Garvey is Back Home on Short Tracks As Racer and Mentor by Matt Kentfield
Short Track Legend Chasing Pro Cup Title & Helping Others Chase Dreams
There are only a few names and faces that would go into the pantheon of short track racers who have truly succeeded at the game in recent memory. Bobby Gill would be there. So would Butch Miller. Mike Stefanik, too. Not only are those guys, plus a few more, known for their success over the last 20 or so years, but they’re still getting the job done today on the short track level.
There’s one other name that is on that list who had not been around the short tracks, at least not driving, much in the last couple of years. Mike Garvey is a two-time All-American 400 winner. He has 22 career ASA victories and a host of other big short-track titles spanning his entire career. He was in line to compete for the USAR Hooters Pro Cup championship in 2005 before being tabbed mid-season to run in the NASCAR Nextel Cup Series.
Getting to the top level of the sport was nice, but his lack of success in the big leagues left Garvey wanting more. He had been so used to being in victory lane, mediocrity in the top level was not acceptable. That’s why even when he was chasing the Cup dream, he was still working with young drivers, helping them get to a place where every young racer wants to be – the same place Garvey was – Nextel Cup. On every off-weekend from his Cup schedule, Garvey could be found at Super Late Model tracks helping out up-and-comers like Ryan Crane and Matt Hawkins.
With his Cup career now in his rear-view mirror, Garvey has a new motivation. He doesn’t want to run in the back of the pack in Cup. Garvey is a racer and a regular winner, and that’s what he plans to prove once again in 2007.
Garvey will be back behind the wheel and in Jani-King colors, just like the old days in ASA, as the USAR Hooters Pro Cup Series Southern Division opens its 2007 season at USA International Speedway in Lakeland, FL this Saturday. With teammates Bill Plemons and Hawkins, Garvey has increased his workload from a short track legend to an active short track legend in charge of a three-car Pro Cup effort.
But there’s no other way Garvey would have it.
“I’m excited for this whole deal,” said Garvey. “We’ve been on go since November trying to get this stuff ready. We’ve got three brand new cars built and we now have four cars. Myself, Bill Plemons and Matt Hawkins, we’re all racing out of the same shop, and it’s finally great to see all the hard work finished so that we can start racing.”
“I’m excited about racing and probably more pumped up to have the opportunity to go racing and go out and win races again. That’s what’s really got me jacked up. We’ve got great cars, great motors and everything’s brand new from top to bottom. We’ve been going at it 150-percent.”
Garvey may have won plenty of races along the way on the short track level, but there was always a little bit of a wild side to the Georgia native. Garvey is the first one to admit that he was, at times, one of the most electric drivers in the pit area, but he was
Garvey has had a lot of winning rides through the years - including the #17 ASA National Tour machine. (51)
learning everything on the fly. Now that he’s able to, he is looking forward to helping the young guys learn from the mistakes he, and the other veterans in the series that are Garvey’s contemporaries, made along the way.
“That’s what’s going to make Pro Cup such a good series this year. You’ve got the veterans that have done a lot of racing, been a lot of places and done a lot of things. Then you have the young guys coming up and they want to do the best they can to impress the veterans and try to win races too. In all of the years that guys like myself, Buckshot (Jones), Billy Bigley, Jay Fogelman and Bobby Gill, you can go on and on, there were a lot of mistakes that we made when we were younger that we can help the young guys try not to make.
Having Garvey back in the series full-time will make some Pro Cup fans very happy. (USAR Photo)
“I would’ve given anything to have someone help me out when I was younger because Lord knows I made more mistakes than anybody. But the only way we had to figure it out was by doing it. Now it’s a different situation and I’m happy to be able to help out guys like Matt so that we can help speed up the young guys’ learning process and hopefully they won’t have to make the same mistakes we made.
“If you talk to guys like me and Bobby (Gill), there’s a lot of things that we wish we could’ve done different. But that wasn’t a possibility back then.”
Garvey will have some veteran assistance in grooming the 19-year-old Hawkins into a Pro Cup driver – but teammate Bill Plemons, at age 59, may have to re-learn some lessons after not being in the seat of a Pro Cup car for several years. Plemons is a grizzled short track veteran with one Pro Cup victory to his credit, but hasn’t been on the track in years. So while Garvey will be out putting himself in contention for Pro Cup wins and the championship in 2007, but he will also be out there in charge of two more teams that may have a little bit of a learning curve come Lakeland and beyond.
“Bill’s a veteran who hasn’t raced full-time in probably four or five years. He’s excited about getting back to racing. He’s been working out and getting himself in good shape physically. He’s always been in good shape mentally, but now he looks like a 40-year-old man. He’s ready and he’s a great racer. He did an awesome job in testing, too, so I think he’s going to have a good year.
“I think Matt’s a fantastic little racer. With Rich (Lushes) here as his crew chief, we’re here to oversee everything and help them out, but the sky’s the limit there. We’re going to do the best we can to make sure they are successful - and that all three of our teams are successful.”
Garvey is not intimidated by all the work that lies ahead of him between chasing a title for himself and helping two more teams reach the same goal. Instead, Garvey is back on the short track circuit, doing exactly what he has been good at for so long and has been itching to get back to – winning and having fun.
“Pro Cup has always had great racing, and when I ran it two years ago, I had more fun there than I’ve had in racing in a long time. I’m looking forward to getting back to doing that. If you sit there and look at it from top to bottom, this ought to be an awesome year.
“When Jani-King heard that I was coming back, they wanted to be a part of it and I’m extremely thankful for that. Hopefully we can go back out there and win some races and have a little bit of fun – all three of our teams.”