Keep­ing Funny Car suc­cess in the fam­ily

Mike McIn­tire Jr. hopes to con­tinue his roll for Mike Sr., who is re­cov­er­ing from by­pass surgery

The Washington Post Sunday - - SPORTS - BY JA­COB FELD­MAN ja­cob.feld­man@wash­post.com

Mike McIn­tire Sr. prob­a­bly knew he should not be this loud given that he was ly­ing in a bed at the Cleve­land Clinic in April, re­cov­er­ing from another op­er­a­tion, but he could not help him­self.

His wife and his old­est daugh­ter sat with him, yelling as well as they watched Mike McIn­tire Jr. race the Nitro Funny Car drag car that his fa­ther had driven for 20 years. As McIn­tire Jr. sped down the Palm Beach (Fla.) In­ter­na­tional Race­way drag strip in Mc At­tack, McIn­tire Sr.’s mon­i­tors started beep­ing. A nurse came in to check on him, then closed his door so other pa­tients would not be both­ered by the noise.

Nurses came back later to de­mand that McIn­tire Sr. calm down af­ter his son called from Vic­tory Lane. The Mc At­tack team had won its third race of the sea­son to re­main un­beaten — a nearly un­heard-of feat in IHRA Nitro Funny Car com­pe­ti­tion, where races are de­cided by hun­dredths of sec­onds. Last year’s cham­pion won four tro­phies all sea­son.

This week­end, the Mc In tires were in Mary­land to try to keep their streak alive at the IHRA Nitro Jam Pres­i­dent’s Cup Na­tion­als, but Satur­day night’s fi­nals in Me­chan­icsville were rained out and will be com­peted later this sea­son at Michigan.

“Yeah, we are go­ing [all out],” McIn­tire Jr. had said Fri­day at Mary­land In­ter­na­tional Race­way.

McIn­tire Jr. wanted to con­tinue his win­ning streak, but he also wanted to set the track record, held by his crew chief, McIn­tire Sr. His dad wanted that, too.

McIn­tire Sr. be­gan rac­ing Mc At­tack in 1984, and his son grewup around the drag strip. In 2014, McIn­tire Sr. de­cided to hand the wheel to his then-29year-old son, who ex­ceeded ex­pec­ta­tions with two vic­to­ries.

This year has gone even bet­ter on the track. McIn­tire Jr. set the worl­drecord in Tuc­son with a run of 5.68 sec­onds to start the sea­son. But then came bad news.

When McIn­tire Sr. re­turned home to Men­tor, Ohio, he went to the doc­tor. He had felt ex­hausted all week­end and was wor­ried he might need a heart stent. The di­ag­no­sis was even more dras­tic: He needed quadru­ple by­pass surgery.

McIn­tire Jr.’s wife, Susie, said she could see the ef­fect her fa­ther-in-law’s health is­sues were hav­ing on her hus­band. The fa­ther and son work to­gether at their own ma­chine shop, but McIn­tire Jr. usu­ally left cer­tain chores for his dad. With his fa­ther hos­pi­tal­ized, McIn­tire Jr. had to take on a heav­ier load in the store while wor­ry­ing about his dad and his race team.

A month af­ter his surgery, McIn­tire Sr. felt healthy enough to at­tend a race in Braden­ton, Fla. His wife, Sharon, said her hus­band looked health­ier in the pit area than he had be­fore, with more energy and more smiles. And the team con­tin­ued win­ning, grab­bing its sec­ond Iron­man tro­phy of the year.

Mc At­tack won again the next week in Palm Beach, although McIn­tire Sr. missed the week­end with an in­fec­tion in his chest. Af­ter ev­ery run, McIn­tire Jr. called into the hos­pi­tal room, where his fam­ily was cheer­ing.

The Mc At­tack team con­tin­ued dom­i­nat­ing at the next event a month later in Cor­dova, Ill., with McIn­tire Sr. back in charge, earn­ing a fourth trip to Vic­tory Lane.

McIn­tire Jr. then set his sights on tro­phy No. 5, a po­ten­tial Fa­ther’s Day present for his dad. He came up short of his record-set­ting as­pi­ra­tions in the first qual­i­fy­ing run Fri­day, post­ing a fourth best time of 5.843 sec­onds. His sec­ond run was even worse as sparks flew from both sides of his car be­fore he fin­ished nearly a sec­ond slower.

Frus­trated and con­fused, McIn­tire re­turned to the trailer.

“I’m lost,” he told his dad, un­sure of what caused the slow times.

But then he got back to work along with his crew— Matt Kahley, John Skokan, Tom Gierke and Jim Mor­ris. The car’s first time was still good enough to put Mc At­tack in the eight-team elim­i­na­tion field the next day.

By Satur­day af­ter­noon, McIn­tire Sr. said the team had fig­ured out the prob­lem, an is­sue with the con­nec­tion be­tween the fuel tank and the mo­tor.

All of this suc­cess is new for the team. At this level, McIn­tire Sr. never won a sea­son cham­pi­onship, and McIn­tire Jr. has never done this many pre-race in­ter­views or had this many fans come by to gawk at his trailer.

The storms that moved through the area Satur­day, how­ever, scrubbed McIn­tire’s race and ended his pur­suit of the per­fect Fa­ther’s Day present, at least for now.

JABIN BOTS­FORD/THE WASHINGTON POST

MikeMcIn­tire Jr. was set to seek a fifth win this year for his fa­ther Satur­day in­Me­chan­icsville, Md., but the fi­nals were rained out.

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