2002 Champions of Champion | NevadaAppeal.com

2002 Champions of Champion

Rhonda Costa-Landers, Appeal Staff Writer

Legends Division

Jim Klopp

Age: 36

Car: 1937 Ford Sedan, manufactured by 600 Racing

Resides: South Lake Tahoe

Family: Wife, Kym; children, Tawny, Adam and Anthony

Years racing: 17 years; five years in a Legends car. This is his first-ever championship.

Sponsors: Crazy Burrito, Ironwood Cinemas, Carson Valley Flooring; Signs @ Tahoe and Withrow Oxygen.

Special thanks to: Jim and Kris Martin, Rob Wood of RWW Fabrication, and Henry Hodges Jr. and Jim Bawden.

Klopp began racing in 1985 at the age of 19 in a late model race car. After more than enough years racing the late models, Klopp switched to Legends, where “he found his home,” mostly because of the expense factor.

“I’ve had days I’ve hot-lapped and just didn’t feel right about driving the car,” Klopp said. “So I loaded the car on the trailer and went home. I felt as a driver I had no place being in a car. Eighty percent of racing is in the pits, 20 percent is on the track.”

Klopp said his main reason for racing is to go out and have fun.

“I’m just doing what I do to have fun and I’m glad it (the championship) came to me. If it weren’t for my fine competitors, it wouldn’t mean anything to me.”

No matter when, no matter where, if you’re looking for Klopp and just can’t seem to visually find him, wait a few moments. Better idea, listen for him. Klopp’s infectious and fun-filled laugh can be heard from a great distance away. He’s a true competitor and will help anyone in need. Most race nights, before the competition starts, you’ll find him helping out a fellow driver with the set-up on their car — then he’ll work on his, with his lovely wife Kym, who’s equally as friendly, at his side.

“Next year, if sponsorship is available, I will run (again) for the championship,” Klopp said. “I gotta make sure I’m in my A-game when I show up. If I’m in the running for the championship after several weeks, then I’ll go for it.”

Late Model Division

Rich Lawlor

Age: 42

Car: 1999 Ford Taurus

Resides: Sparks

Family: Wife, Sherry

Years driving: 13

First championship: No, 1996 late model champion at (then) Silver State Raceway

Crew: Chief Lee Ruff, Pete Bailey, Tom Westfall, Keith Shelton, Gary Martin.

Sponsors: Allen’s Tire; Feature Graphics; Feature Awards; F&B Farms; Lake Bar and Grill; Waterbed Warehouse; Bill Pierce Autobody; Napa Stores Reno and Sparks; RD McDougal Trucking; Topaz Construction; Keith Shelton Construction; Fleet Parts.

Special thanks to: His crew. “They deserve the credit. Their personal support was tremendous, standing behind me all year long. You can’t ask for a better bunch of people.”

Called “The Pizza Man,” Rich Lawlor has made his mark in the late model world of racing. The nickname was placed while in high school, as he worked at the family-owned pizza joint in Sparks called Bojo’s, for 25 years.

At the start of the season, Lawlor said his goal was to finish in the top-3 of every race. His stats at the completion of the season are impressive. In 12 starts he had eight top-5 finishes and five wins.

“The crew did a fantastic job on keeping the car maintained,” Lawlor said. “We never had a problem there.”

Lawlor lost his step-mother this year and dedicated the racing season to her, Thelma Jo.

“I almost lost my dad the same week. It was a trying year for me. My crew was behind me all the way. They told me if I didn’t want to race I didn’t have to. But we did, they were very supportive.”

Lawlor said he knew going into the season he would have tough competition.

“I knew I had the car but the competition was going to be the toughest. The class of cars we had this year was just awesome. This championship means a lot because of the competition at the track. To have five wins and be able to give Make-A-Wish $1,000 means a lot, too.”

Lawlor donated $200 from each of his main event wins to the Make-A-Wish Foundation.

As for next season, Lawlor said he’s waiting to see how things develop at Champion Speedway and in the mean time, he and the crew are going to try to make the car faster and better.

“The car was always there, I wasn’t always there. The crew had the car ready each race, that was the key factor.”

Sportsman Division

Gary Nevers

Age: 45

Car: 1981 Chevrolet Monte Carlo

Resides: Carson City

Family: Sister, Valerie Nevers; brothers, Brandon and Dwight Nevers; daughter, Naomi Nevers; son, Kiane Nevers; Bill and Ken Miller.

Years driving: 24

First championship: No. One division titles in 1984, 1985, 1986 and 2002.

Crew: Chief Mike Prien, Rocky Boice Sr., Jeff Brunier and John Evans

Sponsors: Capital City Loans, Dynamic Research, Rel’s Racing, Party Time DJs, Mark Kaizer, Larsen Enterprises, Southside Mo and Bro’s Auto, End of the Trail Racing.

“The competition was pretty tough from the get-go,” Nevers said. “Even with the low car count they (other drivers) gave me a tough time.”

Nevers credits Dynamic Research for getting him going with particular motor work and finding him that “extra horsepower.” He also got his old crew chief back, who had been out of state for several years.

“That helped, too,” Nevers commented.

Nevers said he is trying to build another sportsman racecar in the off season to have for next season.

“We’ll have one for a back up or maybe take the old car dirt-tracking. Maybe I’ll run both if schedules permit.”

Nevers gives special thanks to Kevin and Tom and Dynamic Research and to the fans for being at Champion Speedway.