OSWEGO – After a successful return to Supermodified competition last season at Oswego Speedway, division veteran Jeff West will be back at the track again beginning July, 6 in ‘Fast Friday’ testing before competing in Saturday night’s 50-lap ‘Road to the Championship presented by Helena Agri-Enterprises.
West, a three-time Supermodified feature winner and 1988 rookie, retired from the sport at the young age of 32 following one final full-time stint in 2000 before driving the Doug Heveron backup car in the 2003 Budweiser International Classic 200.
The outside polesitter for the ‘99 Classic, ‘Westy’ now lives in Indianapolis where he is busy at work for his self-owned and operated company; Indy Performance Composites.
“I came back after all these years because I can afford it,” joked West. “I never wanted to walk away from the sport, but sometimes there are life decisions that just make more sense. I decided I wanted to turn some of what I know in manufacturing into my own business and its seemed to work out for me so that’s the good part of it. If I had done what I do now 10 years earlier, then maybe I would have been back a little sooner, but then again, I wouldn’t have had as much fun either. There is a give and take to all of it.”
In 10 seasons, West was solid with his familiar No. 01 whenever he was in competition, driving to the aforementioned three victories along with an impressive 29 top five finishes including a runner up effort to Davey Hamilton in the 1997 International Classic.
“I retired pretty early, I was only 32 years old,” West said. “I started racing in 1988 when I was 21 or 22, so when I did retire I had already been racing for about 10 years. I have always given some thought to coming back so it’s been great. It’s a really fun experience for myself and my family.”
For his recent return to racing, West tabbed former crewman and fellow Supermodified winner Jerry Curran as his chief wrench and teammate when an investment was made to purchase a new Hawk Chassis from Muldoon Racing. Curran and West worked together on rebuilding and updating the car, which was debuted at the conclusion of the 2017 season.
“Back in the day, Jerry used to work for me,” West said. “I’ve known him for probably thirty years. I used to build cars for him and he used to always help me when we were all racing together, so that’s how I ended up going that route. I knew he was getting kind of financially stressed and getting towards the end where he said he didn’t really want to do it as much, but I told him I wanted to, so that’s how all of this started out.”
Being that trips to Oswego tend to be few and far between for West due to the workload at his business, he didn’t want to jump into something where he had to do all the physical labor on the car, although a broken part and hard crash in Classic practice last season did make for a bit of extra work for the duo.
On the other hand, most of the time, West is able to arrive to the track with helmet in hand and feels comfortable hopping behind the wheel thanks to Curran’s meticulous craftsmanship.
“I wasn’t going to do this with something where I got into it and then just had to go and bust my ass all the time,” West said. “However, something did break Classic Weekend and I did bust my ass anyway, but other than that it wasn’t too bad. I knew Jerry would do a nice car and I think we have a lot of resources that can help him. He enjoys building them and does a hell of a job. He’s a good guy, a good help, and a great friend so it all means a lot when you can just show up and know that things are done right.”
After a solid debut which included turning laps in the sub 17-second bracket, nearly winning a heat race his second night out and then going on to finishing eighth in the 50-lap main event on Track Championship Night, West has put more upgrades into the No. 1 over the offseason which includes an independent front suspension setup courtesy of Hawk Jr. Chassis.
“When we bought the car from Muldoon it was brand new,” West said. “Jerry got right to work and did an awesome job. Right now we just had Joey (Hawksby) put the independent (front suspension) In it, so that should help us out a lot more too. The car was good and I think we could have won races with it last year had I got the chance to run a little more. We had motor issues to start with, but the night that everything finally went well for us the thing was strong.”
Notably, West has come close to winning a few International Classics in his day, including in 1998 when he broke while leading, ultimately handing the victory over to Bentley Warren. However, he isn’t coming back to avenge a Classic win, he just loves racing Supermodifieds at the Oswego Speedway.
“Sure, being there at the end to win the Classic or getting back to victory lane would be awesome,” West said. “Even though we wrecked it real bad in Classic practice Friday, I had a great car that could’ve done pretty well on Sunday, but I made a mistake. I think I was pushing too hard on the first lap trying to pass everybody and then we ended up in the fence. It’s a capable car, so at the end of the day, we are going to have a good time, be competitive, and wherever the chips fall, they do. When I left that place I told myself it doesn’t owe me anything. Do I feel I should’ve won the Classic a few times? Absolutely. But was it meant to be? Absolutely not.”
More important than anything, West cares about the ‘Big O’ and he wants to see the Supermodifieds thrive for many years to come.
He said, “Oswego has done me well over the years and I want to see the class do well too. We’ve seen a decline a little bit, so if I can help with that, I’m all in. I don’t want Oswego going anywhere in my lifetime, that’s for sure. If I can do that, have some fun and win some races while we’re at it, I’m all in there too.”
This Saturday, pit gates will open at 3 p.m., grandstands and hot laps at 4:30 p.m., time trials will take place at 6:15 p.m., and heat racing will get the green flag at 6:45 p.m. with regular distance 50- and 30-lap main events for the Novelis Supermodifieds and Pathfinder Bank SBS to follow.
General admission seating is $15 for this Saturday’s regular show with kids 16 and younger free with a paid adult. Reserved seating and $75 VIP packages including admission to one of our tower suites is available by calling the track office at (315)-342-0646 or sending an email to [email protected]
For more information on Oswego Speedway, visit OswegoSpeedway.com.