Keeping Funny Car success in the family
Mike McIntire Jr. hopes to continue his roll for Mike Sr., who is recovering from bypass surgery
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.
MikeMcIntire Jr. was set to seek a fifth win this year for his father Saturday inMechanicsville, Md., but the finals were rained out.