POST FALLS - Frustration. Misfortune. Bad racing luck. You name it, Dave Garber has probably experienced it during the main event at the last 12 Idaho 200 weekends.
But to his credit, the 29-year racing veteran always keeps looking ahead, knowing that what usually goes around, comes around.
If you have watched any Idaho 200 in the last decade, you are familiar with the black and blue No. 93 that has spent more time than anyone leading the field.
And if you have attended the last few, there is one question most people wanted answered: Is this the year that Dave avoids all the on-track drama, wins the Idaho 200 and takes home the big trophy?
The ever-optimistic Garber, from Spokane, knows the answer.
"It's gonna happen one of these years."
Garber took the lead last year on lap 89 and held it until after the 100-lap break, when he was hit from behind by Lynn Hardy, allowing Kevin Richards to take over the lead and eventually win the race.
The year before Garber, who had led the majority of the race, got together with third-place driver Zan Sharp on lap 170, just after John Dillon squirted past Garber a few laps before.
Dillon, a Rocky Mountain Challenge Series driver, ended up with the win. The RMCS decided during the offseason not to include the Idaho 200 in its 2012 schedule.
In 2009, Garber rushed through the field in the first half, but faded from third late in the race and wound up sixth, the last car on the lead lap.
In events prior, Garber often led, but there was always an obstacle to keep him from taking the checkered flag, mostly through no fault of his own.
Dave and his older brother Dan (also an accomplished late model racer) grew up in racing. Father Bruce towed his race car all over the Northwest, often with the boys riding outside on the back of the flatbed truck.
“You sure wouldn’t see that nowadays,” Garber points out.
All the while the boys picked up — through sweat equity — the skills, knowledge and desire to become race drivers.
“It gets in your blood,” Dave said.
And Garber is not just an accomplished driver. He builds his own engines, while most in the super late model ranks purchase theirs. Garber, who started competing at Stateline in 1986, also does some chassis building, and knows how to take care of his powerplants and still run out front.
The Idaho 200 will be run for the first time under the lights. Stateline Speedway general manager and promoter Larry Bertrand said the decision to move from a Sunday afternoon event to Saturday night was a “combination of everything.”
“We had a lot of requests from the fans, the sponsors and racers to drive it under the lights, and when you think of local racing, that is what you think of — a Saturday night main event.”
Garber doesn’t view the change to a night race at the 200 as a big factor.
“Our setup will change a little bit,” he said. “For some reason we have been good during the day which is weird for that track, but it makes the whole race better — people don’t have to drive home on Sunday and turn around and work on Monday.”
Garber said during the day, the race feels like a 400-lap event, but run at night it’s like a 200-lap event. “Because it is so hard on your stuff during the day, it is a little easier to set the car up at night. We are usually good during the daytime because you practice during the day, and at night you have to do some guessing, since we don’t run our practices at night. We have to anticipate what the track is going to do later — you have to go off your notes at what the track has done recently if you have run there in smaller events at night.”
“We call Dave one of our hometown heroes,” Bertrand said. “He’s not just another racer — you root for him because he’s a hometown guy, so to speak.”
Bertrand said Garber is a hard charger and a real racer.
“He will race just as hard to win an ice cream cone or $100,000. He’s not here for points or glory — he’s just out here to win,” he said.
After all his near misses when running up front at the 200, Garber doesn’t see a clear strategy that will guarantee victory.
“You ask yourself what can you or have you done differently,” he said. “Do I become more defensive? Sometimes if you’re over-defensive, it’s even worse — maybe you need to sit back a little longer, be invisible until the end and maybe try to conserve your tires. But then you think ‘OK, I’ve conserved,’ and then go as hard as hell from that point on, thinking you’re good, but really your tires are still wearing, and you don’t know what you have left until you try to make a move.”
With a $43,000 purse up for grabs, the largest in Idaho 200 history, a strong field is anticipated to show up and vie for the $8,000 winner’s share.
Richards is a confirmed entry, set to defend his title. Among other notables are three-time champ Gary Lewis, as well as Spokane racers Braeden Havens, Shelby Thompson, Blake Williams, Andy Brown and, of course, Garber.
Dover’s Jeff Little and Sagle’s Corey Allard are also expected to compete.
The Northwest Outlaw Figure 8 series runs the main event today, along with qualifying for the Idaho 200 and heats and mains for the Northwest Pro 4 Trucks and Outlaw Compacts.
Saturday kicks off with opening ceremonies at 6 p.m., followed by Pro 4 Trucks and Outlaw Compacts heat races and the first half of the Idaho 200. The Pro 4 Trucks and Compacts will have main events at the half, followed by the conclusion of the Idaho 200.
Kevin Richards (2006, 2011)
John Dillon (2010)
Gary Lewis (2007,-08-09)
Jeff Jefferson (2005)
Rick Schultz (2004)
Darren Rupinski (2003)
John Gamble (2002-01)
Tom Sweatman (2000)
Idaho 200 weekend schedule
6 p.m. — Idaho 200 qualifying, last-chance qualifying race (Also Northwest Pro 4 Trucks, Outlaw Compacts, Northwest Outlaw Figure 8s)
6 p.m. — Idaho 200 (Also Northwest Pro 4 Trucks, Outlaw Compacts)