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Thursday, February 29, 2024

Michael Beard: DragChamp Racer Spotlight

Michael Beard is in this week’s DragChamp Racer Spotlight. Learn all about this DragChamp Pro Member in his spotlight below!

GALLOWAY, OH- Michael Beard, a drag racer with over three decades of experience, was first introduced to the world of drag racing by his dad. While his dad had some past experience with racing, he had been away from the sport for quite some time. The spark that reignited their connection with drag racing happened when Michael’s dad left home one day, to pick up a “loaf of bread”, but ended up spending the entire day at Beaver Springs Dragway. Intrigued by this discovery, the whole family decided to check it out the following week, and it was only a week after that when Michael’s dad decided to dive back into racing.

As for Michael, he took on the task of understanding the ins and outs of “bracket racing.” Over time, he developed a fascination with the mathematical complexities and strategic aspects that make up the sport. Eventually, his dad bought him a 6-cylinder Duster, and in the summer of 1990, Michael began racing.

DragChamp Logo

Footbrake Racing

Michael is a footbrake racer and has raced in Footbrake, No-Box, Box, Stock, Super Stock, and even ran a few Index races. Since moving to Ohio, he has run points at Dragway 42 but, usually stays on the road chasing big money bottom bulb races.

His Race Car

In 2005, Michael acquired his 1980 Plymouth Volare from Ross Family Racing as a turnkey IHRA Crate Motor Stocker. It was later upgraded to compete in the Super Stock category, featuring a 5.9L DragPak (EFI 360) engine built by Sloan Racing Engines and chassis modifications completed by Gibbs Race Cars.

The most recent iteration of the car boasts an EFI 408 Stroker backed by an Abruzzi Racing Transmissions powerglide and converter. It puts the power to the ground through a Moser Engineering M60 rear end and Mickey Thompson 31×13.5 Pro Bracket Radials which currently have 452 runs on them. This car has gone anywhere from its J/CM records of 7.34/11.73 to its quickest of 6.41/10.18 @ 129 mph. It stands as the only car in history to have won a Stock World Championship, a Super Stock World Championship, and a Bracket Finals.

Photo by John Ullman

Racing Highlights

  • 291 Final Rounds with 192 Wins
  • 20-Time Champion (Track, Series, Divisional or World)
  • 2-Time Bracket Finals Champion (1994 NHRA Div. 1, 2009 IHRA Div. 2)
  • 3-Time Bracket Finals Gamblers Winner
  • 3-Time World Footbrake Challenge Winner (2008 10K Win & R/U, 2015 10K Win, 2022 5K Gamblers Win) 
  • 2-Time IHRA Stock World Champion (2003, 2009)
  • 2012 IHRA Super Stock World Champion

Staging Light

Staging Light began as the name of Michael’s drag racing resources website when he was in college. Today, Staging Light Graphics and Event Marketing handles graphic design and printing for the drag racing industry. He primarily does event flyers for tracks and promoters, along with big checks, run stickers, banners, etc. Michael also promotes several big money bracket races of his own like the OktoberFast Bracket Nationals and Carolina Footswap Nationals.

Michael’s Q&A

What’s on your bucket list, future goals, what do you hope to achieve?

I’ve raced at 81 race tracks.  I won at 9 of those in my first weekend there.  You only get one shot to win in your first visit!  I’d like to see more new places, maybe take a year “off” and just travel a bucket list circuit. 

What is your favorite race car, and why?

“They’re all good.  Some’re just better than others.”

Michael Beard
The first race car Michael ever raced.

Who has made the biggest impact on your racing success?

Terry Knott gave me a ride in his Stock Eliminator ’73 Dart Sport.  We won the IHRA World Championship in 63 days, and that snowballed into years of class racing and traveling that may never have happened otherwise. 

Who do you look up to in the sport?

Luke Bogacki embodies what most of us have dreamed about:  He is a self-made man who learned to capitalize on his abilities and knowledge.  He is calculating, articulate, and well-respected both on and off the race track.

How do you support your racing, side hustle, sponsor, partner, etc.?

Racing has far more often than not paid for itself (just not this year!).  Racing IS the side hustle.  Sponsors have always played an important role.  I still tow with a 1500 pickup and open trailer which I won in a shootout when I was a kid.  I try to keep expenses low and the potential return on investment positive.

Who do you hate to see in the other lane, and why?

There are plenty of all stars that I race on a regular basis, and when you’re in the staging lanes it’s natural to think “Ahh, that’s not a good draw,” but when you pull in the burnout box, it’s all business, and it all comes down to executing your run to the best of your ability.  But in the big scheme of things, it’s the great drivers coupled with the mid 5-second and faster cars like Kevin Pollard that ratchets up the difficulty level, as the speed differential takes away top end driving accuracy.

What’s the hardest part of drag racing?

Nowadays, the hardest part of drag racing is pulling in the lanes right.  Everyone has great equipment, and everyone has access to great schools, strategies, and weather stations.  Chances are, your opponent is going to lay down a solid lap.  Luck of the draw in the early rounds can make or break your day.

Michael Beard
2023 Practice Tree Hootenanny Bottom Bulb Champion

What’s your most embarrassing moment in a race car?

I was driving a Super Stock Modified Camaro for Adger Smith at an IHRA National Event in San Antonio.  Right before my first run, he leans in and says, “Oh, sometimes the line lock doesn’t work.”  I pull into the burnout box, and sure enough, the line lock doesn’t work, so I just do a dragster style burnout.  Between the smoke, the big hoodscoop, and the seat mounted virtually on the floor, I couldn’t see well, and totally lost where I was.  

The starter, Sam Kearns, walks out in front of the car shakes his head a little and points back.  I’d gone past the line and didn’t realize it.  I fumbled for reverse and backed up until I saw the pre-stage and stage flicker, then dropped it back into gear.  Sam walks out in front of me and shoots me a look that clearly indicates my intelligence level at the time, and points back emphatically.  Oh.  Apparently both tires had gone past the line.  Tim Lee was giddy that he got it all on video.

What are you saying to yourself just before you stage the car?

I may glance at the flags to check the wind before staging, but the staging process itself is all muscle memory.  The only thing that I consciously work on is my breathing after we’re both staged.  Regulating and timing my breathing so that I am at the bottom of my exhale and in a steady state before the second bulb comes on narrows up my spread dramatically.  Just this weekend, I had five out of six hits over two days between .010 and .012

What do you enjoy the most at the racetrack?

The people!  It’s a family reunion every weekend, with different people.  Racers are family.

Are you superstitious?  If so, what are they?

The Lucky Haircut… but there’s a trick to it.  I don’t win the week I get my hair cut, but the week after. 

Michael Beard
His first ‘real’ race car

Do you love to win or hate to lose?

The Corona Online Practice Tree League destroys every expectation of success, dishing out bad beats with ease.  It taught you to get REALLY comfortable with losing, so unless something went very unexpectedly wrong, losing can be taken in stride.  On the flip side, winning a big event or even just squeaking by that one titanic matchup is an irreplaceable feeling.  I love to win.

Which are you better at the starting line or the finish line?

There’s no question that the starting line is my strong suit.  While the changes I’ve made to my car’s combination in the last couple of years has helped my finish line significantly, typically the gameplan is to mow the tree, give ‘em the courtesy look, and let the car go dead-on.

What motivates you to continue racing?

There are still more races to be won, racetracks to see, and fellow racers to catch up with each week.

If money were no object, what would your racing operation look like?  Car, trailer, class, race schedule, etc.

It would be hard to step away from the pickup and open trailer.  I like the simplicity of it:  unload and go, load up and go, get in and out of any gas station, and I can unhook the truck to get out and about.  What I’d really like is a big shop with a lift.  I used to dream about having a Dodge Avenger or Stratus for Super Stock, but I’ve checked class racing off the bucket list.  6-oh’s in a car like that and be able to hit the bottom at some top bulb races would be sweet, though!

Michael Beard

How often do you use a practice tree?

Unless I’m really lost, the practice tree usually just comes out in the winter in preparation for a number of great practice tree races we have in the region.  When the Corona League was active, it was an almost every day thing.

What is your daily driver?

I work from a home-based office, so nothing gets driven daily, but my vehicle is a 2012 Ram 1500 5.7L Hemi. It’s paid off, just crossed 210,000 miles, and gets me where I need to go.

Favorite movie or TV show?

Season 1 of Marvel’s Daredevil produced by Netflix was absolutely phenomenal. It’s one of the few shows I’ve rewatched.

Favorite music, artist?

I bounce around between genres of music, but will usually get stuck on a small number of bands for months at a time.  Going down the rabbit hole on YouTube Music netted a couple of new discoveries.  My latest finds are Royal Blood, The Blue Stones, and Black Pistol Fire. It’s remarkable the sound these two-person bands can produce! For something completely different, if you might be into bluegrass, check out Mandolin Orange (recently renamed to Watchhouse). More mainstream: Shinedown, or their side project Smith & Myers. Brent Smith is ridiculously talented.

Michael Beard
2003 IHRA Stock World Champion Car on Display at Summit

Where do you spend the most time on the internet?

Facebook.  It’s a love/hate relationship.  It’s my primary communication tool with my customers, and obviously I can keep up with my fellow racers and events around the country, so the positives outweigh negatives.

What is your favorite sport?  Favorite team?

Uh, bracket racing.  Growing up, the Beaver Springs Dragway Bracket Finals team was my favorite!

Besides racing, what do you do in your free time?

Work.

What are you really good at?

Graphic Design

Ross Family car he borrowed to win 2010 All Star race Michael Beard
Ross Family car he borrowed to win 2010 All Star race

Name one thing most people don’t know about you?

I pitched and started the project that became NHRA.com, working with Phil Burgess, and spent spring break hand-coding the first webpages.

Would you rather hang out with a crowd or have a quiet evening at home?

Quiet evening at home with my wife.

What’s your favorite thing to eat?  Individual item, meal, or restaurant?

6” club no tomato from W.G. Grinders.  You can’t beat a sammich fresh out of the oven with ham, turkey, roast beef, honey mustard, mayo, and swiss.  They don’t call ‘em the World’s Greatest Grinders for nothing!

Michael Beard
IHRA FWD Stocker

Who would you like to thank, who helps you the most?

Everyone.  Everyone helps me.  I couldn’t do it without YOU.

What is a piece of advice you’d give to an aspiring racer?

“We are what we repeatedly do.  Excellence then is not an act, but a habit.” – Aristotle
Take good notes, and pay attention to details.

For more DragChamp racer spotlights, click here.

Want to become a DragChamp Pro Member like Michael? Check out the details here

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