It would be an understatement to say that Heath Alvey has led an amazing life. And it has been a life that some believed might not ever get this far. The now 40-year-old was diagnosed with cancer as a baby and was given only six weeks to live by the doctors who tended to him.
“Yeah, I’ve had a pretty interesting life,” Alvey said. “It’s definitely not been boring. I went to St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital until I was 18-years-old. They did surgery on me when I was two then I had 76 weeks of chemo and radiation after that. I spent most of my childhood at St. Jude’s in Memphis until I got to the point that I only had to go down there once a year for a checkup.
“I’m convinced that God pulled me through all that,” Alvey added. “If it wasn’t for him, I wouldn’t be here.”
And as if that miracle of a story wasn’t enough, Alvey’s travels have brought him into contact with some of the most famous celebrities in the world. As a tour bus driver he has carried the likes of Madonna, The Black Eyed Peas, Kenny Chesney, Ricky Martin, the Beach Boys and Little Big Town as well as the University of Tennessee marching band and the Volunteers men’s basketball team.
He has also served as a police officer for 12 years with the Dandridge City Police force and the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Department.
Last year proved to be a turning point in Alvey’s life and racing career. The advent of the new Sportsman class at the Tazewell Speedway proved to be a breath of fresh air for this driver who had experienced only moderate success up to that point.
He became a regular in Victory Lane on the super high-banked track located in the northeastern corner of Tennessee. But at the same time, health issues again provided a stumbling block, albeit this time only a brief one.
A year ago he returned to St. Jude’s because the hospital wanted to do a life study on him to determine the effects of his early life treatments.
“What happened was where I had so much chemo as a baby, I have scar tissue in my bladder,” he explained. That scar tissue ultimately led to problems that would sideline the driver for some time. “I eventually had to go to Vanderbilt Hospital for about a week and a half last year dealing with all that and I was out of commission.”
Alvey won his first race back at Tazewell after that long hospital stay last year.
“I won six at Tazewell, but I really won seven,” he recalled of last season’s successes. “They disqualified me on one of them because of a carbon fiber drive shaft. I wasn’t aware that you couldn’t run a carbon fiber drive shaft. That’s a safety feature and it doesn’t have anything to do with the performance of the car.”
Over the course of the entire season, he finished no worse that 5th in the Sportsman races he was able to enter at Tazewell.
And 2014 has gotten off to a great start with three strong efforts that have resulted in two wins.
“I won the Sweetheart at 411 and I won at Smoky Mountain this past weekend,” Alvey said. “I would have won the Hangover at 411 but I broke a shock. I had an awesome car. That was probably the best car I’ve ever had since I’ve been racing.”
Alvey hopes the Sportsman class can continue in much the same form as it currently operates.
“It’s a perfect class,” Alvey declared of the division. “If they keep a good tight grip on it and don’t let the built motors get out of hand, it’s going to stay a real competitive class.”
As for the rest of 2014, the driver plans to pick up where he left off last year.
“I’m going to run Tazewell mostly,” he explained. “I’d like to win a championship because I was so close last season. I missed the first six races there last year and that’s what killed me. I only missed the championship by 20 points.”
But the challenge will be even greater this season.
“It will be different this year. There’s going to be a lot more competition and a lot of good cars. It’ll be hard to win a championship over there.”
When Alvey isn’t racing, the Chestnut Hill resident has plenty to occupy his time with his family owned businesses A & B Construction and Dandridge Pennzoil.
Alvey credits the support of his wife Angie and sponsors Diversified Enclosures, Sammy’s Auto Parts, D&S Automotive, Elite Dental, Tinsley Bible, Pro Built Engines, Smoky Mountain Home Health and Hospice for his success.