There is a first time for everything in life.
Your first steps. Your first kiss. Your first time pulling up to the starting line in front of thousands of people in a 10,000 horsepower nitro-powered Funny Car with all of your friends and family looking on.
You know, the little moments in life.
For Mike McIntire Jr., the reality of his very first NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series start is already starting to hit home. On Friday, McIntire will make his first pass in a big show Funny Car after a few years on the nostalgia flopper scene at his home track at Summit Motorsports Park with one of the largest crowds of the year – and dozens of his friends and family – rooting him on. It will be a surreal moment for the 35-year-old second-generation racer from Chesterfield, Ohio, but one he is ready to face head-on.
“I have always wanted to race at this level. I just wasn’t sure if we would ever get there,” McIntire said. “I really have to thank my dad for all of this. It’s a big financial undertaking and at the end of the day, without the funds you can’t go race. Bobby and Dom Lagana helped a ton as well with buying the right parts at the right price. Without them, we wouldn’t be as far as we are.
“To do this at Norwalk, it means a lot to run here for my first race. My first laps down the strip were at Norwalk. I licensed there for the nostalgia car and tested there quite a bit. I have never raced there, but I am really looking forward to it. There are going to be a lot of friends and family cheering us on. Some of them, it will be their first NHRA race.”
McIntire grew up watching his father, Mike McIntire Sr., compete on the nostalgia scene since he was a little boy. The eldest McIntire got his start in racing in 1984, making a name for himself on the Mid-America Funny Car circuit and other series that housed the popular nostalgia categories. Later in his career, the name McIntire became synonymous with the bright orange-hued machines he would pilot with the name “McAttack” adorning the side. It was the perfect childhood and the perfect backdrop for the younger McIntire to develop a passion for the sport.
“Without growing up at the track and watching my dad race his Funny Car, I wouldn’t be doing this,” McIntire said. “It was a blast traveling up and down the east coast as a kid, racing all weekend with your friends. Who wouldn’t want to do that?”
McIntire finally got his own opportunity behind the wheel in 2014 when he took over the “McAttack” nostalgia machine with the former IHRA Nitro Jam Drag Racing Series, driving his family’s race car to multiple wins and even a few bench-setting marks in the class right out of the gate. It was a big moment for the young driver who grew up idolizing “Bullet” Bob Floch and Ed “The Ace” McCulloch, in addition to his father.
But McIntire wanted more.
After five years behind the wheel, McIntire purchased an ex-Paul Lee/Kalitta Motorsports Toyota and set out to move up the ranks and earn his NHRA Funny Car license. Although the path was far from easy, he earned his license earlier this year with two full passes of 4.60 and 4.34 and immediately begin making plans for his first NHRA start.
“Trying to run the car the first couple of times was an adventure by itself,” McIntire said. “We rented Norwalk originally to test and license and rain put a stop to that. We rescheduled there a few days later and it rained again so, ultimately, we ended up making the first laps at Dragway 42 here in Ohio. After that first outing, we were looking to go license the Monday after the Chicago event, but there was no test the Monday after. So, we ended up renting Indy and making runs there in front of licensed drivers that were good enough to get my license.”
Of course, it won’t just be the large crowds and championship-caliber competition that McIntire will have to adjust to this weekend. He will also have to rewire his brain to prepare for passes in the low four-second range – or perhaps better – as oppose to the five-second and above runs he was used to in a nostalgia Funny Car.
“The difference between nostalgia cars and the modern Funny Car is night and day,” McIntire said. “The big car is so violent compared to the nostalgia car and we still have the ‘training wheel’ tune-up in it. Also, the vision is way different. In the NFC you could barely see the top of the tree, but in the big car you have a lot of vision above the injector. It will be interesting the first time we pull up to the line in competition, that is for sure.”
After a lifetime learning the ropes from his father, McIntire will now bring that familiar orange and black “McAttack” moniker to the big show when he makes his debut this weekend in Norwalk.
“It was a surreal feeling to see my name and the McAttack name on the entry list with guys like (John) Force and (Robert) Hight. It’s a cool deal and we are really looking forward to seeing where this new adventure will take us,” McIntire said. “I am extremely excited and pretty nervous too. I really want to thank my dad and mom for letting me talk them into taking this next step. My wife, Susie, for supporting this endeavor. And my crew guys, they do this because they want to. Without their hard work and dedication, we wouldn’t have even considered doing this. Aaron Brooks especially who came on board as crew chief, has helped tremendously in teaching the ins and outs of the new car. I can’t wait.”
— Competition Plus (@competitionplus) January 4, 2019