On February 23, 2019, tragedy turned Kyle Michalek’s life upside down. His wife, Steph, passed away unexpectedly while giving birth to their son Andrews.
Almost six months later, Kyle returned to the place he has called home for many years – the drag strip.
Kyle, who tunes the Top Alcohol Dragster driven by his younger brother Corey, returned to the drag strip during the 2019 Night Under Fire event, the independent extravaganza promoted by Summit Motorsports Park in Norwalk, Ohio. The evening was one the siblings and many race fans will never forget.
Corey made sure no one would.
Corey, who is one of the more talented motorsports videographers captured the moments of the epic afternoon in a video he shared with his brother and family on Christmas Day, and the racing world on December 27, 2019.
“It’s hard to put it into words, what it meant to me when I watched that thing, my heartbeats, and my chest hair stands straight up on my body,” Kyle said. “It’s just unbelievable. He continues to raise the bar, and it was really special.”
The video encompasses the spirit of the moments, those moments of peace that followed months of grieving the loss of Steph, and watching as Andrews fought his way out of the NICU of the hospital.
“It’s been now ten months since that happened, and it’s been a progression, and we weren’t sure if we were going to get to the track at all this year,” Kyle explained. “One of the things I think helped in the healing process was trying to get back to finding some normalcy, and the race car kind of offered that for us and being able to go out there and do that this summer. Being at the track was awesome, but then also being able to present the scholarship, having that as a surprise, that was pretty neat.”
Kyle could only watch in surprise, as the Ohio University School of Nursing awarded the first scholarship in her name, and revealed it would become a tradition.
“We have a lot to look forward to as we’re trying to return to a somewhat normal schedule for next year,” Knowing that we were able to pull that off this year and then when we got a little bit of time between now and next year, that just, it was a Kyle said. “It’s a good way to kind of end on a high note to make the most what we could in a very abbreviated year. And like I said, just give us something to look forward to knowing that.”
And then, the video. Video was always Corey’s thing, like tinkering with race cars was Kyle’s.
“That’s the way we complement each other. So knowing that we’re the brothers racing team here, we both have different talents, and neither of us could do this by ourselves,” Kyle said. “But when we put it together, it makes for a pretty good combination.”
The brothers, three years apart in age, have learned to watch out for one another. Kyle said Corey has been there for him every step of the way.
“Everything I’d need from just helping out around the house to helping keep things organized to be in a good person just to talk to, and yeah, he’s been my best friend through all of this,” Kyle admitted. “And if I can say if there any positives that come out of this, we already had a great relationship before all this, but it’s only gotten that much stronger. So racing is something that we do together that we both share a common interest in. But just in life, beyond the track, it’s been great to have him there every step of the way. And I’m, I’m super thankful for it.”
In the end, the video, Corey said, was just a brother looking out for his brother.
“I’ve done a decent amount of videos recently that were more about showcasing the raw power and the visceralness of the sport itself, and try to introduce that to new fans,” Corey said. “But this was something; obviously, that was a lot more personal. It was more about telling the story of perseverance.
“Ever since February, things from a racing perspective for our team have really been put on the back burner. But yeah, in that time, Kyle had been working towards finding a way to really honor the life of his late wife and cement her legacy. Getting back to the track provided him a platform in order to give that message of courage that I mentioned, and to be able to play a small role and be able to share that with people was powerful.”