Misunderstood is a term in racing that is not often used, primarily due to the extreme emotion of the sport. However, being midunderstood is a common trend in our sport.
Ron Varney, who formerly operated the series known as the ASA LATE MODEL SERIES, and currently operates under the USPRO, LLC banner in the state of Michigan with the Sunoco National Tour, is one of those people who is often misunderstood.
Varney certainly has his detractors and even downright enemies. As I’ve stated before, people have described the 40-year-old as bold, brash and sometimes even pig-headed. But, the bottom line is, although some of the techniques he has used in the past has been deemed unethical by some observers, the promoter does have a dedication to the sport we all love with a myriad of good intentions.
To further understand Ron Varney, you must understand his history in the sport. Varney formed the USPRO Late Model Series in 2003. The next year, he partnered with then American Speed Association owner Steve Dale to form the ASA LATE MODEL SERIES. By the end of that same year, Dale was in financial trouble and began selling off portions of his business. According to the Varneys (Ron and his wife Sandy), they purchased the ASA LATE MODEL SERIES from Dale for more than a $100,000.
During this period, Dennis Huth had helped bail Steve Dale out of some financial obligations and obtained the ASA Member Track program and then finally the American Speed Association names and trademarks. The more than five-year battle over rights to the ASA name and trademarks finally ended a couple weeks ago after a court order from a federal judge gave all naming rights to ASA, including the LATE MODEL SERIES, to Dennis Huth.
Honestly, to us racing folk, the end of the cold war of the ASA-name is a positive one. As Huth has told me so many times, there was “too much confusion in the marketplace” and I cannot agree more. Huth now has his product and Varney has his series, which is going through a facelift as we speak.
“We’re still moving forward with the Sunoco National Tour,” Varney told me a week ago. “They (Sunoco) did a year-to-year agreement for the title sponsorship of that deal. As long as we can resign them, we will roll the North Series into the Sunoco deal and run everything under the National Tour banner. It will be one series next year.”
Varney has been beat up, chewed up and spit out by many people during the past half decade. We have received emails from former officials and racers who claim Varney is not only hard to work with, but his business practices are not proper. There are, however, many people who continue to back Ron Varney.
All this leads back to the question of whether Ron himself is misunderstood?
“I think so,” answered Varney swiftly. “The teams that I have, that have taken the time to get to know me, know I would do anything in the world for anybody. I’ve helped people with tires; I’ve waved entry fees; I’ve waived pit fees, I’ve done a lot of things that people have never known about and I really didn’t want people to know about that. The people that didn’t get the chance to know me went away and said, ‘What a jerk that guy is and I don’t want to race for him anymore.’ I took responsibility for that, you know, I’m a big boy.
“I think I have a lot of enemies in this business,” continued Varney. “A lot of people want to see me fall, for whatever reason. I’m sure they are justified in their own mind, but it seems like for years we have had people taking shots at us every chance they get. In all honestly, over the eight years I’ve been doing this, it’s taken its toll on myself and the series.”
The toll, Varney admits, has trickled down to the people who support his series, most notably, the racers. Allegations of not paying his competitors swept through the racing industry, but Varney claims that those accusations are not completely true.
“The purse checks were slow going out because I was spending thousands upon thousands of dollars on attorney fees to fight something (the ASA LATE MODEL SERIES name) I probably shouldn’t have been even fighting to begin with,” admitted Varney. “It was the first week of September that I finally told my lawyers to stop and cease all defense of this. That way I could take the resources that I had and use them to take care of my teams rather than paying an attorney.
“I had spent a ton of money trying to defend this. It was starting to affect the teams being paid and I just basically decided to pull the plug on trying to defend this. I was concentrating on making sure the teams were paid and the series was viable rather than concentrating on keeping the name. I felt I had every reason to own it, but it wasn’t as important as the teams. Without the teams, it doesn’t matter what name you have. You don’t have anything if you don’t have their support.”
Those fees amounted to, according to the Varneys, more than $100,000. That, with the addition of some other expenses, led his wife of 16-years, Sandy Varney, to file for bankruptcy in 2010. Sandy has now taken a job and she and her husband, despite the rumors the two were going through a divorce, are now beginning to push forward to rebuild their series.
Sandy Varney offered us this statement.
“Ron is not the person that you (the public) paint him to be, maybe his personality is not the best and often he says the wrong thing. Still I would rather stick with him than throw my lot with people who lie, manipulate and deceive others to get what they want."
As far as the series, which is solely operating under the National Tour banner right now, well, it is undergoing several changes. Varney admitted to us that his most recent event, at Illiana Motor Speedway (IN), was horrible. Only a handful of cars showed up. There is one more race left of the docket for this year, on Halloween of all dates (Oct. 31), at North Wilkesboro Speedway (NC).
As revealed at the Oktoberfest event at LaCrosse Fairgrounds Speedway a couple weeks ago, Varney will still own the series next year, but he is looking for someone to run the raceday operations at the racetrack.
“It’s like I told them (drivers and teams) in the drivers meeting (at LaCrosse), as the owner of the series, if I’m the problem, then I need to man-up and step away and bring somebody in that’s not a problem,” stated Varney.
“We have three candidates (for the Director of Race Operations). I talked to one at LaCrosse and I interviewed two others. I would hope (the person) would be announced by North Wilkesboro at the end of the month.
“This is absolutely not a lease situation with the series. We are looking for somebody to run the series at the racetrack, but when you call the office it will still be me or a receptionist to take care of the teams. By no means am I giving up any kind of control. I still own the series; I still control the series. I will basically be hiring somebody to run the operations at the racetrack.”
Everybody deserves a new chapter in life and that’s exactly what Ron Varney is attempting to begin. Whether you like him or not doesn’t make a difference at this juncture. As everyone moves forward, Varney is fighting for the existence of a racing series he truly believes in and that is the main reason he is… misunderstood.