Inside the 97 Race Team
by Kevin Varney
Welcome to the first of many installments you’ll see in the forthcoming year about the 97 racing team. The 97 racing team competes weekly in the mini-stock class at Oxford Plains Speedway. We’ll take you along with us as we run for rookie of the year honors as well as hopefully compete for the championship.
First a little introduction, my name is Kevin Varney. I have competed sporadically in the mini-stocks and strictly stocks over the past five or six years. Following the 2001 season I decided it was time for me to step out of the drivers seat and become a car owner. At 29, I guess it was a little early, but then some people are meant to be drivers, and some are meant to be owners.
This is where Jeff Moon steps in. He is the nephew of former OPS and Nascar North driver Ron Moon. For the past three seasons Jeff has competed in OPS’s Wednesday night series and Beech Ridge’s Thursday Thunder. His talent was obvious early as he actually won the first ever race he entered. Over the past three seasons he’s racked up 16 wins between the two tracks and finished second in points twice. He holds the single season and career win records in the Oxford Outlaw division. Only money has prevented him from making the jump to Saturday nights. That’s where I stepped in late in 2001.
We’ve already had the chance to work together as we ran a three-race schedule at seasons end, finishing second in our second start and leading much of the Little Guys race before tangling with another car.
Following the 2001 season, we started work on the car for the upcoming season. One of our sponsors, John Drew at Inland Auto body has provided us with a place build the car as well as a lot of assistance and technical advice. Those of you that have been to OPS in years past may remember John a two time limited Sportsman champion and winner of around 40 races. The car is a 1987 Ford Mustang SVO. This car has been raced for three years with three wins and two rookie of the year titles. We put the car on the jig and stripped it to the floorboards. After laying 2x2 square tubing down the whole length of the frame, we moved the four-point cage as far back as possible then finished the front and rear hoops.
Once the chassis was complete and rolling again we hung the body and prepared for our first car show. We decided on a glossy black paint scheme with white ground effects to make the car stand out a little. Jerry Babb for Nu-style designs did an excellent job lettering the car. When he asked what we wanted for the colors on the lettering all we could tell him is that we liked yellow and orange. On that little bit of info, he put together a package that absolutely makes the car look very sharp (of course my opinion may be a little biased). You can see for yourself by checking out our website at www.97racing.net and be sure to sign our guest book!
We took it to the Portland Expo show and had a great time. Even though we didn’t win the best appearing car, we were an award finalist and enjoyed the wonderful comments from the thousands of fans and fellow competitors. A lot of those who saw the car and the pictures of the car in progress were real surprised at just how many man-hours we’ve spent on this car (I am surprised too because among the half dozen people who have helped us we are well over a thousand man-hours). Maybe a bit excessive for an entry level team, but we want to win pretty bad.
Right now we are busy working on the suspension. Gone are the days when you could just cut a set of springs and call it good. Even entry-level teams like us are working on things like bump steer and shocks. With our class using a racing specific tire on an aftermarket wheel with a fairly high performance motor, to be successful you really have to put the time and money into the car. Many who have looked at the car have called it a mini-limited or a mini flying tiger type car.
We expect to pick up the new motor within a couple of weeks and then we’ll be busy installing that and wiring the car. I do finally feel like we are seeing the light at the end of the tunnel, and it’s a good thing because opening day less then 40 days away.
We have a great crew who has spent a lot of time on this car. Besides myself, Jeff and John we also receive help from my brother Chris Varney who also races in this class, Dale Eldridge, Ben Tinker, Jim Christian, and Jeff’s brother Steve Moon. There are so many cheerleaders it would take me all day to name them all, but the biggest must be my wife and son Jamie and Brandon.
That’s it for now. Look for another installment in the near future and weekly once we hit racing season. In the meantime, you can also get updates at our website and you can also see us at the Auburn Mall Show the week of the 17th. See you soon.