Jarvis ready for Busch debut

By Jeff Birchfield
STAR Staff

   BRISTOL -- In a short few years, Butch Jarvis and his crew nicknamed the "Tennessee Mountain Boys" went from being competitors in the Street Stock Division at Kingsport Speedway to becoming winners in the oval track's featured Late Model class. Last season, they took the act on the road, racing on the ARA tour throughout the Southeast.
   Next Friday, Jarvis plans to use those experiences to help fulfill a dream of racing in the NASCAR Busch Series. The Kingsport driver was testing at Bristol Motor Speedway Wednesday, attempting to bring his red No. 53 Pontiac up to the necessary speed to make the field in next week's Food City 250.
   "The track has fell off, but we still picked up time," said Jarvis about the day of running around the high banks. "It's going to be our first Busch race and our first time at Bristol, so we have our hands full. The test come along good. We were picking up time, when everyone else was losing speed with the heat of the day."
   Jarvis is following part of the same path that Dale Earnhardt, Jr. used, moving into the Busch Series from the Late Model ranks. "It's a big difference from this to the Late Model stock cars," said Jarvis. "There's so much difference in the power and weight of the cars. Twenty laps out here in these cars are like a 200-lap Late Model race. I knew this track was going to be tough, but I didn't realize it would be this tough. I've got about eight days to work out hard and get ready for it."
   Jarvis has a varied background racing on the circuits throughout east Tennessee from the dirt track at Tazewell to his hometown concrete track in Kingsport. Coming to the area's showcase facility at BMS is something he always had dreamed of. "I don't know what racing at Bristol means to everyone else, but it means a whole lot to me," stated Jarvis. "It's the king of short track racing. That's all we've ever done is short track racing. If we come in here and make this field and run decent, it will open up a lot of doors for us."
   Many local businesses have helped to make the Jarvis effort possible with sponsorship coming from Fordtown Grocery, Davis Marina, the Boone Store, JTC Express and Witt Motors to name a few.
   Testing along with Jarvis on Wednesday were former Bristol winners and Winston Cup champs - Rusty Wallace, Bill Elliott and Terry Labonte. Just watching those greats in action gave the aspiring driver valuable information. "You can learn a lot watching those guys," Jarvis commented. "They run real steady going into the corners. You can see the points where they are driving into. You see where they get into the throttle and let off of the throttle.
   "I went down there and watched them quite a while. I was off a couple of seconds earlier from the speed we needed to be. After I watched them and got a feel where they were running their lines, we picked up a second just like that. It got us back in the ballgame of where we needed to be."
   Outside of racing, Jarvis, 40, is a successful businessman in Sullivan County owning both trucking and excavating companies. He is the father of two children, Pamela, 18, who attends Northeast State College and Chris, age 10, whom his father describes as a diehard race fan.
   Bristol isn't the only race that Jarvis will attempt to make in 2002. "We would like to get three or four more Busch races in this year," stated Jarvis. "We want to feel this race out and see how we do. Then we want to go to Memphis, Charlotte and another race or two."
   In preparation for the short track event at Memphis, Jarvis and the team tested at Indianapolis Raceway Park and Greenville-Pickens (SC) Speedway recently. His speeds in the test sessions were good enough to match top-20 qualifying efforts at the recent Indy event.
   Leading the crew is Zandel Bowers, featured earlier this year in the STAR as the crew chief for ARCA campaigner Nate Monteith. When Monteith's sponsorship plans failed to materialize despite a strong run at Daytona, Bowers came on board the "Butch Jarvis and Tennessee Mountain Boys" effort. He is working alongside Danny Blevins, who served as Jarvis' crew chief in the Late Model ranks.
   "Zandel has the car handling good," said Jarvis. "It's where it needs to be. Zandel is really good at what he does. He is real precise. He goes in there and works at a steady pace for 10-12 hours. He never stops. He goes all the time. It does all the little knick-knack stuff. I saw him build this car in about a week and a half, went over it from one end to the other. It shows once you get out on the track. It's like a brand new car out there."
   The test session went very well for Jarvis, so well in fact that the team decided to knock off a couple of hours early. "We feel pretty confident," said Jarvis. "We didn't have time to get the motor ready for Bristol. I only got approved to run here by NASCAR last week, so we had to use what we had. We're off a little on horsepower, but we will try to make it up by staying smooth, running the race and staying out of trouble. I guess race day will tell it all."