Mike Garvey wants to make one thing clear: he never said he was retiring; he was just taking a break.
After a nearly three-year hiatus from racing stock cars, that break will end Friday night as Garvey has teamed up with racing legend Gary Balough to drive a Super Late Model in the Blizzard Series / Southern Super Series race at Five Flags Speedway (FL). Garvey, a 21-time winner on the ASA National Tour, will pilot the No. 112 Senneker Performance Super Late Model owned by Balough. The car will feature a throwback scheme to Balough's days racing at tracks throughout the country.
"Everybody said this, but I never said I was retired. I said I just had to stop for a while," Garvey told Speed51. "I had got in a wreck and hurt my back so I couldn't feel me legs real well. My legs felt numb and I just didn't have a lot of feeling in them. It was hard to feel the brake pedal and feel everything. I needed to get my shop back to where it needed to be and get everything going, so I just kind of took some time off.
"I had been building a car anyways. I had got just about done and Gary called me with this deal," Garvey told Speed51. "It's a car that Gary used to work on. A guy in Pennsylvania had it and Gary found out that I was working on Senneker cars. He had one and he really liked it. He wanted to get together and do a deal together. I'm like, 'Hey man, this is perfect.' It works out for everybody. This is a cool deal because we'll be able to do some of the stuff I want to do and some of the stuff he wanted to do. It just kind of worked out."
As a youngster growing up in Michigan, Garvey made it a yearly tradition to travel to Fairgrounds Speedway Nashville to watch the prestigious All American 400. It was there that Garvey laid eyes on Balough's famous No. 112 for the first time. At that moment, he became a Gary Balough fan and started to gain an appreciation for everything he accomplished in the world of motorsports.
Fast forward all these years and Garvey now has the opportunity to race Balough's Super Late Model. It's an opportunity and an honor that he does not take for granted.
"It's awesome, man. Gary was one of my heroes," Garvey stated. "When I grew up in Michigan, I would go down to Nashville every year to the All American 400 and that was NASCAR to me. I didn't have any interest in NASCAR at all. All I wanted to do was run the All American 400; that was as big as it got. The first time I went there I saw Gary's car, his cars were just always immaculate. Everything was chromed, the car was beautiful; it was just everything. It left a lasting impression on me. I wanted the prettiest car and the fastest car. That's kind of where it started all those years ago. For everything to come full circle and get to race with him all these years later, it's just a really, really cool deal for me.
"It's a huge honor for me. It's someone that I had so much respect for and I got to race with a little bit. Just the fact that he called me and wanted me to race the car, it makes me feel good. That's one of the best racers I've ever seen as far as I'm concerned, NASCAR or wherever."
Garvey was not a bad shoe himself during his years traveling around the country as a full-time stock car racer. In addition to his 21 ASA National Tour victories, he is also a two-time All American 400 winner. He has also competed in all three of NASCAR's national touring series now referred to as the NASCAR Cup Series, NASCAR Xfinity Series and NASCAR Gander Outdoor Truck Series.
After announcing that he'd be taking a step back from racing in 2015, Garvey competed in four races during the 2016 season. His last start came during the 2016 Southern Super Series finale on September 24 of that year. Since that time, he has been busy traveling all over the country helping drivers with Senneker Performance Late Models go fast.
With everything going well and all of his ducks in a row, Garvey believes that now is the time to put the helmet back on and chase a few checkered flags himself.
"I got everything going, got my business going good, the shop is running well and I've got a bunch of customers and they're running well. We've got everything running like it should be. That gives me the opportunity to get back in the car a little bit, which I always planned on doing anyways. I never told nobody I quit. You never say never. I may be 75 years old and want to run a race, you just never know."
"I've been testing Chris Davidson's car a lot, so I've ran some laps and I felt really good. I thought everything was back to where it needed to be, so I figured it's time. I don't want to get old and say I wish I would've done this or I wish I would've done that. I still love to race. I'll never race like I did before where I did before when I raced for a living. I'm just going to race, practice the cars and basically just try to make it better for our customers."
Race fans unable to make it to Five Flags Speedway on Friday night to watch Garvey's return to racing will be able to watch a live broadcast of the race on Speed51's Summer Thunder TV presented by PFC Brakes. All that is needed to watch the race is a monthly or yearly subscription to the Speed51 Network. To sign up for you subscription today, click here.
-Story by: Brandon Paul, Speed51.com Editor - Twitter: @Brandon_Paul51
-Photo credit: Speed51.com