As driver of a car owned by one of the most prominent sponsors of Seekonk Speedway, Kevin Casper has been a household name at the track for many years. This week I met up with the Somerset, MA native, his car owner, Phil Viveiros, and some of his crew to talk a little bit about the ups and downs of his racing career and what the coming season holds for the #88 Phil’s Propane Pro Stock team.
What division do you currently race in and how would you describe your 2016 season?
Kevin currently competes in the Pro Stock division in the Phil’s Propane #88 and will be back behind the wheel for 2017.
Kevin: Disappointing. There are some things we could have done a lot better. You know it just wasn’t…we didn’t meet expectations. Phil doesn’t put any pressure on us at all, but we don’t want to be running in the back of the pack. We want to be competitive every week and at least be in the hunt. I don’t think we were that week to week.
How did your start in racing?
Kevin: How did I get my start in racing? Well, my stepfather raced, my dad raced; so I kinda grew up in it. It always appeared a lot easier when you’re watching than it actually is. My first race, I didn’t even make it a lap; I flipped over on my roof.
What do you remember most about your first win or first race?
Kevin: I think my first race is more memorable. To go out there and not even make it an entire lap. I flipped over in turns 3 and 4. We didn’t have cages back then and it had a bench seat in a ’65 Ford Falcon with snow tires still on it. So I took the green, went in to the infield in 1 and 2, came out on the back straightaway went into 3 and 4 and flipped over. Nobody even hit me I just flipped over all by myself.
Who is your biggest racing influence?
Kevin: I would have to say my dad and Ray. They are who I kinda idolized growing up.
Are there any sponsors that you would like to thank for your 2016 season?
Kevin: Who’s that guy from Tiverton? Phil Viveiros and Phil’s Propane
Helger’s South Coast Power Equipment in Westport, MA
Be Spoke Detailing in Warren, RI
Tiverton Sign Shop in Tiverton, RI
Kevin would also like to take this time to thank his family; his wife Peggy and daughters Kamryn and Kenzie for their continued support throughout the years. He would also like to thank his stepfather Ray Souliere, and the rest of his crew: Corey O’Connell (who will be driving to the track all the way from Maine on a weekly basis), Bill Prisco, and Tyler Duhancik for all their help during the on and off season. And lastly he would like to thank Phil Viveiros for everything; because without Phil none of this would be possible.
I would assume the paint scheme is blue and white for Phil, but is there any significance to your number?
Kevin: We run everything by him, but as far as design goes he lets us do whatever. I’m a Somerset guy any way; blue and white are Somerset colors.
The first car I built back in the day, it was a formula 4. This guy from Somerset, Jerry Matthews, they used to call him “the Owl” and Richie Murray used to run a Pro 4 Modified. This particular one got walled at Seekonk, but the cage was still intact. I was building the car and I went to Jerry “the Owl” and he had the cage there and he gave me the cage. So when the car was done I asked him what I owed him for the cage and he said, “Just put the ‘88’ on the car and we’ll call it even.” because that was their number. I’ve been “88” ever since. It all started because of a free roll cage.
Is there anything new to the car for 2017 and what are your expectations for this season?
As many of you have seen from the posts on Facebook the Phil’s Propane team will be rolling up to the track in a newly wrapped race trailer done by Tiverton Sign Shop. Kevin also has a new addition to the Phil’s propane team, alongside his golden Daisy Duke; he would like to welcome the newest member of the crew, his family’s Shepard, Harley Quinn.
Kevin: Yeah, they changed the rules a little bit so we upgraded with the rules and we’re in the process of maybe changing some other things.
I would like to be top 5 in points and compete for the championship. We’ve been in the division for 4 years and haven’t cracked the top 5 as far as points go.
Phil: You have to start with high expectations. If you start in t middle you’re going to end up in the bottom.
Kevin: We wanted to win races; we’ve done that. We need to do something else. 2 years ago we wanted to win a race; last year we wanted to win 2 races. So now it’s time to be competitive.
If there was any race you could do over which would it be and what would you do to make it better?
Kevin: I can think of some times where I lost my temper that would probably change the outcome of a few races. Some less embarrassing things could have happened if I took those back.
What advice would you give a young driver just starting out?
Kevin: Remember it’s a hobby. Not many of us will be getting a phone call from Hendrick or Childress. Have fun with it. There are other things more important; don’t forget your family. Another thing is that I’ve seen racing wreck a lot of marriages. As long as you get perspective and have fun with it. Trust me, we all get upset; there are nights I want to go punch somebody, but come Monday morning I have to go to work for Phil’s Propane and whoever’s gotta go to work wherever, you know, that’s what we do. I don’t do this for a living; I race for fun.
What is like having Phil as a boss at work and at the track?
Phil: Do you want me to go outside?
Kevin: As far has having him for a boss, I would do anything for the man at work. Racing wise, we wouldn’t be doing this if I wasn’t for him.
Ray: How long have you worked for Phil?
Kevin: I’m in my 18th year with Phil. I don’t know how it is for other people. He goes to the track and we explain things to him and he asks questions, but he isn’t like you guys have to get it (winning) done. He is the one that pretty much talks me off the ledge most of the time. I just can’t say enough. We wouldn’t be doing it. Maybe I’d be in a Sport 4 if it wasn’t for him. That’s where the disappointment comes in because he provides us with the best stuff and I feel like we should be better than we have been.
What ONE moment stands out the most to you from your time in racing?
Kevin: I would have to say when we won on the Phil’s night. We started from the middle of the pack, maybe 10th, so that was cool to come from a descent way back because most of our wins in the Pro Stocks were from the front. So to win like that and I think we led like half of the race; it was just cool. All Phil’s employees were there it was Phil’s night.
Phil: You didn’t lead half the race that night
Kevin: Yeah, I think I led like 20, maybe 25 laps.
Phil: There was one race you were in like 5th or 6th; this is a race you won. It was a Phil’s night and there was one thing after another going bad in front of you…you know, people spinning out, hitting each other, taking each other out; and each time a little thing like that would happen you’d come up a couple spots. Right towards the end you got ahead and were for about 2 or 3 laps and ended up winning the race.
Kevin: I like that story better. I do remember that one, but I don’t remember if that was a Phil’s night. It might have been.
Phil: I just jumped up with joy and said…well whatever I said.
Kevin: I think it was Martin and Pettey that had cleaned each other out and I was 3rd.
Phil: That was an amazing race.
Kevin: Another thing that night, the right front was going down; another 2 or 3 laps we would have lost.
What keeps you coming back to Seekonk Speedway every week?…year?
Kevin: We would like to run or try places like Granite State or whatever, but for Phil it’s not going to benefit him if we’re running a race in Maine. So it needs to be here where the people that go there are the people that we could service. He did give us the go ahead to go to Loudon this year, so we will be at Loudon on July 1st.
Going into this interview I can honestly say that I did not know what to expect, but Kevin’s crew was a fun bunch to be able to meet. Having most of the crew there, the car owner, the new garage pup, and family present was something that hadn’t really happened as of yet during these interviews, but Kevin says “it’s a team effort” and he is right. Kevin and his crew are hungry and ready to accomplish more than what they have been doing in the past few seasons and are taking on the 2107 season with more determination than ever before. They are looking forward to this season to bring them luck, more race wins, top 5s, and maybe even a championship. Kevin, his daughter Kamryn and crew member Tyler have also been working on a Sport 4 during this off season and we look forward to seeing them at the track on Friday nights in that division as well as on Saturday nights in his #88 Phil’s Propane Pro Stock.
Jillian Amorin – Seekonk Speedway