Sean Michael On a Tear

Michael Is On a Tear; Wins National Sprint Car Award ALLENTOWN, Pa., March 4 - Sean Michael is on a tear - both man-handling a sprint car on a race track and driving a speeding fire truck around his hometown of Allentown, Pa. ...

Michael Is On a Tear; Wins National Sprint Car Award

ALLENTOWN, Pa., March 4 - Sean Michael is on a tear - both man-handling a sprint car on a race track and driving a speeding fire truck around his hometown of Allentown, Pa. The name might not say "sprint cars" to racing fans nationwide as much as "Steve Kinser," but Pennsylvania sprint car fans have certainly come to appreciate this 32-year-old driver. Many of those racing fans believe it's just a matter of time before the rest of the country does too. Michael is already getting national attention. In December he was named the co-recipient of the Rookie of the Year award by the National Sprint Car Poll, sprint car racing's highest award for a young driver. He shared the award, which is determined by a blue-ribbon panel of 41 journalists, promoters and industry insiders, with Daryn Pittman of Oklahoma. Although Michael was a rookie in the 410-cubic-inch sprint cars in 1998, he was no newcomer to sprint car racing - he was even a reigning champion. The year before - 1997 - he won the championship on the tough United Racing Club (URC) circuit in the Northeast, a series which uses 360-cubic-inch engines. As the 1999 sprint car season warms up, few drivers can say that they have won a championship and a national Rookie of the Year award in the last two seasons. "Both Sean Michael and Daryn Pittman are talented young men," points out Tom Schmeh, executive director of the National Sprint Car Hall of Fame & Museum in Knoxville, Iowa, which organizes the annual National Sprint Car Poll. "Sean won the 1997 United Racing Club 360 c.i. sprint car championship and graduated into the 410 ranks aboard the Joe Harz sprinter. He then impressed many on a national level with his early-season successes on the tough Central Pennsylvania circuit. It is very hard to stand out in one's rookie 410 season, and Sean Michael did just that all season long against the best of the best in the East." Michael won the award in the 13th annual version of the poll. In addition to Pittman, the other nominees were Derek Scheffel of Indiana and Jason Wendt of South Dakota. Although two rookies have shared the award twice in the past, the 1998 voting marked the first time since the poll's inception in 1985 that two 410-cubic-inch sprint car drivers shared the top rookie designation. In addition to the national Rookie of the Year honor, Michael was the Rookie of the Year at Lincoln Speedway in Hanover, Pa. He finished sixth in points at both Lincoln and at Williams Grove Speedway in Mechanicsburg, Pa. He visited victory lane once at both tracks, posting an early-season victory at Lincoln last February and winning again at the Grove on June 19. (He also set two track records in 1998 at Sharon Speedway in Ohio and at East Bay Speedway in Florida.) That victory at the Grove, which holds the same reverence for sprint car fans as Yankee Stadium does for baseball fans, was the highlight of Michael's racing to date. "Everyone wants to win at the Grove in the 410s," Michael notes. "I won a race there before in a mini sprint, and that doesn't even compare to the 410 win. If I never race again, I can always say that I won a feature at the Grove." This season Michael is returning to URC to compete for the 1999 URC Bar's Leaks series championship. The series opener is slated for Bridgeport Speedway in New Jersey on Saturday, April 24. He'll drive the CnB Mushroom Farms/BK Leasing No. 99 owned by Pat and Kathy Palladino. Like the famous Kinser clan, racing is a family affair for the Michaels. This time it's brothers racing against brothers though, not cousins against cousins. Sean's younger brother Curt won the URC championship last year while Sean was racing 410 sprints, so the family has ruled URC for the last two years. "We are the only brothers to win the URC title, and we did it back to back," Sean Michael notes. Sean Michael was graduated from William Allen High School in Allentown in 1984, and got a job helping prepare Doug Hoffman's modifieds upon graduation. He started his own career as a driver in 1987 in micro sprints, a division that he says "really teaches you how to race." He recorded nine feature victories that year and won two other Rookie of the Year awards: one from Airport Speedway in New Castle, Del., and one from the Checkered Flag Fan Club. He followed that up with an even dozen micro sprint feature victories in 1988 and 11 more in 1989, the year he won the micro sprint championship at Linda's Speedway in Jonestown, Pa., and was the Tri-State Micro Sprint Outlaw Champion. The string continued in 1990, the year he added some mini sprint races to his schedule. He ended up with 10 victories and the championship of the United Mini Sprint Association that season. He only had four feature victories in 1991 but he was back in form in 1992 with 11 feature triumphs and another title, this one being the Central Pennsylvania Mini Sprint Championship. He had seven more mini sprint feature victories in 1993 but by this time he was being lured into bigger cars. In his fourth KARS (Keystone Auto Racing on Speedways) sprint car race he won a non-feature-winners event at Seacoast Speedway in Georgetown, Del. That just whetted his appetite for more and he finished sixth in the KARS point standings in 1994 with one feature victory. He moved into URC in 1995 and again visited victory lane once, finishing third in the final point standings. He duplicated that third-place finish in URC in 1996 but this time he won seven times, and in 1997 he earned the URC championship with seven feature victories. Although he'd love to make his living as a race car driver, right now Michael juggles his racing schedule with his full-time job driving something else very fast - Engine 4. He has been in the Fire Department of the City of Allentown for nine years. That should make the residents of Allentown sleep a little easier, but for Michael it's just a similar type of instant adrenaline rush to the one that he gets behind the wheel of his sprinter. "When the green flag drops and when the tones sound, it pumps you right up," he says. "You forget about everything except the job at hand." Another big part of his life is his 7-year-old daughter, Skye. A single dad, he knows first hand the challenges of finding quality time with her despite his speedy lifestyle.

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Series Sprint
Drivers Steve Kinser , Daryn Pittman
Teams Williams