Ernie Irvan returns as an owner

Ernie Irvan, one of NASCAR's 50 greatest drivers, will make his return to racing official in 2002, however this time the 15-time Winston Cup winner will be behind the scenes as a team owner rather than behind the wheel. Ernie Irvan Racing has ...

Ernie Irvan, one of NASCAR's 50 greatest drivers, will make his return to racing official in 2002, however this time the 15-time Winston Cup winner will be behind the scenes as a team owner rather than behind the wheel.

Ernie Irvan Racing has combined forces with Innovative Motorsports to field an ARCA RE/MAX Series team with Lynchburg, Virginia native Kevin Conway as the driver at selected events in 2002 beginning with the Pork The Other White Meat 400 at Atlanta Motor Speedway on March 9.

And in much the same way the late Dale Earnhardt helped introduce Irvan to the world of big-league motorsports by sponsoring Irvan in his first two Winston Cup starts, Irvan will provide that same opportunity for the aspiring Conway.

"I really wanted to give something back to the sport," said Irvan. "In much the same way that Dale Earnhardt gave me an opportunity, I'm doing that with Kevin. Having Dale on my car when we got going in Winston Cup gave me so much credibility; and I didn't know, until much later, how much that meant."

Ironically, Irvan's one and only RE/MAX Series start was at Atlanta in 1989 where a victory in the Atlanta Journal ARCA 500k helped launch his ensuing NASCAR career.

"I'm really excited to get back into the racing community," said Irvan. "Kevin and I have wanted to put something together for a long time and this was the perfect opportunity to make it happen. He's a rookie who's trying to get a break; and I'm going to try and help him get one."

The new ARCA RE/MAX Series team will utilize a Chevrolet from Innovative Motorsports in which Shane Hmiel finished second in the ARCA RE/MAX race at Atlanta last November. Crewmembers from various Winston Cup and Busch Series teams have been coming by Irvan's farm near Mooresville, North Carolina after work in the evenings to help get the car ready.

Conway, 23, is a veteran of AMA motocross, WKA go-karts, NMMA midgets, Legends Cars and NASCAR Winston Racing Series late model divisions. He moved to the Charlotte area in 1991 to pursue his racing career. He's also an instructor for the Richard Petty Driving Experience.

"I'm really excited to have the opportunity and privilege to drive for Ernie," said Conway. "Having Ernie as a coach and mentor while being able to tap into the resources of a team the caliber of Innovative Motorsports is a dream come true. I don't expect to go to Atlanta and dominate the way Ernie did back then, but I'll give it my all." Irvan led 170 of 204 laps and finished 20 seconds ahead of runner-up finisher Clay Young en route to his aforementioned win at Atlanta.

At present, the team is working directly out of the Ernie Irvan stables, literally. Irvan has converted a portion of his barn into a race shop while they build the team and pursue marketing partners for the '02 season.

"We're seeking marketing partners who want to capitalize on the synergy between race fans and sponsors to develop a fully integrated marketing program with our team," said Conway.

-arca-

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Series ARCA
Drivers Dale Earnhardt , Ernie Irvan , Shane Hmiel , Richard Petty , Clay Young