All of Ohio Is Pulling for Volk, Schroeder And Toledo's TRV Motorsport Team by Linda Mansfield LEXINGTON, Ohio, June 4 - Mid-Ohio race-goers have long felt a special...
All of Ohio Is Pulling for Volk, Schroeder And Toledo's TRV Motorsport Team
by Linda Mansfield
LEXINGTON, Ohio, June 4 - Mid-Ohio race-goers have long felt a special connection with CART champ car driver Bobby Rahal. They cheer him on in good times and bad simply because he was born in Medina, Ohio and he resides in New Albany, Ohio, so he's automatically one of their own.
Anyone from the Buckeye State who is looking for a similar driver or team to support June 12-14 at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course need look no further than Tom Volk and the TRV Motorsport Can-Am car No. 95, which is based in Toledo.
TRV Motorsport's story is a bit like the children's book about the little engine that makes it up the hill because it thinks it can.
Made up largely of volunteers and running on a budget that is perhaps a tenth of some of its competition, the TRV Motorsport crew has pretty much conceded that a victory would require some divine intervention, or at least some pretty amazing cosmic alignment. But by trying its best and using the resources it does have to its best advantage, the team recorded three top-10 finishes in class in its first races of the year, coming in seventh in the Can-Am class at the Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona; fourth in class at the Exxon Superflo 12 Hours of Sebring; and an amazing third in class at the recent race in Homestead, Fla. Just finishing an endurance race is a big accomplishment and getting on the podium is something that dreams are made of, but the TRV team did just that in its last race.
Those accomplishments have not gone unnoticed by the international sports car community, which gives the TRV team a tip of the cap for its tenacity and enthusiasm as well as its recent accomplishments.
The car the team enters is a four-year-old Chevy Kudzu which is about 100 horsepower off the top Ferraris and Riley & Scotts. But it's meticulously prepared by veteran crew chief Mike Madden of Toledo and his staff, who are headquartered in a shop on Westwood Street in Toledo.
The team is sponsored by Supreme Exhaust System Products (a division of Arvin Industries which is a leading auto exhaust systems manufacturer) and Purity Farms, one of this country's leading producers of bacon and other pork products. The car was built by Jim Downing, a veteran campaigner in road racing.
The primary drivers are Volk, a Toledo businessman who also owns the entire racing team, and young lion Jeret Schroeder of Vineland, N.J. They were assisted by Indy 500 veterans Lyn St. James and Pete Halsmer for the 24-hour classic at Daytona. St. James, Schroeder and Volk handled the driving duties for the once-around-the-clock race at Sebring. The race at Homestead was much shorter so Volk and Schroeder were the only drivers, which is the same situation as will occur at Mid-Ohio.
Volk is a businessman with a passion for racing. He loves Mid-Ohio and he's done quiet well here in Sports 2000, GT-1 and GT-3 competition; he even finished third in the GT-1 class at the Runoffs in 1994. Technically he resides just over the Ohio border in Blissfield, Mich., but he runs his five businesses from his main office in Toledo. He was born in Toledo, and he's a graduate of Ottawa Hills High School in Toledo and Wittenberg University in Springfield, Ohio.
Volk's businesses are located in four states. The racing team and Ohio Belting and Transmission Co. are located in Toledo. The latter specializes in industrial motion control systems. Two automotive aftermarket parts businesses - Supreme Distribution Center and Specialty Sales - are located in Mt. Prospect, Ill. and Indianapolis, respectively. The fifth business is Brookside Farm, a horse farm in Blissfield, Mich.
But Toledo is the heart of his operations, and Volk is very involved in the business community there. Earlier this month he, St. James and Schroeder appeared at a luncheon meeting of the Toledo Rotary Club, an organization of which Volk is an active member.
One of the characteristics of a successful businessman is one who chooses and nurtures good employees, and structures a system where they are able to do their best work. Volk does all that with his racing team, combined with a good dash of old-fashioned enthusiasm and cheerleading. The result is a happy team which tries its best.
"I think our pit crew is as good as anybody's," Volk says. "Mike Madden and the rest of the crew have the car very well prepared and John Green does an excellent job with our race strategy. When our car started to overheat at Daytona our team came up with a solution and they did it quickly, which can't be said of some of the other teams. I'm really proud of them."
Volk is also proud of Schroeder, who won the U.S. Formula 2000 national championship in 1995 at Mid-Ohio. (That division is also racing at Mid-Ohio June 12-14.) For the last two years Schroeder has been a star of the Player's/KOOL Toyota Atlantic series. He earned the pole for the Atlantic race here last August and finished third in that race. He also competed in two Indy Racing League (IRL) events last year. He's working on raising funding for an Indy car program in 1999 and beyond while he races in the USRRC this year.
"I don't want to jinx us, but one of the reasons we're doing so well is that Jeret is quick and he's not making mistakes," Volk says. "He's aggressive but he's not over-driving the car; he's driving appropriately. In endurance racing driving smart is critical, and Jeret and I are both trying our best to drive smart. If we don't have mechanical trouble and we don't get caught up in a crash, we're really looking forward to having another good finish at Mid-Ohio."
Schroeder is even more optimistic.
"Mid-Ohio is going to be a blast!" says the 28-year-old. "If I can get enough horsepower to go down the two long straightaways, look out!
"It's my track," he adds firmly. "I have two consecutive podium finishes in Atlantics there. I won the 2000 title there, and I held two 2000 track records on both layouts. It's going to be neat to drive a big-horsepower car there."
The differences in the cars doesn't concern Schroeder.
"I drove Sebring the same way I drove the two-liter [Formula 2000] car, and I think I'll do the same thing at Mid-Ohio," he predicts. "You still have a turn-in point, an apex and an edge, so I'll still approach it the same way. The Can-Am car isn't as nimble as a two-liter or an Atlantic car so you have to approach it a little differently, but it's basically the same.
"It's definitely going to be interesting," he adds. "I have this picture of my yellow car tucked in beside that red Ferrari, with my helmet glowing in the sun!"
That would make all of Ohio - to say nothing of everyone who roots for the little guy - very proud. It would also be a nice birthday present for Volk, who turns 45 the day after the race.
Mike Madden Sr. and Randy Williams are the only full-time employees at TRV Motorsport, with Mike Madden Jr. working part time. The Maddens live in Toledo, while Williams lives in Northwood, Ohio.
John Neis of Clearwater, Fla. is the co-crew chief, while John Green of Stuart, Fla., is the team engineer. He keeps in close contact with Madden all the time, both over the telephone and via E-mail.
Other crew people and their duties include Kirk Moellenberg, (fueler/fuel management); Alan Kinker (food/car cleaning); Tom Skaff (tires) and Ginny Francis (travel/hotel coordinator), all from Toledo. Joining them are Jack Borsos, Franklin, Ind., (pit setup/rear tires); Matt Neis, Clearwater, Fla. (front tires/pit cart); Chip Holst, Temperance, Mich. (tire help/car maintenance); Ken Bowie of Coco Beach, Fla. (fueling); and David (tires/fuel) and Amy Volk (data/food preparation) of Blissfield, Mich. The latter are two of Tom and Pam Volk's three children.
"All of us get a real sense of accomplishment when we finish ahead of or near teams that spend 10 times what we do," says Volk. "Everybody on the team can affect the outcome of the race. On a pit stop you've only got 15 or 20 seconds to do your job, and you can't mess up. It's an adrenaline rush; a real confidence builder for everyone involved. It brings another level of enjoyment for everyone, as well as commitment. We all love it, and we're all proud of our team members, our drivers and our car."
And no matter where it races, at the end of the racing weekend when the Supreme Exhaust System Products Chevy Kudzu is loaded into the transporter to be prepared for yet another exciting race somewhere in the nation, it is headed back home to Westwood Street in Toledo.