Having five Americans in Western Australia for the Late Model Invasion Tour is a mouthwatering prospect, set to add some spice to an already delicious concoction of ingredients assembled to put on a show.
However, the story of how this came about can be a long one, with a lot of work done by a lot of people behind the scenes over a long period of time to get this event underway.
There are many faucets to every deal that is done, every driver that competes and to every race meeting that is conducted and it is for this reason that this will be a two parted story, with the second half to be published a little later today; just one of the many stories behind the sport we all love, Speedway.
One of the five Americans that is competing this year is none other than Jeff Roth, an experienced campaigner who is coming down under to compete along with teammate Joe Godsey in the twin USA#14 machines.
The set up for these two to complete in this tour though is a long story, having started some nineteen years ago, when Late Models were just getting off the ground here in Western Australia and the great Ray Godsey came over to compete.
Simon McNab tells more of the story:
“I contacted Joe (Godsey) earlier in the year,” he recounts, referring to 2017. “We have kept in touch for a few years now after initially losing contact upon his return to the States after his first foray here with his Grandfather Ray nearly two decades ago.”
In those formative years, Late Models were lucky enough to have some Americans come over to help the division in a number of ways, teaching the locals the ins and outs of the division and assisting with the development of the local cars, bringing equipment and assisting with setups. Those drivers included, apart from Godsey, Ron Miller, Rody and Todd Schroyer.
“Ron Miller and the Schroyers was a subsequent deal that worked well mainly because they bought all their gear with them,” recounts Simon. “Ray and Joe however had gear supplied by myself and Alan Nylander and all involved would have to admit it was substandard and didn’t allow them to fully showcase their abilities. It was a gallant attempt that failed and for me, putting it right has always been a wish.”
As has been detailed previously, Joe Godsey is now here in Western Australia and has even competed at the Perth Motorplex, getting laps under his belt at the Boxing Day Show, something that McNab is thrilled with.
“It is great to see Joe back here and competing,” he says. “Ray Godsey these days lives speedway through his grandson and will travel a few hours just to see him race. There is no doubt there is a special bond between these two and I think the timing of this trip is really special also.”
Indeed, Joe is driving a car as part of the Roth Motorsports team, alongside teammate Jeff Roth who has his own story to tell and is intent on getting some results as well as having a good time.
“Jeff and Randy Roth own Roth Motorsports,” says McNab. “They both drove for the team, but Randy has since stepped aside and Joe has his seat, which is why when I called, the whole team jumped at the chance to join us.”
Roth Motorsports has a long history, but the start was maybe not what one would expect, with Jeff’s daughter Meghan taking up the story.
“My dad has a desperate Need for Speed!” she says. “We live in a very beautiful and unique area in Northwest Arkansas and we just so happen to have a large lake right in our backyard. Growing up we spent every weekend at the lake in my dad’s prized possession, his one of a kind speed boat with a big block motor right behind the bench seat that my mother Dana, sister Whitney, and I (Meghan) sat on. Then in 1993 my mom and dad went to dinner in Joplin, MO and they saw a truck pulling a racecar drive by. They asked the waiter where that car was going and wound up at Joplin Route 66 Speedway that night. That’s where it all began! My mom got bit by the bug and told my dad that he needed to get one!”
So, after those humble beginnings, to what the team is now, the whole team is excited to be heading down under, and when we say the whole team, we literally mean the whole team, with a large group making the trek to the land of Oz for this trip, such is the closeness of the entire Roth Motorsport team.
But how did Roth Motorsports start and how did they end up with Joe Godsey as part of it? Well, Jeff himself has been racing for twenty five years and rather than elaborate on his success himself, daughter Meghan was more than willing to share.
“My dad’s first year of racing was in 1995 at Thunder Valley Speedway in Fayetteville, Arkansas,” she says. “His first car was a Grand National and he was so proud! He lettered it up all pretty with the #14 and made sure he striped ‘With her permission’ for my mom and named my sister and I his official “Mud Pickers”. My grandmother (his mom) and the rest of the family would come and sit in the stands. We had a huge section and she would yell and scream and jump up and down that the bleachers would shake and almost fall down! It’s so funny to think back on… It was a family affair! He got Rookie of the Year in the MARS Dirt Car Series in 2015 and continued to place in the top 10 in points. He has also had multiple wins in all classes that he has raced in: Super Stock, Modifieds, Limited Late and Super Late Models.”
“Around 1997-1998 he got his first Modified. He got second place in a special the first night out! He finished 2nd to Johnny Bone Jr., who was at his prime at the time. That is quite an accomplishment for your first time out in a new class. The second week out he won the A-feature! He continued to race grand nationals along with the A-mod for a few years. Around 1998-99 he got out of the grand nationals due to them being phased out at the local track.”
Despite all this racing success though, around the year 2005/2006 Thunder Valley Speedway closed down and soon after the housing market crumbled in the area and it forced the team to take a 3-4 year hiatus before returning once again.
“Around 2010/2011 my dad brought back out the modified and he and I would go to some local tracks here and there,” says Meghan. “We had fun but the equipment had changed so much that we were hardly competitive. That’s when my uncle Randy decided maybe we should try the Late Models, so we got a TNT Chassis and began the Late Model adventure in Siloam Springs, OK. We raced on a pretty consistent basis where he would take home the win weekly. He had a pretty crazy wreck one week. He was leading by a front stretch when he went into the corner riding the top berm and his right rear caught the wall. It just slingshot him into the wall and he began a treacherous barrel roll! Every bolt on piece was destroyed but somehow the chassis was ok and more importantly my dad walked away. He was so mad at himself because he was winning by a mile and he took himself out! And one of the worst parts was that I had accidently turned off the video camera when he hit the wall and so we didn’t even get to watch it back later! That has to be one of the scariest wrecks he’s ever had. We jumped from chassis to chassis over the years and learned a lot. Finally we found a chassis my dad meshed well with-The Rocket. In 2015 we stepped up and began to run with the MARS series. He has since continued to place top 5 in that series and meet some great people along the way. We have the best racing family and we are blessed to have met each of them.”
With business building up again, the team was starting to struggle to find time to manage the race team as well as work and again the team was forced to look at their options.
“We are home builders in the North-West Arkansas area and our work load had become so heavy that I really did not have time to take care of the cars and be prepared when we got to the track,” says Jeff. “We were at a cross road. Either I find someone to run the race shop or just quit all together. I hired a guy to run the shop and unfortunately that hire did not work out, but the one good thing that did come out of that there situation was that we got introduced to Joe Godsey!”
“Joe was from a racing family. You know his pedigree. His Grandfather is a Hall of Fame Late Model driver and Joe actually raced in Australia with his grandfather 20 years ago and he kept that relationship alive. He and Simon McNab stayed in touch, so when Simon called Joe last summer and asked if team Roth would be interested, we jumped at it. I have never been to Australia and honestly never thought I would either, so to get to go is great but to get to race also… wow! It should be a blast!”
Daughter Meghan is just as excited, and also quick to talk up Joe Godsey.
“Joe Godsey is one of the racing family that we are blessed to have met. He has made our racing team a better brand and overall more competitive. He has
instilled a new found confidence in my dad and we are grateful we have met him. I can’t wait to see how we perform in Australia with you guys! This is something that I know my dad probably never dreamt was even possible! He is literally living a dream! And nothing makes me happier than to see my daddy happy!”
Meanwhile, despite Jeff downplaying his achievements, Simon McNab is quick to regale all who will listen with tales of his brilliance.
“By all accounts, Jeff has sold us a conservative account of his racing,” says Simon. “When I spoke to Joe, he recounts a fiercely competitive individual with impeccable attention to detail. These guys are not missing their markers in the competition I have followed them in, and it is series racing stepping up a notch for them next year, along with more than credible results as recently as St. Louis. Delve deeper and like all racing encounters the results may have been even more spectacular if the pendulum of Lady Luck was a few degrees more
Back to the present though, and for this USA Invasion tour the ball was all of a sudden rolling and the commitment that the Roth Motorsports team was making all of a sudden began to hit home for Jeff.
“We loaded up our primary cars two months ago into a container, shut the door and waved goodbye,” he recalls. “That was a scary feeling! Two complete Rocket XR1 race cars and all the parts and no way to track it until it hit the port in Australia. Everyone tells me that we probably won’t bring the cars home as there is a big demand for such equipment.”
With the cars ready to be bought by anyone interested after the tour, one cannot overlook what a big commitment it is for Roth Motorsports to undertake.
“Jeff and Randy are making this all possible,” says Simon. “Airfares for seven people, even down to using back up cars in the States that they raced while these (the one arriving in WA) were in transit. We are quite simply talking about a family of people that love to race!”
Indeed, Jeff and the whole team do love to race, and rather than setting any steadfast aims, Jeff is happy just to enjoy the experience.
“As far as what I want to achieve while I’m there, I think winning a couple of races would be awesome, but honestly just getting to race against the best Australian drivers and hanging with the fans will be a fantastic experience. My wife, my brother and his wife will be traveling with us so I’m sure we will take in some of the sights. My wife actually wants to dive with the great white sharks…she is half crazy if you ask me!”
One thing that us for sure is that the Late Model brigade in Western Australia know how to have a good time and will certainly do their best to show the whole Roth Motorsports team what Australia is really like, something that Jeff is very grateful for.
“I look forward to heading down and meeting everyone,” says Jeff. “I want to thank everyone who supports our race team. That includes me and my brother’s son in laws who will be staying home to take care of the business while we are gone for the month doing what we love. A special thanks also to Simon McNab for his hospitality and patience with me as I asked a lot of questions!”
Simon meanwhile, is even more optimistic about exactly what this tour down under means, not just for Roth Motorsports, but also for Late Models in Australia.
“I think Jeff and Randy Roth along with Joe, Stefan and the rest of the Roth Team are set to leave a lasting imprint on Late Model Racing Down Under!”
See Jeff Roth, Joe Godsey and three other Americans in action for the first time this Saturday for Night One of the Di Candilo Steel City Late Model Nationals!
Release by DTN Media.