By Larry Ott
Special to the News
When it comes to the old saying of “where there’s a will there’s a way” there are no bigger believers than Mike Janis and his son, Mike Jr.
From leaving the drag strip earlier this spring with a badly battered race car due to a violent accident to receiving a National Hot Rod Association (NHRA) “Best Appearing Car” Award, the duo from Lancaster, has turned what appeared to be a possible lost season into one that has built positive momentum on and off the track.
Janis, 56, owns Mike Janis Racing, Inc., of Elma and drives the team’s K100 Fuel Treatment/Mike Janis Superchargers 2012 Mustang Pro Modified drag racing entry full time. He races in the NHRA Pro Mod ProCare RX Series as well as part time in the American Drag Racing League (ADRL) Pro Modified Series. Janis Jr., 30, serves as the team’s general manager and crew chief.
The team started off the season on a somewhat meager self-provided racing budget but was determined to make it count. However, disaster struck in the first NHRA Pro Modified Series event of the season, the Kingdom Gatornationals in Gainesville, Fla., in March.
“During a qualifying pass, the car got out of the groove and my dad overdrove it a little bit and the car got loose and was going head-on toward the concrete wall,” said Janis Jr. “But then the car suddenly had the tail come around and he ended up hitting the wall backwards. The car got airborne, flipped onto the roof and slid down the track about an eighth of a mile. He was going about 240 miles per hour at the time.
“Thanks to the safety put into our car by our car builder (Dan Page Race Cars), and NHRA safety standards, my dad was not hurt. Our season looked doomed at that point but once we got the car back to our shop parking lot, we had it stripped down within five hours. It took a lot of hard work over the next three weeks or so but we got back out there for the next race.”
It was on the ride home from Gainesville that the Janis group showed its true colors. “It’s funny,” said Mike Sr. “Here we are driving home with a race car in the trailer that had just been reduced to a pile of junk but not one of us was talking about the wreck or how it happened. Instead we were all talking about how we were going to get the car rebuilt, repaired and set up for the next race.”
Since then, things has been on the positive side for the Janis clan. The team won the ADRL Dragstock IX event at the zMAX Dragway in Charlotte in August. Also, they advanced to the finals of the ADRL World Finals at Texas Motorplex Oct 20-21. In NHRA, they advanced to the semifinals of the NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals in June in Bristol, Tenn., setting the low elapsed time of the event for supercharged cars at 5.93 seconds on the 1/4-mile strip.
Then came an upswing in their off track situation with the Sept. 28 announcement that the team’s primary sponsorship will be from Kinetic Fuel Technology and their K100 Fuel Treatment brand.
“Last year we entered into a mutual agreement with Brian Fleischman and SourceONE Sales and Marketing of Chaffee to help us find a good sponsor,” said Mike Jr. “The result was the finding and signing of K100 Fuel Treatment which extends through the remainder of the 2012 season as well as all of 2013.
“The new sponsor wanted to be on the car for the NHRA event in St. Louis, which gave us only about three weeks to design a new scheme for the car and get the work done. Peter Walters Race Design of England designed the scheme and the car was vinyl wrapped by DeSign Art Vinyl Graphics of Arcade. Everything went really smooth and it turned out well.”
So well, in fact, that at the race in St. Louis, NHRA presented the team with the event’s “Best Appearing Car Award.”
“To get the best appearing car award was really a big deal for us but a much bigger deal for our new sponsor for just the simple fact that we put all those hours into getting the car ready and for all the fans to see it at the track says a lot of how we got the K100 brand to stand out and get attention,” said Mike Jr.
“It was also our first event together with our new sponsor. We go about going to bat for our sponsors in a very different way from most other race teams. We don’t just go the traditional sticker-on-the-car only route but we provide them with a sponsorship program that has full marketing support behind them, including driver appearances, media events and other partnership promotions.”
The team finished its NHRA season last weekend in Las Vegas at the Big O Tires Nationals, qualifying 14th, but losing to third-seeded Troy Coughlin in the opening round.
• Drag racing champions crowned earlier this month at Dunn Tire Raceway Park are: Pete Maduri Jr., Quick 16; Tim Moore, Top ET; Dale Eckert, Mod ET; Rob Brandel, Bikes/Sleds; Jim Bruckman, Street; Robert Bauer III, Junior Dragster and Charles McHugh, Teen Championship.
• Champions at Raceway 5 in Batavia are: Rob Pratt, Modified Sportsman; Dave DuBois, 360 Late Models; Ron Mogavero, Street Stocks; Keith Heater, 600 Sprints; Val Stephens, Mini Stocks; Carl Stephens, Bandits.
• Local racer Eric Lux of Williamsville and his Conquest Endurance teammates, (England’s Martin Plowman, currently residing in Indianapolis, and Denmark’s David Heinemeier Hansson, now of Chicago) placed a strong second in the LMP2 class last weekend at Road Atlanta in the 15th annual Petit Le Mans event for the American Le Mans Series.