchise player for the Packers? This question may take years to answer but it is safe to say now that Love is the best athlete to come out of Bakersfield.


The events of recent years displaced a large number of families, anyone who needs a new place to settle should consider a city like Bakersfield, come start anew here and have some of the area's greatness rub off on you. Even if you're downsizing Bakersfield has you covered, offering more than a dozen storage facilities across the city. Planning to move to the area soon? Derrel's has you covered.

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