GARVEY ONE OF THE FEW SURVIVERS SATURDAY NIGHT  by J. Troiano
Cope, Smith Rough Each Other Up For Second, Third
The old racing adage says “cautions breed more cautions.”  That couldn't have been more true in the second ASA race of 2004. 

But on Saturday night at Lanier National Speedway (GA), cautions didn't just breed more cautions, they multiplied them at an exponential rate.
In the end, unofficially, 14 cautions slowed the field for 137 of the race's 250 laps.  Yep, more laps were run under caution than under green.  This, in turn, made passing a premium and working to the front quite difficult.

The driver who did it best was homestate Georgia driver Mike Garvey, who won the “wreckfest at Lanier” for the second-straight year.  Garvey's car, the fastest on the track, passed Short Track veteran Mike Cope with just a handful of laps remaining to pull away for a convincing win.
However, it wasn't a normal Victory Lane celebration for Garvey.  It was more somber, as he reflected on the race that just took place rather than the victory at hand.

“I got out of the car and didn't care as much that I won the race as you normally would in Victory Lane,” said Garvey.  “Yeah it is nice, it is always awesome to win the race, but I'm more relieved that I just finished the race with the car in one piece.  What we saw out there tonight isn't how racing is suppose to be.”

Lots of fingers were pointed after the race to the spectacle that unfolded infront of a good number of fans in attendance.  Some blamed each other, some blamed the inexperience of some drivers, but many blamed the new “Choose Rule” implemented during restarts (more on this Monday on Speed51.com).
“It was more important the first half of the race to survive.  You just have to be careful and driver defensively rather than offensively.  It's turned into a controlled demolition derby out there.  People are all over the place.  People are bouncing off of each other.  It is the craziest thing you've ever seen. If you put a video camera in the car and video taped this, you could sell some tapes.  It is just nuts.

“We just hoped to survive and work our way back up to the front after we made our pit stops,” added Garvey.  “Then I thought we were going to run out of laps.  We would run three laps and have a caution, three laps and have a caution. It was just stupid out there.  That is what happened to Kevin (Cywinski).  He had a good car but just got caught up in the quagmire back there.  It is stupid.”
“It is what it is I guess.  It just worked out for us today.  The Jani-King Monte Carlo finished first and that is all that matters, but it sucks when you don't feel totally satisfied when you when because you are just worn out from the so called race.  But I have to hand it to my guys, my crew chief and everyone.  I don't want the race to take anything away from what they accomplished out there tonight.  They deserve this.” 

Mike Cope, a runner up in the rookie race in 2001, led his first laps since early last season.  He dominated much of the second-half of the race, holding of 2004 rookie contender Casey Smith during several restarts.  However, once Garvey worked his way by both cars, Cope and Smith waged a fierce battle coming to the checkered flag. 
The Lanier podium included Mike Cope (left), Mike Garvey (center) and Casey Smith.
Smith appeared a bit faster, but wasn't able to get around the wily Cope.  Smith hit Cope several times and Cope was able to hold on to the sideways car and come home second, matching his career-best ASA finish.

“It's cool,” said Cope of his return to the front of the field after a lot of tough luck over the past years.  “I thought we had something for them, but our right side tires were just shot, you know.  So Mike (Garvey) jumped up on the outside there and went right on by.  They did a great job.

“We did a great job and so did my guys.  They all were just superb.

“The #19 car (Smith) was on my back bumper like white on rice.  I have an older brother that I used to race like that and
Cope is interviewed by Speed Channel after  his runner-up finish
we would wreck each other all the time.  If that is what he wants to do, I don't have a problem with that.  I guarantee you that we have more money than he does.  We don't have much, but we've got more.” 
Garvey made it two-in-a-row at Lanier.
Smith, who also matched his career-best ASA finish (which ironically came last-year at Lanier), wasn't happy with Cope either, but said it is in the past and he'll move on.

“He was really jacking up the starts and he was running me all over the place,” said Smith, who came back from a lap down early in the race when he was the innocent victim in one of the race's 14 cautions.  “We were faster and he was driving like an idiot.  That's ok though.  I've raced against men all my life and he doesn't intimidate me at all. 

“It was a good points night for us and we were strong all night long.  If we would have been able to get by Cope, we could have had something for Garvey I think, but I'll take this finish.  You can't be too disappointed with third.”

Unofficially, Smith likely moved to the top of the ASA point standings after two of 16 events and heading into the first superspeedway event
Smith should take over the ASA point lead with his second top-five of '04.
of 2004 (ASA doesn't release the point standings until Monday).  The other top finishers from Lakeland, including Travis Kittleson and Butch Miller, were also victims of the several cautions flags on Saturday night.

Speed51.com will have more post race reaction from Lanier on Monday morning, including an intriguing story regarding the Lanier race as seen from the drivers standpoint.