Mike Harrison On the Rise, Balances Racing with Life in Final Summit Modified Nationals Stretch
By Brendan Capria
CONCORD, N.C. – July 11, 2016 – Looking back into racing history, fans of the sport have readily-available statistics as to why drivers rise to greatness. For Mike Harrison however, it is the how that is difficult to overlook. Though Harrison has the numbers to stake his claim in DIRTcar Racing, the black-and-white numbers are not as lustrous as the color behind the paper.
In 2015, Harrison became the DIRTcar Summit Racing Equipment Modified Nationals champion, the DIRTcar UMP Modified National champion and Southern Illinois region champion in 2015. The Highland Creek, Ill., amassed 36 wins, 11 top-five and three top-ten finishes in 60 starts.
As the Summit Modified Nationals enters its final 2016 stretch, Harrison, sitting second in the championship standings, is poised to claim another title – his fifth. He is just three points out of the lead.
His year of triumph can be defined by his numbers, but Harrison does not devote every waking-second to racing in order to compete at the high level he has proven. He divvies his time slide-jobbing through a clay oval with cultivating the ground with a tractor. Harrison works on a farm for a living.
Just south from his Highland home is Rinderer Farms, a 20,000-acre plot where Harrison plants and harvests wheat, beans and corn. Two weeks out from the start of this year’s Summer Nationals “Hell Tour,” he was planting while his crew – comprised of his two sons – prepared the car.
Harrison said the balancing act is difficult in the beginning months, and once September’s fall harvest rolls around he finds his time running thin yet again. But this does not deter him from his passion for racing, which blossomed from the time he was in his early-teens.
“Yeah, that’s pretty much what I’m doing,” said Harrison after explaining his ever-growing “To Do” list. “I still have to pay the bills. I got to take care of that before the race. I’m just a normal, small-town, family guy who’s just racing.”
“Just racing” is 440 career wins since 1995, and that mark is growing like his crops. Business is booming on both fronts for Harrison, who will surpass Jimmy Owen’s record of four-championships if he brings another home in 2016. Even with the record in sight, his nerves run colder than a mid-December harvest.
“I tell people every year because they ask it…” Harrison explains. “Do I want to not win it? No. Do I want to win it? Yeah. Am I going to drive myself nuts trying to win it? No. I’m going to go out there, do the best I can and try to win races. And we’ll see at the end. It’s going to play out how it’s going to play out. There’s really nothing anyone can do besides doing your absolute best.”
His best is not only competing at a high level, but also putting in an honest day’s work on the farm. Harrison is a modest man – he talked little about his feats – but he prides himself on his two lines of work. If there is a show close to home, Harrison will return home to farm even for half the day before travelling to the next race on the schedule. The Summit Modified Nationals is 29 races in a two-month span.
Though there is no routine to his days – racing and farming are dependent on one another – one thing is consistent. Harrison’s voice grew up-beat. Coming from the day he first grabbed the wheel as a high-schooler and the day he began working on the farm eight years ago, he said “it’s all about having fun with what you do.”
Even on a bad day.
“Take it with a grain of salt, go home, work on yourself and go back the next night not drooling over the weekend before,” Harrison said. “Our number 1 rule is not to beat ourselves. If we don’t, we have a chance to win every race.”
Harrison finds comfort in having past success at most of the tracks in the season schedule. Racing is his wheelhouse, and he enjoys the challenge of new arrivals in the field of competitors. That is what makes the grueling schedule exciting for him year-to-year, even if his wife has to drive him to the track every-so-often for him to get a few more hours of sleep.
Harrison will continue to work in the fields from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. when he can, and he will continue his pursuit toward a fifth championship. Every Summit Modified Nationals to him ironically is heaven-sent – a time when he can share with his family. Above racing and crops, that is his priority. The shortness of time is worth it to him.
“It’s a never ending battle,” said Harrison, whether it is servicing farm equipment or his racecar. “Shoot, the next two weeks we have 10 races or so. But we’ll keep on plugging.”
The DIRTcar Summit Racing Equipment Modified Nationals enters its final stretch on Tuesday, July 12 as the series takes on Plymouth (Ind.) Speedway. Just seven more races are left in the season’s schedule – plenty of time for Harrison to close his three-point championship deficit and catch young Nick Hoffman in his pursuit of a fifth Summit Modified Nationals title.
Follow the Summer Nationals and Summit Modified Nationals on Twitter at www.Twitter.com/SummerNationals or on Facebook at www.Facebook.com/SummerNationals. Stay up-to-date with the latest news from the series throughout the lead up and the summer on the series’ websites atwww.TheHellTour.com and www.ModifiedNationals.com.
The DIRTcar Summer Nationals “Hell Tour” is brought to fans across the country by many important partners including: Arizona Sport Shirts (Official Apparel Company), Hoosier Racing Tires (Official Racing Tires), Racing Electronics (Official Communication), VP Racing Fuel (Official Racing Fuel); in addition to these fine Contingency Partners: Beyea Headers, Comp Cams, Edelbrock, Fox Shocks, JE Pistons, MSD, Impact Race Products, Quartermaster, Superflow Dynos, Summit Racing Equipment and Wrisco Aluminum; Promotional Partners include: Chevy Performance Parts, Indiana Decal, Intercomp and Petroff Towing.