Jimmy Owens was just crowned the Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series champion for the third consecutive year. It’s not a mere coincidence that such a feat has occurred.
Behind Owens’ tremendous success, that has not only included those titles but also wins in virtually every major dirt late model event there is, has been the hard work and leadership of crew chief Chris Fox and the rest of the team.
“It’s a lot of hard work,” Fox said of the preparation that goes into building and maintaining a championship team. “A lot of people in the stands don’t realize the work that goes into doing a series, travelling and being gone away from home. It seems like this year we were gone away from home a lot more than the previous two years. There were a lot of two week trips and a lot of leaving on Wednesdays and getting back late on Sunday night.”
According to Fox, time spent working during the short off season period will pay dividends later. And just because it’s the off season doesn’t mean the work days get shorter.
“It’s not an 8 to 5 job, or at least we don’t make it that way,” Fox declared. “A lot of times we’ll be in here until 10 or 11 o’clock at night.”
Along with Fox in putting in those long days in at the shop are Owens and full time crew member Kenny Holt. They are also assisted by Darrell Pack and Jeff Strope and others on a regular basis.
The Mike Reece owned team’s efforts right now are of a two fold nature. They are checking for and repairing the wear and tear from the long racing season of last year, and they are prepping their cars for the upcoming campaign.
“Right now we’ve got the cars striped down, checking for cracks and that sort of thing,” Fox explained. “We’re taking both cars that we ran last year and we’ve got them stripped all the way down to check all the welds out for cracks. Then we’ll replace all the sheet metal on them and put new rear ends, transmissions and drive shafts in them. We replace all the components like that, things that could tear up easily.”
Fox, who is first cousin to Owens, pointed out that much of the work being done right now will have to be repeated after the Georgia/Florida SpeedWeeks activities due to the nature of the racing that takes place in those early season races. The crew chief says that those tracks, particularly the Volusia County Speedway, are often prepared for “hammer down” racing and are hard on engines and other components. And, the tracks in the ‘Sunshine State’ bring another element into the mix that can be hard on these high powered machines.
“Basically, you take the month-and-a-half you’ve got to fix everything you tore up during the season, then you go Florida and in a week-and-a-half to two weeks, you tear it all back up again,” Fox added. “Because of the sand down there you have to go back through all your wheel bearings and replace everything because that sand just eats on it. For the next four weeks when you wash, you’re still getting sand out of everything.”
Once again in 2014, Owens will drive Bloomquist Race Cars with Cornett Race Engines providing the power. Two of the cars the Newport, Tenn. based operation will use next season will be holdovers from the past year. And, Fox and crew are in the process of putting one brand new car together as well.
“We’ll take these two cars here and get them ready for Florida,” Fox said. “Hopefully we’ll have our new one pretty much like a roller by the time we get back from Florida, then we’ll have a couple of weeks to finish it up and be ready to go to the Icebreaker(Brownstown, IN) with a new car.”
The first race on the Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series schedule is set for February 6th at the Golden Isles Speedway in Brunswick, GA.
This was the first of a two part series with Chris Fox. Please also read Chris Fox describes day to day routine of preparing Jimmy Owens’ cars