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 Columns & Editorials

January 1, 2001

View from the Driver's Seat

2000 Season Wrap-up
by Jeff Haven
It doesn't seem possible this season is over already. It was exactly one year ago that Chuck and I met with Troy and decided over dinner to team up, and Plowshare Racing was born. How things have changed since then! During the 1999 season, it was just Chuck doing all the work (most of it in my driveway), and me doing all the driving. I'm still the driver, but everything else has changed for the better. Troy brought Randy in to handle the marketing end of things, and about three weeks into the season Kevin came to the shop to offer some advice on the chassis setup. I don't think he's been home since. Sorry, Jamie.

The season got off to a rough start when I failed to qualify for the feature in the 2000 Winternationals. We were ready with a new motor for the start of the regular season March 3. The numbers look like this:

21 races
No wins
6 Top 5's
16 Top 10's
Failed to finish 4 races (1 stuck thermostat, 2 crashes, and 1 black flag for rough driving)
Completed 404 of 435 laps (93%)

I'm disappointed I wasn't able to win this year, but I can only see the season as a huge success. I started the year as a guy who sat in a race car and drove it around a track, and I think I ended the season as one of the top racers in my class. It's the difference between following the pack and hoping for a good break, and charging toward the front and trying to make my own breaks. As I look back at the earlier races, I did a lot of following, even when I was near the leaders. Some of that was due to the car, a lot of it was due to me. I became more confident and more aggressive as the season went on, and while I had some higher finishes, I don't think there's any doubt my finest moments as a racer came in the last two races of the season. In the last regular 15-lap race, I started 9th and charged up to 2nd before getting black-flagged in what I still think was a stupid call. In the 100-lap finale, I started 23rd in a field of 49 cars. I got as high as 3rd before having to pit due to overheating. We got it cooled down and I got back on the track, finishing 6th.

More important than my personal progression, though, was the growth of the Plowshare Racing team. We started the season barely knowing each other, and ended the year as a cohesive racing family. And I do mean family. This isn't just the guys doing the racing thing, it's the families too. We've worked together, partied together, traveled together, suffered the down times together, and celebrated the good times together. This has become much more than just a hobby now, and everyone on the team plays an important part.

The Haven family: You know me, of course. Tricia, my wife and biggest supporter, was not at all thrilled about me getting into racing. I know she was hoping that I'd try it a couple of times and decide I didn't like it, but she knew it was a lost cause when I climbed out of the car after my very first race in '98, and she's backed me every inch of the way since. From letting us know what's happening before our race, to bringing dinner to the shop when everybody's working late, to just simply being there, she's the most important person on the team for me. My daughter, Raeanna, hasn't gotten the racing bug as much as the rest of us yet, but she supports us as much as her busy teenage schedule allows, and she has shown some interest in racing in the Hornet class when she turns 16. Just what Mom needs, another racer in the family!

The Carter family: Troy is the team president, manager, coach, and pretty much anything else we need at any given moment. He's the heart and soul of this team, and sets the tone for everything we do. When I started racing, I just expected to run an Enduro for a couple of years. Troy has the team looking to the future, and that future looks a lot different than it did a year ago. Cindy is, among other things, our travel agent, race-night sandwich supplier, and Troy-calmer-downer when he gets a little extra fired up. Nathan is a 5-year-old ball of energy, and our biggest critic. After a race, he heads straight to the car and points out every new scratch and dent, and lets me know when I've "really messed it up". I love it!

The Spicer family: Randy is our marketing and promotions guy, along with helping out at the shop where he can. Tara helps keep Randy in line and never misses a race. Megan and Kathryn are 6th- and 3rd-graders who can strip a perfectly good street car down to nuts, bolts, and sheet metal in just a few hours. We call them The Wrecking Crew.

The Billard family: I wouldn't be racing if it wasn't for Chuck. When Tricia introduced us in June of '98 (see, this is all her fault!), we found out we had a mutual interest in racing, and a few hours later (and a few beers) we were a team. Chuck did ALL of the work on the car in '98 and '99, and got me the seat-time I needed to become competitive this year. Sue's job in the retail industry, and the 40 miles away that they live, has kept her from participating as much as the rest of us, but she's been there when she can. Chuck and Sue are expecting their first child early next year ( a Hornet racer in 2017?), and Chuck won't be able to devote the time required from a crew chief for a 40-race season, but he is staying on to help as much as he can.

The Webb family: Joining the team in March, Kevin has gone from chassis consultant to crew chief. He is responsible for everything on the car, and is expected to have the car ready to race every Thursday for practice and every Saturday for the race. If you haven't done it, you can't imagine how heavy a load that is, and there's nobody more excited about taking on the job than Kevin is. The relationship between crew chief and driver is the most critical one on the team. Kevin's the first one I yell at when I'm not happy about something, he ignores me until I'm done, and then we get to work making it better. He wants nothing more than to make me better and I trust him completely. Jamie's a school teacher, so she knows how to handle a bunch of kids who only want to have fun...a perfect match for this team. Her favorite part of racing is the road trip. Even sitting through a 4-hour rain delay at the Hooter's Pro Cup race in Lakeland and getting back into town at 5 AM didn't slow her down. She's a keeper!

Ballyhoo Grill & Raw Bar, Zeigler Transmissions, Better Than Dirt, The House Doctor, Auto Radiator Exchange, Lucky's Ice Machines, and Holiday Air all helped us out this year. Check out their addresses and phone numbers on our website, and give them your business. They are great people, and we wouldn't have been so successful without them. A lot of people have helped us at the track over the last 2 years, and we've made many good friends, including

Roger Welch, Street Stock #98
Dan Partelo, Street Stock #9 and Modified #9
Ron "Hollywood" Davis, Street Stock #40 and Figure-8 #89
Harold and Jackie Ashley, Enduro #27 and 72
Herman Brame, Enduro #55
James Ellershaw, Enduro #50

And many other racers I haven't mentioned. I want to thank Ernie, Scott, and Jeff who helped us at the shop so many times. And I want to give special thanks to my parents, who taught me to accept responsibility for myself (I think I tried that once or twice), but to never be afraid to take a chance or make a mistake. It was a big leap from the grandstands to the driver's seat, but the only way I could fail was to never try. One thing I won't be doing in my later years is wondering what I could have done but didn't.

If you're still with me here, thank you, I know you're a true fan. We wrapped up the 2000 season at the SSRA (Sunshine Speedway Racing Association) Awards Banquet, where I was presented with the SSRA Supporter of the Year award. This award was in recognition of our efforts off the track which included appearances at fund-raisers held at Lugnuts Race Bar and Ryan's Steakhouse, an appearance on the Short Track USA radio program before the 2000 Winternationals, top contributor to the Easter Bunny giveaway to youngsters at the gate in April, kid's rides throughout the year, and participating in the Great American Teach-in where I talked with more than 500 6th-, 7th-, and 8th-graders. Although it's my name on the award, this is very much a team award. These things take time from everybody, but when opportunities like these come along, it's an easy decision to participate. We love the world of racing, and the future lies in the kids. We work very hard to promote ourselves and racing in general.

So now, it's on to 2001 - A Racing Odyssey. Sorry. Our next challenge is moving up to the Street Stock class. Kevin, Randy, and Troy are already hard at work building a new car. We'll be running a 1974 Malibu with more horsepower and better handling, a lot of technical changes from last year (don't ask me to explain them all, I just drive), and tough competition from the other Enduro drivers moving up, plus the drivers who already have experience in the class. We've established a goal of finishing in the top 10 in points, and we really believe we have a shot at the top 5. The biggest challenge might be racing every week, with only one week off between the first of March and the end of November. I think we're prepared to do it, since we missed very few weekly practices last year, and we were strongest at the end of the season when we raced 6 times in the last 8 weeks.

Thanks for joining us this year. It was a year of accomplishments, new experiences, and constant learning. I'm sure the pace will pick up even more next year. The first race of the year will be the 2001 Winternationals on February 4th. 40 days...I can't wait.

Jeff Haven
Street Stock #7 (we think)
formerly Enduro #98
Plowshare Racing

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