Series spotlight - Mike Manners

Mike Manners: Nitro Jam's International Man of Mystery Rockingham winner basking in Pro Fuel success NORWALK, Ohio (May 19, 2010) -- From a very young age Mike Manners knew he wanted to go fast. Growing up in the United Kingdom Manners...

Mike Manners: Nitro Jam's International Man of Mystery

Rockingham winner basking in Pro Fuel success

NORWALK, Ohio (May 19, 2010) -- From a very young age Mike Manners knew he wanted to go fast.

Growing up in the United Kingdom Manners didn't get to see much racing in person, but what he did see was enough to keep him interested throughout his childhood. Then one day, on a sunny afternoon at Santa Pod Raceway, Manners got to see the legendary Don Garlits make a pass behind the wheel of his Top Fuel machine.

From then on Manners knew that is all he ever wanted to do.

"Although I was very interested in hot rods and drag racing when I was growing up in the U.K., I didn't get to see much of it," Manners said. "But then one day I got to see Don Garlits race and that was all it took."

A few years later Manners received his first opportunity to get behind the wheel when he borrowed his brother-in-laws supercharged alcohol dragster and from the moment he stabbed the throttle his life was never quite the same again.

"My brother-in-law and now team manager used to race and I asked to try out one of his cars. The burnout was fun, but the launch frightened me to death," said Manners. "But of course I was hooked."

In 1982 Manners took another step toward his racing career when he moved to the United States in a move he said was destined to happen from the beginning because, as he put it, he had always been fascinated with this country and its unique history.

"I used to smuggle a Civil War Kepi in my bedroom every night and put it on after my mum said good night," Manners said. "I have always been interested in the U.S. and its history. I think I was destined to be here."

Over the next few years Manners continued to follow his passion and eventually settled down in the small town of Willis, Texas, but he didn't get fully involved in racing until just a few years ago. Since then, however, Manners has been living the dream and soaking up every minute of life at the track.

Driving mostly blown alcohol dragsters and quick door cars, Manners has spent the past five years racing in the sportsman ranks with the NHRA before finally getting his big break at the beginning of this year when the Nitro Jam series announced it would be adding a new injected nitro dragster class called Pro Fuel to its professional lineup.

Since then Manners has gone from another car in the show to a star overnight driving "The Shredder" Pro Fuel Dragster on the new Nitro Jam tour and so far he is loving every minute of it.

"I appreciate IHRA making this a pro class. The fan response is unbelievable. I talk to many who know when and where I raced and what I ran. They know more about my races than I do," Manners said. "It is really nice that the fans enjoy what we are doing, but when they keep coming back to say thank you and tell you again how great the show was it really touches me a great deal.

"I also can't believe how tiring it is to sign 300 autographs, but I wouldn't change it for anything."

Despite a multitude of changes this season, including the allowance of 100 percent nitro and other small class adjustments, Manners and his team have thrived and shown just how quickly they can adapt to the new rules.

After struggling at the first two Nitro Jam events this season, winning just one round in eight tries, Manners had a breakout event at Rockingham Dragway earlier this month winning both day while posting the quickest and fastest lap in the short history of the new class.

And to add to the incredible weekend, Manners and his team were able to take home the Ironman during two drastically different weather days. Saturday's victory came during the cool evening hours while the win on Sunday came during the heat of the afternoon showing the incredible tuning prowess of Manners' team.

"We had been a little under power really. You generate your power from the percentage of nitro, timing and a whole host of other things and we had probably just been a little bit too cautious knowing that we can run some really, really strong numbers, especially in the evenings," Manners said. "We were a little less cautious at Rockingham and I think we found the tuning window we needed. We certainly hit the sweet spot and it just took off."

Manners also praised the liberal rules of the new class allowing his team to break through the barrier put in place by other racing organizations and achieve a new level of performance for the nitro class.

"I understand why there has to be class rules, safety is an absolute given, but I find rules to slow down or limit ingenuity a contradiction to what I believed drag racing to be about," Manners said. "Pro Fuel is A/Fuel racing at its best. It is not simply put in 100 percent and go faster, there is much more to it than that.

"We didn't do too well at the first two Pro Fuel events and despite doing a lot better in Rockingham, we are a long way from where we believe we can be. Believe me, we have our thinking caps on and are working on it."

After three events on the Nitro Jam tour Manners has already become a recognizable star. With his unique accent and dragster design, fans have begun to flock to the pits of the Englishman at every event on the schedule as fans begin to root for "The Shredder" every chance they get.

"We were asked to put a name on the car and we came up with probably 90 different names. We would then do a quick search and they were really all taken. Then our team manager came up with 'The Shredder' which is slang kids use for going fast, especially with skateboarding," Manner said. "I didn't even like the word at first and I must admit it has grown on me. It seems to have immediate fan identification and now I think it is pretty cool.

"We want fans to come back and see us again and again whether they are dyed in the wool drag racers or annual visitors. I want 'The Shredder' to be the one they are rooting for."

Through three events Manners is second in points behind three-time winner Bill Evans as the series shifts to the west coast for the next two races.

-source: ihra

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Series Drag
Drivers Don Garlits