- Wednesday 30 April, 2014
Throughout their high school days in Louisville, Ohio, brothers Kyle and Corey Michalek participated in football and swimming, but by the time they were in college, they had turned their interest to motorsports.
That was when family friend and IHRA Top Alcohol Funny Car driver Mark Thomas invited Kyle to travel to national events with his team as an honorary crew member, and in the summer of ’03, he was quickly learning the ins and outs of working on a 245 mph car.
“Right away, I told Mark I had fun and wanted to help out, and I ended up participating on his team throughout my college years,” said Kyle, who still lives in Louisville, Ohio. “He won national events and he earned an IHRA Top Alcohol Funny Car championship while I was part of his crew.”
During that time, Kyle and Corey began making plans to climb behind the wheel of a race car, and by the end of the ’03 season, they had bought a Woody Gilmore-built rear-engine dragster. Together, they made adjustments to the chassis for safety and rebuilt its 447 cubic-inch Chevy engine and Powerglide transmission.
“We worked on it all winter, and then in the summer of ‘04, I made my first run down the dragstrip in it,” said Kyle. “I was really excited, but while I was sitting in staging, all I could think about was how I was in an eight-second dragster when all I had taken down track before was my seventeen-second GMC Sierra truck. My first pass was a half-track pass, and I didn’t know what it was supposed to feel like, but it didn’t feel wrong and you couldn’t wipe the smile off of my face. My second pass was to the quarter-mile, and it was an 8.70-something and I pulled the chute. I did it again and then took my time-ticket to Bill Bader, Jr. and Mark Thomas, who signed it so that I could get my IHRA Quick Rod license.”
For the following three or four years, Kyle was behind the wheel and Corey was behind the wrenches, and when Kyle graduated from Ohio University in ’07 and accepted a fulltime job as a manufacturing supervisor for Ariel Corporation in Ohio, Corey assumed his responsibilities as a crew member for Thomas and held that position for two seasons. Also in ’07, they sold the Woody Gilmore-built rear-engine dragster Kyle had been driving, and bought an ’02 David Monday-built dragster.
After making adjustments to its chassis and rebuilding its 489 cubic-inch engine and Powerglide transmission, they headed toward NHRA Super Comp competition, and Corey, now the art director for Wondersauce in New York, tossed his hat into the ring and climbed into the driver’s seat.
“We took turns driving, so I would drive at one race and he would drive at another race,” said Kyle. “The dragster ran 8.40s-8.50s and during that time, in ’11, Mark Thomas introduced us to Pat Dakin, an NHRA Top Fuel driver, and Corey and I joined his crew to work the clutch on his dragster for the ’11 and ’12 seasons. We continued to race our Super Comp car during that time, and did so through ’12.”
The brothers excelled at replacing clutch disc packs, installing freshly-ground flywheels, servicing pressure plates and dealing with the blasts of heat aimed toward their faces from clutches that reached up to 700 degrees.
In ’12, they received $50,000 for winning the inaugural Champion Spark Plugs Search For a Champion contest, and carefully considered how they would use the money.
“We had funded our racing ourselves prior to that, and even though we had fun in Super Comp, we wanted to eventually move to a pro class, so we started gathering information from drivers in the NHRA Top Alcohol Dragster class,” said Kyle. “Then, we told Pat’s team that we would be finishing the tour with them that season, but that we would be focusing on our own efforts for ’13.”
After selling the Super Comp car, Kyle and Corey turned toward their new project, and decided to form a partnership.
“We made contact with the Dreher Motorsports Team in early ’13 and worked out an arrangement where we would race a couple races with them and with their car,” said Kyle. “After making the licensing move from Super Comp to Top Alcohol Dragster, I competed in my first race in the class at the Cavalcade of Stars at Summit Motorsports Park in May of ’13.”
There, he qualified second with a 5.39 at 259 mph and advanced to the final, where he was runner-up.
“I couldn’t believe it,” said Kyle. “We went to the event with the goal to qualify and if we went one round, it would be a bonus. It was a great start for us.”
They followed that a few months later with the Summit Racing NHRA Nationals at Summit Motorsports Park, where he qualified tenth and lost in the first round, but not without valiant effort.
That August, Corey climbed into the driver’s seat and earned his competition license after clocking 5.55 at 260 mph.
“Last year was a very productive year, and for this year, we’ve partnered with Champion again and have brought on the Kenan Advantage Group as an additional sponsor,” said Kyle. “We started out on a high note at the NHRA Four Wide Nationals in Charlotte, North Carolina, where Corey qualified in the fifth spot with a 5.32 and won the whole race. We’re fortunate to be able to partner with the Dreher family and that they gave us this opportunity. We wouldn’t be in this position if not for them.”
Catch Kyle behind the wheel at the upcoming NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series’ 8th Annual Mickey Mart Rewards Cavalcade of Stars presented by Budweiser, May 16-18 at Summit Motorsports Park, and catch Corey behind the wheel at the Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Nationals, July 3-6, at Summit Motorsports Park.
“Taking part in the Cavalcade of Stars will be a big deal to me because I got my license in Norwalk in ’04 and it’s now exactly ten years later,” said Kyle. “It will be special coming back.”
By Mary Lendzion
Photos courtesy of Kyle Michalek