Remembering Mike Stevens
Two days after the passing of Mike Stevens, I still sit here in shock and disbelief.
Mike Stevens was a great man. Very kind and willing to help out whenever anyone needed a hand. On the race track,
Stevens was one of our toughest competitors and never gave up until he saw the checkered flag fly. Regardless of the situation that arose, Stevens always had a smile on his face and would be willing to take time out of whatever he was doing to chat.
I am honored to have called Stevens three victories on the Parts for Trucks Pro Stock Tour. The first of which came on August 21st at Scotia Speedworld in 2010. The race was moved from the CENTRE For Speed in Shediac, NB, to Scotia Speedworld. At the time, the CENTRE for Speed was our only track in the shadows of Moncton and was Stevens home track when it came to geographical location for our series. At this time the team was running the #26 and had just began to get a grip on Pro Stock racing. The last time we had raced at Centre For Speed prior to the 2010 change, Stevens had been on the podium and nearly won the race after chasing Wayne Smith in the closing laps in 2008. The team also had been getting a grip at Scotia Speedworld, especially coming off the heels of the Parts for Trucks 200 where he and Shawn Tucker put on a show to close off the 2009 season.
The August 21st victory was a true showcase of his talent. Mike qualified well, started up front and set sail early. He led 95 of the 100 laps on the night after taking the point from pole sitter and series veteran Mike Mackenzie. At the end of the race, the #26 was once again being chased by Tucker, but this time, it was Stevens on the top of the podium and taking the victory. In Tucker’s words from that night, Stevens “drove a great race and didn’t open the door once.”
I’ve been involved in many victory lanes over the last seven years of being in this sport, but for Stevens to conquer a race track (Scotia Speedworld) that many others only dream of doing made this one real special, not to mention it was his first career win on the series. I remember the burnout which, with our tire rules we never see because of teams only having a select allotment of rubber, was huge. His wife Sharon and his father Robbie were overjoyed for Mike, being two of the first to the window of the #26 along with the crew, who were all over the moon to be in victory lane.
I will never forget the season Mike Stevens had at Riverside back in 2012. The team had just renumbered the car to a #4, hoping to change some luck around with the team. I don’t know if it was luck but Mikey sure got up on the wheel on the high banks that year, winning the two 100 lappers at the track. The second 100-lapper in August sticks out more in my mind than the first. The Lucas Oil 100 that year ran caution free and Stevens led wire to wire in that race. Mike told me in victory lane that his father was on the radio that night saying to take it easy at the start and to conserve his tires so that he would have some for the end. Low and behold, that #4 car was a rocketship on the long run, even with the crew telling him to pull the reigns in a bit when they thought he was going too hard to get the tires angry.
Mike was excited to get back to victory lane, especially at a track (Riverside International) he had won at earlier in the season. He told me a couple of times that night, we’re missing one. We want that IWK 250 and by gosh, they came real close a few times. Mike’s final IWK 250 (July 21, 2013) saw him helping out friend Mike Power Jr with his Sportsman car on Friday night and I had caught up with him on and off the mic that night to catch up. He was beaming because the team had finally had a week where they didn’t need to repair or clip the car. The 2013 season had been a rocky one for the team when it came to getting caught up in on track messes. There were a couple overnight trips to Distance Chassis to get new front clips and many late nights in the shop this season to get the #4 car back together. “We have a week we can actually do maintenance to the car instead of building a car,” Stevens said with his trademark smile on his face. They also rolled out a car with neon yellow trim compared to the reddish pink they started out with on the season. Stevens and the team always prided themselves on showing up to the track with a pristine car for their advertising partners and it always was one of the sharpest looking cars on the track!
Away from the track, Mike was willing to help out whenever someone needed a hand. He has helped me out on a few occasions when I have had car trouble in the Moncton area. Last year, I was heading to Speedway 660 and my car died at the exit to Mapleton Road. Not knowing why my car had died, I had called Mike to see if he could offer up any suggestions. Within a few minutes, Mike and Sharon were at my car looking it over to see what they thought was the issue, which turned out to be an alternator not charging properly. Once we left it on charge for a moment, we headed out to R. Stevens Mechanical to make sure the car wasn’t acting up after the charge. The numbers looked good once we got out to Salisbury and Mike sent me on my way, telling me to text him if something started to go wrong again and if I was close that he would give me a car to drive up to 660 to cover the race. My car made it to Oromocto but not before lights started popping up on my dash. Mike went through a number of things to change or shut off on the car to get it home and it ended up making it back to Halifax so I could get another alternator in the car. If it wasn’t for his help, I may have never got to Speedway 660 that day.
Fast forward to this past April during the 39th Annual Radical Speedsport weekend. I had an exhaust sound in my car which progressively got louder from Halifax to the Greater Moncton area. I gave Mike a shout and though he said that he was heading to Maine to pick up his car from Jeff Taylor’s to drop my car off and the guys at the shop would take a look at it. On Saturday morning, I had dropped the car off and at around 6pm, I got a text saying that the guys had fixed the car and it was good to go. Shawn and Janelle McLean had drove me out to Robbie’s shop that night and when we pulled in, there was a light still on with the garage door open and my car on the hoist with Mike under the car doing some welding. Turns out the guys told Mike the wrong car had been done and mine was still sitting there unfinished when they got back from Maine with the race car - so Mike had gone to work himself when he got out of the hauler and fixed my car himself. After removing a rotten flange and welding the pipe, Mike had told me there may be a pinhole sound in the exhaust, but it should go away within the week. He also mentioned to me that night that if they found something wrong with the car, whether it was the muffler or the converter, to bring it to them on Opening Weekend at Petty, and they would fix it for me while I was at the track. That pinhole sound, which we could never find the culprit, is still in my car.
As great of a talent Mike was behind the wheel and how much he enjoyed our sport, he loved his family more than anything in the world. I chatted with Mike at last year’s banquet in Moncton after the birth of his second child, David. He joked with me that he would need to have at least a tire changer or crew chief out of the two and wouldn’t know if he could handle two Bandoleros on the go at the same time. The night my car was at their shop in April, his oldest son Brody was in the shop looking at my car and making tool sounds while pointing to the car. When the car came down off the hoist, he went over and made an air gun sound to my lugnuts to make sure they were tight before I left.
My heart hurts for the whole Stevens family and crew. Mike meant so much to so many people and it will be hard to carry on without him. The last place I wanted to be on Sunday was a race track after what had gone on Saturday but I ended up at Petty International Raceway, a track which Mike wired up electricity for, free of charge, when the oval re-opened in 2011. While the place had a different feel to it, there were many stories floating around about how great of a man Mike was. It was fitting that Dave O’Blenis ended up driving to victory lane in the Caleb Dunn Memorial 200 presented by Your Atlantic Dodge Dealers in a Sportsman car Stevens drove back when he was in the Sportsman ranks. Shawn McLean drove a #72 car with a passenger side skin from the #4 Pro Stock. Cole Tanner dedicated his Bandolero win to the Stevens family. The most fitting thing on the afternoon may have been every race fan in the stands and in the pits held up four fingers on Lap Four of the Sportsman feature in memory of Mikey.
I think Mike was looking out for us though on Sunday. We watched the radar in the tower all day long and we counted three cells heading towards us throughout the afternoon. When those showers got close to River Glade, they ended up vanishing from the map. We know Mother Nature hasn’t been a race fan this season, we saw it Saturday night during qualifying, but maybe Mikey put a good word in her ear for us.
It will be difficult Saturday when we get to the Atlantic CAT 250. We’ll have the best talent that Super Late Model racing has to offer in Atlantic Canada and I’m sure Mikey will be looking over us to make sure we have a great weekend at Scotia Speedworld.
We’re going to miss you Mikey, things won’t be the same without you.
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