GARVEY GEARING UP FOR NEW SEASON by Jeremy Troiano
Big Changes On Tap For 2003 Season
When the clock struck midnight on January 1, 2003, Mike Garvey hoped the monkey that was riding on his back over the past year jumped off and went running. Garvey admitted that if the monkey is off of his back, he was going to kick it and slap it and tell it to never ever come back.
Can you blame the guy? Sure, he finished fifth in the 2002 ASA point standings, and that was pretty incredible for a new team, but he went the entire season without winning a race. And he had the opportunity to win oneor even several of them. But every time he put himself or his car in the right position to win, something happened and he was lucky to even finish the race. It happened all year long, even in the Snowball Derby.
Garvey hopes to put that all behind him now, as he and the WJ Plemmons team start over, with a fresh team in a new shop, in search for the 2003 ASA National Championship.
"The way things are now really eases my mind," said Garvey. "I don't know how we did it last year. I look at last year as a building year. We only had a few weeks to get everything done
last year. I was put into some positions last year that I had to be the team manager and everything. I was always in a position before with Bond (Suss, at LaFavre Racing) and even Gerry Gunderman where I could just drive and work on the cars. Last year I was trying to wear too many hats.
"It was a reality check for me last year, because I always thought I could do it myself. I know now that there is no way anyone could do this themselves. I am still proud of what we accomplished last year. I am really excited with having all the people in place and all the equipment in place. I think it is finally falling into the right spot.
"We are so much farther ahead than before, it is not funny. We are moving into our new shop; building new cars; you name it, we are getting ready."
Getting ready they are! In addition to the new shop, the team purchased three new Lefthander Chassis cars, purchased pit equipment from Steve Dale and is in the process of getting an entire new crew.
But the key to the whole operation is the new shop. It could be a way to bring in the much-needed sponsor.
"It is going to be a nice shop (20,000 sq. feet). We can pull the trailers in there. It is going to be awesome. We are going to have everything we need to be self-sufficient
like we needed to be; we just didn't have time to do it last year. Our new place has offices, conference rooms and everything. It is a place we can bring sponsors in. There are golf courses and all kinds of stuff to draw people into this area. It is going to be a place where someone who wants to get involved in racing would be proud of."
The biggest off-season move for this team might be its toughest to deal with, the loss of an entire crew and building a new one all over. It all starts with crew chief Joe Shear Jr., who signed a three-year deal with the team to stay on as head honcho.
"Last year, I appreciated everyone coming with us from up in Minnesota. It wasn't the right way to do it, though. I appreciate it more than I can say. We want to have a team in the area, though. We couldn't have pit-stop practice or anything last year. It worked out ok, but it took the end of the year to gel. The comradery is not there when you can't spend a lot of time together. We were flying people in from all over the country.
The #17 should be a front runner this year.
Mike Garvey is more than excited about his 2003 season with WJ Plemmons.
"We want a lot of quality time. Joe has moved down here to be with us full time. Dan Winter will be a tire changer for us. We are building everyone from right around here. We are going to have everyone come in one or two days a week and on the weekends to help. We were really undermanned last year. They were a great bunch of guys and I can't say how much I appreciate those guys stepping up and helping us get this going. We are just looking at it long term.
"Joe is big for us. He gives me a second opinion on everything. He's so smart. He had lots of ideas in his head and has plenty of things he wants to try this year. Having Joe around is big because if I need to take care of some other things, I know I can trust him with the cars."
The entire team has already tested at Lakeland, but doesn't plan on doing much testing as the year goes on. The team is focused on one thingwinning races and the championship. The races are very important to Garvey, who went winless in 2002.
"Not winning really bugged me last year. We just didn't have things fall our way. We were there to win races at the end of the year and I am very proud of that. Last year was a building year and now we can actually go and win some races. I want to win a championship and win races. If we run as good as we think we can and stay out of trouble, I think we can."
Dewayne Bugguay will join the WJ Plemmons team as a teammate of sorts to Garvey, even though the team will run out of a different stable. Bugguay will run for Rookie of the Year with a car bought from the WJ Plemmons team and another from Russ Tuttle.
This year's WJ Plemmons team will look a little different.
"He is not a teammate per say, but we are calling him a teammate. He is running for Rookie of the Year this year and Bill wants to run for Rookie of the Year next year. I am full time and Bill is running here and there.
He is working out of his own shop. We took the cars apart and got them ready for him. He is ready to race now. He is a guy I have known from down here in the Atlanta area. He races late models. He is going to bring his cars in here each week before the race and we are gong to help him set them up. We are also going to try and help him at the racetrack as much as we can. We are going to do as much as we can for him without taking anything away from our team."
It looks like it may be a good year for Garvey, possibly the best chance of his career to win an ASA National Championship. And anyone can tell just by listening to him talk about his chances. He has more of an upbeat voice than ever before.
"I have been with some awfully good teams with some awfully good people. There were just circumstances that didn't put us in a position to win championships. I don't want to step on any toes, but I think this could be my best shot to win everything. From looking at our overall readiness, I think we are in very good shape. We had some good teams there at LaFavre Racing, but things would just happen that didn't allow us the perfect championship run.
"We have put a lot of money into this to make it a first class race team."
Plemmons wants to run for Rookie of the Year in 2004.