Today we take a gander at the career of the head of MSR racing and his Sons, with Mike the POP, Mike the SON, and Eric the 2nd Son from the state of Connecticut. This all goes back to about 1966 when Mike the POP went to his first boat race in 1966 and followed that up with his first boat in 67. I loved learning about that first boat a Hal Kelly boat that he ran ASH with. As a kid, I tried to find any boat magazine that had anything of race boats in and even Popular Mechanics had the Hal Kelly ads which put me into dream land. As his career began to blossom in racing, he changed up to AOH, running a deflector A Merc instead of stock and in 1972 appeared at the fabled Lake Depue for his first Nationals with a Quincy “A” looper, which he qualified for the finals and thus became the last looper to ever qualify at the Nationals as the change was on to the Koinig from Germany. So the only thing missing from the resume was starting with the Johnrudes in Alky racing as he went from Deflector to Looper, to Koing, to the GRM of today.

Mike when asked for some likes and dislikes had a few things to talk about. His least favorite racecourse was Portsmouth, Ohio with the big swells and lumpy water of the Ohio River. Those swells look like big pillows from the shoreline, but are launch pads at the least and stuffing the nose at worst. Ouch. His favorite course is one that I think so many drivers over the years agree with Mike and that is Depue. Great water to race on, great sponsor I the Depue Men’s Club and a knowledgeable fan base. His favorite town to visit for a race is Lake Alfred in Central Florida and I kind of agree with him especially now with about 6” of snow on the deck and a winter storm warning for the area from Sunday to Tues, saw a GFS or Euro forecast that was showing as much as more than a foot to come. His toughest competitors read like a who’s who of outboard racing, but he narrowed it down to Dan Kirts, Denny Henderson, and Chris Hellesten, any of who have won multiple championships in their storied careers. His most frustrating race occurred at Constantine Michigan when he won all three heats of 350cc on Saturday with his home built 250cc Kawasaki, some I am sure remember the Kawasaki name on the side of his trailer back then, and had won the first two heats in the 250ccH class only to have spark plug wire let loose. But remember he more than made up for that with the championship the next weekend at Depue
A name that some of us remember with the Fickett tanks became a mentor to Mike, as Dick Fickett one talented welder took Mike under the wing and taught him a life skill that he has used all his life for over 50 years. In fact, Mike went on to obtain a degree in Industrial Education and went on to teach but recognized that the income level was not going to be enough to stay with his passion and then went on to start welding at the largest Prop shop on the East Coast. That time spent here no doubt helped his racing career and for his two sons as well. After leaving the Prop Shop, Mike went to work for Pratt and Whitney Aircraft, signing on as an apprentice for a 3-year period, with the aerospace division as a Metal Smith. Mike spent 39 years with them and ended up for 30 years running the Magic Shop. A high-end aerospace development shop. Lots of High-Profile work, with an equal amount of stress to go with it, but loved the work and the people he worked with. As Mike said, ‘I took everything I learned there and tried to use that information and technology on my motors.”

He married Carol in 1980 and as he said, her first Nationals was the fiasco at La Cross, Wisconsin with the wind and rain and then to Lakeland to finish the Nationals and was out front in the second heat of 250H when the Sheriff’s boat took a cruise right in front of him and he got beat up pretty good and resulted in the only ambulance ride he ever took in boat racing. Stuffing a hydro at speed is awfully tough on the knees and the knockin when you take everything out in front of you. As Carol and Mike welcomed children, son Mike and Eric came along and Mike said, “Carol, said, No J Stock boats in the future for either one of them. More about their careers in a bit.

Mike has kept track of all the races he has attended since he started and come to over 250 races in his career and I thought I went to a lot. Hmmm. With the MSR team, Mike is the chief cook and bottle washer and a wonderful mechanic and technologist and the 2 years ago had zero heats they did not finish, quite a testament to his mechanical and thought processes. Mike continues after retiring from Pratt and Whitney doing mechanical work at his shop and as he commented, his racing was paid for by his engine work for others and welding. A real blessing to have those skills and have them pay for his hobby. To this day his shop has a lathe, CNC Mill, Bridgeport Mill, is capable of Tig Welding and is capable of any type of engine work needed. His shop is broken into benches, with a Crank shaft, assembly, Porting, Flow Bench, and a parts department. So as you can see, if you are in need of some work, here is a guy that could help.

Mike gives credit to a few folks who gave him help over the years of his career, from Dick Fickett, best welder he ever knew, helped him with boats and motors, to Bill Giles, one great gentleman that if you knew, you treasured that friendship, as Mike over the years had 5 of Bill’s boats to race. Mike calls him, His Partner in Crime, Dave Jones, also a great racer and mechanic in his own right, who as Mike said, not much that they cannot do between their two shops. Then there is Brad Snow, a friend for 50+ years who helped with the purchase of his first Konig. And is a great set up man and helped paying for that first Tig welder. The man behind the GRM engines Giuseppe Rossi who helped with the careers of Mike and Eric has shared much with Mike and in fact Eric spent a summer working in the factory over in Italy at the Rossi Shop. David Tenney one of the smartest and greatest of the 125H class who has a dyno that Mike has been able to use and one of the premier drivers in the USTS with great setups and perfect equipment on the water. Another great friend and helpmate over the years, Ed Provini, who helped young Mike and Eric with 125 engines for their use without anything in return except gratitude and friendship. Wild Bill Foster is another of the support team which surrounds MSR as he has traveled to Europe and was Eric’s roper for the jetty starts. He has literally traveled all over Europe supporting the team, working on the rigs, tech advice and kind of the traffic cop, keeping the team focused.

And last, but certainly not least Craig Dewald a lifelong friend who Mike says, he would not have been successful without him. Craig is well known as THE PROPMASTER, with drivers winning championships in many classes and divisions throughout Craig’s time in racing. Mike said one of the gifts in life was to be able to travel with Craig and listen to stories of racing from before he started. Craig indeed has been friend, mentor, helpmate and the guy who knew how to make a prop to go fast. Mike told me that his fondest memories were being able to travel over the world with his friend Craig.

Lifetime of friendships indeed, In my conversations with Mike, he reminded me of a study that I read that says are a few people other than parents and grandparents that will have great influence on your life, and I think listening and reading what Mike had to say, I would say these guys might be those candidates.