One Interview With: Dave Berkenfield

Extreme E


Posted on 05/01/2023

One Interview With: Dave Berkenfield

Chip Ganassi Racing and The American Legion will be conducting "One Interview With" Q&A's throughout the 2023 NTT INDYCAR SERIES season. Click here to read the inaugural interview with 2021 INDYCAR champion Alex Palou.

Today's rendition features Dave Berkenfield, a retired Navy SEAL who now serves as the Team Manager for CGR's Extreme E program. 

As a reminder, Be The One to:

  • Ask veterans in your life how they are doing.
  • Listen when a veteran needs to talk.
  • Reach out when a veteran is struggling.

Dave, how did you first get involved in racing, especially the off-road category?
"It’s a little bit of a multi-faceted point. My grandfather was the traveling doctor for the very first Baja 1000. So, it’s a little bit in my blood. I grew up outdoors riding dirt bikes and doing a little four-wheeling and just exploring. Then in the military I was in the mobility department for many, many, many years. And just fell in love with it. The exploration side of it and the challenging side of it—just being in remote environments and having to rely on your wits and getting in and out of strange places and seeing new areas and being in super remote areas. So that was it and then Extreme E came along and became here the pinnacle. So, it’s been really good. Whether it’s in Baja racing or Uruguay, it’s been good. It’s been really exciting."

What is your favorite aspect of competing in the Extreme E series? 
"I think it’s the level of competition. All of the teams and all of the drivers—it’s such a high level. The whole series is right on edge. You basically have to be perfect to win an Extreme E race, and that’s what we’re striving for. I think if it was one thing, it’s the challenging nature of being surrounded by such great competitors. 

You've been very involved in the team's relationship with The American Legion. Can you give us an overview of your military career?
"I was very fortunate to be in the military for nearly 25 years. And I was surrounded by great people—many of them are still serving. I was in the special operations community in the Navy. I did lots of deployments and lots of different jobs over the years and visited lots of different places. It was quite the wild ride. I’m glad to be done with it, but I’m also very proud of what we accomplished and what my teammates accomplished over those years and are still accomplishing. Service and service to the country, service to the teammates, and those around you is pretty pivotal in my life. It has been really the greatest honor to work in the military and now represent the military and the veterans through The American Legion."

How were you involved in the origin story of the "Be The One" campaign?
"It was really a combination of a few things. For me, I never really wanted to be the one in the limelight. I’m happy sort of in the shadows there. I lost my older brother to suicide. When I realized The American Legion was really working hard to create solutions and bring light to this really, really challenging issue, I had some great conversations with the leadership of The American Legion. I decided to help out however I could. That’s really where the conversation started and it got a little more specific when we started talking about “Be the One” and destigmatizing the conversation and saving one life and being the one to ask for help, and all of those great things we’re leaning on with the Be the One efforts. That’s really my role there. Is to help support it and guide it as much as I can."

You're no stranger to traveling. Do you have a favorite travel story from either your military or racing experiences?
"No stranger to traveling, that's for sure. . I think I did something like 20 deployments over 25 years in the military. Then racing, I I feel like I went from one frying pan right into another at times. But as far as funny traveling stories, I have so many of them. I think one of the great ones would be, my really great friend, Earl, and I were racing down in Mexico and racing in an underpowered car and just sort of getting through a multi-day stage race there. Four or five days into it, lining up on overall time between all the big trucks and just sort of laughing and high fiving and eating tacos—battling our way through seven days. That for me is a great memory. Also, being in Le Mans with the Ganassi team in 2016 and winning that race. So many memories with INDYCAR and now Extreme E. It’s really hard to celebrate them. That’s before you start talking about all the military trips. I enjoy traveling. I enjoy being home, too, though. So, it’s a good blend."

Do you prefer to listen to a podcast or music? 
"I think it depends on what I’m doing. If I’m working out or working on a car or something like that, it’s always music. I’m pretty diverse there. I enjoy classic rock n’ roll. I enjoy some country. I enjoy some hip hop. My girlfriend’s got me into hip hop right now, which makes me laugh. If I’m driving, I enjoy podcasts. I feel like that’s a good time to get involved with some podcasts."

What is one thing you want people to know about The American Legion?
"The one thing I think everyone should know about The American Legion is that it’s all about service. It’s serving this country’s veterans. And it’s one of the oldest veteran service organizations in the nation. It has done more for veterans than the veteran community will ever know. I think that’s the single thing I would ask people to explore—is just what the Legion has does for veterans and will continue to do for veterans."

What does the perfect vacation look like for you?
"I think the perfect vacation for me would be my family and I splitting my time between exploring and adventuring and doing things like sitting on the boat wake surfing and maybe sitting on the beach."

What is your favorite meal of all time?
"It has got to be homemade enchiladas suizas with some homemade spicy guacamole. Nothing better."