Craig Murto: Garvey makes mark on track

Mike Garvey took a break from working on Brayton Haws’ car prior to the Snowflake 100 last December at Five Flags Speedway in Pensacola, Fla.

“It’s funny,” Garvey, 52, said. “I saw Mike Cope last weekend, and you know you’re getting old when your friend’s kids have gray hair. I saw Travis [Cope] and he has gray hair, and I wonder when that happened. I think I’m only 25.”

Garvey’s made a mark in short track circles. A two-time winner of the All-American 400, he was competitive in All-Pro, ASA and Pro Cup.

Of his first All-American 400 win in 1994, Garvey said it was like winning the Daytona 500.

“When I was a kid, that was the biggest thing there was,” Garvey said.

His time in ASA, running the National Tour, also stands out.

“That was a great time,” Garvey said, “a great series; national TV, sponsorship.”

He’s had a lot of great times, including racing in the Sprint Cup Series.

Now living in Pensacola after years in the Atlanta area, Garvey, originally from Michigan, continues to make his living in racing. He works as a consultant, driving coach, and drives Tracy Goodson’s Late Models, something he did while crew chiefing on Ryan Sieg’s NASCAR trucks. Goodson talked Garvey into leaving the Atlanta area.

“I’m going to cut back on the driving,” Garvey said. “I may race here or there, I don’t know. I don’t want to retire completely. But we really want to build the business, bring people in, consult with them, rent our cars, bring people in to drive our cars. Go to the track and speed up the kids’ learning process.”

Snowball Derby weekend 2014 wasn’t the best for Garvey or the Tracy Goodson team. It started rough when Haws, starting 25th in the Snowflake 100, got caught up in an accident early on.

But then the Snowball Derby the next day really hurt, and helped cement Garvey’s decision not to race as much, certainly not full time.

Starting ninth in the Derby, Garvey got taken out early.

“We had the best car I’ve ever had for the Derby,” Garvey said. “It was disgusting.”

The Snowball Derby’s a long race. Garvey made a couple moves to get around the car in front of him, then decided it was best to relax and be patient. Unfortunately the young racer behind him didn’t feel the same way.

“I get run over, then the kid’s on social media blaming me for it,” Garvey said. “Accidents happen, but not on lap 15.”

Certainly the kid who took him out didn’t come up in racing the same way as Garvey.

“I did it with no money. I did it with hard work and determination, I didn’t have any money. Unfortunately it’s all money-driven now. Not to say there aren’t a lot of good racers, there are a lot of good racers. But there’s also a lot of things that go on that we’d have never put up with when we were coming up.

“The people we came up with, the Mike Eddys and the Bob Sennekers, would never put up with the … lack of respect. There’s not a lot of respect anymore, there’s a lot of people who come through who just don’t care about anybody else.”

Lack of respect on the part of an overeager young driver put Garvey out of the Snowball Derby. But it reinforced the need for veterans such as Garvey to instill some of that respect in the young talent he coaches. Teach them that it really does matter if they wreck somebody on the track.

“That guy’s got to put food on the table and you just probably cost him $10,000, so when that guy comes back he’s probably going to wreck you,” Garvey said. “What goes around comes around in this stuff, but everybody wants it their way. In racing it’s give and take. A lot of kids know that, but a lot of them don’t, so you see a lot of things happening that really shouldn’t happen.”

Garvey knew his break from driving should happen, so as the 2015 season got underway, he wasn’t behind the wheel. He planned to work as the crew chief on the Goodson car, and had some other consulting work lined up. He couldn’t say when he’ll race again, but he was adamant that he hasn’t completely retired as a driver.

Mike Garvey will be around, continuing to make his mark on short track racing.

Veteran motorsports columnist Craig Murto is a Linden resident.