Meet V. Gaines: The man with the cigar, real priorities and a whole lot more
By Matthew Brammer
Photos by Roger Richards

On a stroll through the pro stock pits, the transporters are adorned with everything from carnivorous fish to the names of auto manufacturers and mail-order giants. One of the most intricate and colorful trailer-wraps features fantastic flying saucers, friendly aliens and a smiling Martian with a half-chewed stogie sticking out of his mouth. On closer inspection of the pit, the inspiration for the caricature is easily found.

 

 

Between rounds on any given race day, V. Gaines (V is short for Veiri), can be found working on his car, usually with an un-lit cigar between his teeth and a smile on his face. Although he helps his crew chief Clyde West and crew Matt Wagner and Duane Radcliff work on the car, Gaines is always ready to pose for photos and sign hero cards.
 
In his home town of Denver, Gaines is CEO of one of the largest beverage distribution and trucking companies in the Southwest, Western Beverage Distribution Company.
 
"That's my day job," Gaines said.
 
A quick check of the company's web site, www.westernbev.net, shows   some of the ventures this entrepreneur is a part of. Familiar names like GRP Connecting Rods, Winberg Crankshafts and Fineline Graphics, just to name a few.


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"My main business is that I'm a beer distributor -- Miller, Miller Light, Sam Adams, Heineken. We're involved in some other businesses, too," Gaines explains.  "We have a Long-haul truck company -- another good-sized truck company, we make some rods, we make some crank shafts, we have a great graphics company - Fineline. They do a lot of graphics out here and do a great job. Those are all fun things - day jobs - and what let us come to the races.

 

 

"We sell a crate engine that a lot of super comp and super stock guys use. A basic engine runs from about $12,000 to $25,000. We've got a lot of motors out there - especially on the west coast.
 
"I really try to play these things low key," he said, speaking of his other business ventures. "I don't really like to talk that much about them."
 
The real priorities in Gaines life are his wife, Jan, and his three boys, Dino (35), Sterling (32), and Lucas (26). He says that some things, like family, should always take priority, and now he is at a point in life where he can live dangerously on the NHRA drag racing tracks.
 
"I've been racing barely ten years. I got into it because of the kids. My deal with them was to help them build their first car - not buy it, but build it. We bought wrecks, rebuilt them, did the bodywork, the mechanical work, and that was their first car when they turned 16.

 

 

"It always seemed like when we got the cars done, we ended up at the drag strip to try them out. And then, the boys were all gone, so I said, 'You know, I think this is kinda fun.' So, we started out with a Super Gas car, and moved into a Super Comp car, and that wasn't fast enough, so we moved to Comp Eliminator, and that was fun. Then we moved to Pro Stock," he said.
 
Gaines is pushing his Pro Stock operation hard, working to become a top five car in what he calls the most competitive class in motorsports.
 
"The thrill comes from the minute margin that means the difference between winning and losing," he said. "The difference between winning and losing can be one one-thousandth of a second, which heightens the intensity."
 
With a mid-season car and engine switch last year, Gaines is committed to winning and using the very best equipment he can find.


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"Last year, we started out with Chevy and had great expectations. We tested well in the winter, tested fast in the winter. The first half of last season was very dismal for us. We didn't qualify; in fact we didn't run well at all. It kinda seemed like no matter what we did it was tough.

 

 

"Mid season we talked to Larry Morgan to see if they had room in their engine program, and they said 'if you get a car, we'll supply the motors,' so we got a brand new Dodge Stratus out of Atlanta and went to work.
 
"We only qualified once the first half of the season, and in the second half we qualified every time. It was a great learning experience. Every time we race the car goes faster. Toward the end of least year we were really competitive - a top five car. We just ran out of time. We went from number 24 in points to number 14 in points. Every weekend we were getting better.
 
"Here we are at the beginning of the season again, and we have a great car and a great engine program with Larry Morgan. We're just trying to be smart enough to use the parts we have.

 

 

"This year we're looking to start where we left off. We were qualifying well at the end of last year, and we raced well on Sunday. We're getting some things figured out, and we really expected to pick up right where we left off in Pomona.
 
"Unfortunately, we had a glitch, and we missed a problem in the car. In testing since then we identified the problem so we expect to be qualifying in the top half in every race. And expect to go rounds on Sunday.
 
Also in the past year, Gaines has given up his trademark purple Western Motorsports paint job for the new colors of his new sponsor - Kendall Motor Oil.

Questions have been voiced about the timing of Gaines getting this sponsor on his car and Top Alcohol Funny Car Champion Frank Manzo no longer being the flagship for the oil company. Gaines is quick to explain the situation:


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"Frank Manzo was a great rep for Kendall for a lot of years. They even did a TV commercial with him. I think he had some opportunities, and Kendall had some opportunities, so it worked out for everyone. For us, it freed up some money and now Kendall gets to be at 23 races a year versus the 10 or 11 Frank was driving. It's a little more exposure for Kendall, and hopefully we do well on Sundays, and it's a LOT more exposure for them," he said with a grin and a bite of his cigar.

 

 

"One of the reasons we're able to continue racing is because Kendall is helping us out. We're very fortunate to have a business that supports our racing -our day job. We work that pretty hard. And we also work this really hard and put in long hours. Kendall has really been fun to work with. They're very supportive. Great oil. I run their oil in all my trucks. I have a fleet of about 1000 trucks, so it's very good oil," he said.
 
And that explains his choice of motor oil. About his choice of cigars, he is less selective. He chews them mostly, but ask him what he likes and he'll tell you he likes them mild. "I just got a couple of boxes of Macanudos, and those are really good.  Mild enough to chew. I've got some Davidoffs in there, but they are too strong; I can't even chew them," he said.   

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