When I think about nostalgia funny car racing, the bright orange machine of Mike McIntire and family is always at or near the top of the pile. Born out of the love of drag racing, the McIntire’s have consistently climbed the ladder as a top contender in this most competitive class. Now they have decided to leave the category behind and move to the Top Fuel Funny Car ranks. It is going to be fun to watch as they will be faced with many new challenges and tests. I can imagine there will be a rapid movement upward toward success in the new class. Good luck, Mike!
The Original Interview
August 30, 2018
During the Winter of 2014 – ’15, I was in the Philadelphia area, so I stopped in to visit famed race car builder, Bob Rosetty at his ‘Funny Farm’ shop. To my surprise, the McIntire’s happened to be there with the chassis they’d been racing. And a new body Bob had recently finished for them was mounted on that chassis – a project the McIntire’s had kept very quiet and were excited about.
Mike McIntire, Jr. “A couple of months before we ran into you there, we had taken the chassis to Bob to be fitted with a new body. Dad and I told him that we wanted something different because there were so many ’69 Camaro’s out there. At the time, Bob had a 1970s something 120-inch wheel-base body in stock. Of course, when we sat it on our chassis, it didn’t fit because the body was built for the old-style laid out cars. So, what’s he do? He pulls out his Sawzall and cuts this brand-new body right in half! The old man and I are standing there with our jaws hanging open to our chests! And, Rosetty, he just keeps cutting away until the body is in two pieces. We couldn’t believe it. But that’s how he works. He makes beautiful stuff. When he’s got a vision, he goes with it. Bob is very detailed oriented. He wants it to look right. Really, he doesn’t go crazy. He wants it to be as period-correct as possible and function properly at the speeds we’re going.”
MM “Bob does outstanding work, and he had to build that body to our chassis. Today, you see more of them out there, because they’ll go on a late-model chassis, without making modifications. When we started this deal, they were nice bodies, but you’d have to bubble out the back window to get the cage to clear so the thing would look right when it sits down. Now you see a lot of builders, they’re building them for these cars, so they look right when the body’s down. They’ve got a nice stance, they look low. The carbon fiber body.”
Nitro Hot Rods Magazine Let’s go back in history a little. How’d your old man get involved in drag racing?
MM “My dad’s always been a motor guy. His first car was a small block Chevelle. Within a week of getting it, he put a big block in it. In the early ‘80s, he built a Chevy Vega for drag racing. It ran in the 9s. In the mid- and late-80s he raced with the Supercharged Outlaw altered circuit on a 7.90 index. In 1989 he moved to an alcohol funny car and ran the mid-America Funny Car Circuit with the help of John Skokan. The circuit was started and run by ‘Bullet’ Bob and Cathie Floch until 1997. That’s when we took 10 years off from drag racing. We tried racing go-karts; all over the country. Daytona, Charlotte, everywhere. We also tried boating with the entire family. That is until we realized that we needed to get back to drag racing. We’re good at drag racing, so let’s get back to it and stay there. That was in 2008.”
“In 2009, we made the switch to nitro. Unfortunately for us, there wasn’t anything going on in the Midwest nostalgia-wise. Everything was happening on the west coast, so Dad called Bullet Bob who was looking to put on a fuel altered match race deal. In response, we put our old altered body and got back with Bullet. But, we only got the chance to race three or four times before IHRA came up with their nostalgia funny car circuit in 2010.”
“John Dunn, who was helping IRHA put together that funny car deal, booked an eight-car deal at every national event. He called us and asked us if we’d be willing to put a funny car body on our car and join them? It sounded like a great deal. So, we did. And you know what they say, once you go nitro, you just want more, more, more. I can’t believe it’s been eight years that we’ve been running the nitro funny car. There’s no end in sight.”
“We raced the nitro flopper with dad driving until 2014. Then he decided that I’d earned the right to give it a try. Officially, my first lap behind the wheel of the funny car was in 2014. Though I’d driven the altered and I had 1 lap in the funny car in 2009 and 2011, respectively. We were so busy running everywhere that we didn’t have time to see if I was a good fit at that time. So, we waited. Finally, at the end of 2013, the old man said, ‘let’s go to Norwalk and get you licensed!’ which we did.”
“2014 was a wild ride; getting laps under my belt and everything that goes with becoming familiar with driving a funny car.”
“Then, the IHRA deal, we had pretty good success with them, even when it was just the alcohol deal, we were always relatively quick, and we won a couple of races. We were happy. But, 2015 was our turning point. During the offseason, we tried some different things, put nitro in the tank, and it paid off. We took the car out and it did exactly what we thought it would. We thought that we could be the ‘top dogs’ out there if things kept going as they did.”
NHRM This has been a real family affair for you guys. Your mom, Sharon, is involved, and Susie’s involved, too. When did Susie come into the picture?
MM “I met Susie in 2006. It was during our hiatus from drag racing. She is a barrel racer, and she’s got a bunch of horses in barrel races. She’s got that competitive spirit in her. I remember taking her down to Norwalk. They were running the big cars; it was a national event. I told her that, ‘I want to do this.’ She thought that would be cool. A year later we bought the funny car. The following year we went on tour. It just snowballed. She’s 100% for it. Our entire family has always been involved. We have always been competitive. We want to be at the top and we’ll do what it takes to get and stay there.”
“All of us have always been involved. Even when my dad was driving with the Mid-America circuit 20-years ago, it was all family-oriented. Even among the teams. My sister and I have been going to the track since we were little kids. I remember being at the starting line with her sleeping in the back of the pickup with her earphones on when she was two years old. Yeah, it’s always been a family deal. Family adds a lot to it. It’s a good time.”
“My mom, she feeds us very well. She packs the chutes. During the week, before the race, she washes the body. It’s a family effort, and it makes it that more special when you do well.”
NHRM When I asked Mike about winning a championship he told that they hadn’t.
MM “Jason Rupert always got it out from under me! Every year! He’s very tough! He came into the IHRA deal when he started running really well. I think he won three NHRA Championships in a row prior to his first IHRA season in 2014. He came into the IHRA in 2014, when they went into the competitive racing, the eight-car qualified NHRA legal stuff. He came in to run the tour, and he’s the main reason why we started really stepping up the game because he’d come in and just…that first year, he killed us all.”
“He dominated. That makes you hungry, and that makes you better, makes you work harder. He’s the main reason, I think, for our 2015 successes. You just wanted to beat him so dang bad. He’d run numbers that were unheard of. .70s were like ultra-fast at the time. Then, suddenly, he’d throw down a .65, and it’s like you didn’t even know it was possible back then. We really started looking at our program and doing some different things. The first race, in 2015, in Tucson, we ran a 5.68, or something.”
“Yeah. At 5,000 foot, (elevation), we’re like, ‘okay. I guess he isn’t cheating because it’s possible.’ He’s probably the one to blame for us doing as well as we did.
NHRM Next, I asked Mike what events they’re running?
MM “The NHRA stuff is all pretty much in the west side of the country, on the west coast. With us being based out of Cleveland, (Ohio), it’s just not feasible for us to run out there. We did it for one year when we went all the way to Bakersfield. For all the traveling, flying the guys in and out, but the NHRA payouts offered were so small it wasn’t financially feasible for us to continue. We couldn’t do it!”
“When IHRA started to pay so much, it made sense for us to travel. We started running the car harder, going for it. After all, IHRA was paying double or triple what NHRA was at every race. And at the end of the year, they paid $50,000 to the Champ and $25,000 to the runner-up. Because of parts attrition when you’re trying to run .50s and .60s, well, sometimes the payout in IHRA was a little thin. It’s an expensive proposition when you put nitro in the tank. When IHRA went away, and the payouts were cut in half, it didn’t make sense to go out and run as hard. We couldn’t do it. You must have a return that makes it worth your while. You have to have some sort of return.”
“Yeah, so next year (2019) we’ve booked a couple of match races already. This weekend we’re going to Chris Graves Funny Car Chaos at Central Illinois Raceway. Should be a lot of fun. There’re no rules; it’s run what ya brung! Parts attrition should be much less ‘cause it’s a 1.8-mile race. The payouts are not the greatest but it’s his first year doing this, so it should get a better given time. I think there are 23 or 24 cars registered so far. A great field.
NHRM (Note: McAttack won that race with a 3.78 at 206 miles per hour. They were the first piston-driven vehicle to ever go over 200 miles per hour there. And they did it on all three passes).
What’s the best you guys have run? Was that at Martin Michigan?
MM “Yeah, we ran a 5.51 at 261 miles per hour. A great run. That was at the Northern Nationals.”
NHRM Mike, tell me about your crew. Who does what?
MM “Matt Kahley, a long-time friend does the right-side cylinder head and mixes the fuel. He also helps me at the shop between races because he’s local. John Skokan does the left-side cylinder head and Jake Slater does the clutch. And I still do the bottom end, I make sure everything gets done and I drive the car.”
NHRM Do you like driving as much as working on the car?
MM “Yes, I do. I get to have the fun behind the wheel. But, to be honest, if I were told I couldn’t drive anymore, I’d still be there 100% without a doubt. In between rounds, I’d be thrashing with the guys. For me, that’s as big a rush as driving.”
NHRM Your family’s business is operating a machine shop, isn’t it?
MM “Yes, it is. It’s a CNC machine shop. A small outfit. We only have a couple of guys. We specialize in CNC mill and lathe work. We make a lot of prototypes and we do small production runs. Mostly for the food and beverage industry. We also do a little in aerospace and some nuclear work, too.”
NHRM Mike, thanks for taking all this time to spend doing this interview. I know that our readers will appreciate it. Good luck, racing the rest of the year and next year, too.
Top Fuel Funny Car
September 9, 2018
NHRM It was confirmed to me early today that the McIntyre’s have received a deposit on the McAttack NFC from a West Coast racer who is planning to run the Heritage Series with the car.
Mike also confirmed that they have placed a deposit with Kalitta Motorsports for the Top Fuel Funny Car roller that Paul Lee drove in 2016.
The McIntire’s don’t want to say any more than that because there are so many things up in the air. Mike did say, however, that they plan to run three or 4 Big Show events next year that are close to home plus a couple of match races.
We’ll keep you posted on future developments.