The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

Sports

April 25, 2014

Inside track: Here comes the Hurricane again

SELINSGROVE — The meteorological calender for the hurricane season runs from June 1 through November 30, but on Saturday nights, hurricane warnings are still posted at Selinsgrove Speedway as Mike “Hurricane” Walter has some good racing left in him.  

The near 40-year racing veteran has been up on the wheel in the first two races of the new 358-360 era at the track as he almost won the opener on April 12 (he finished third) and he was sixth last week in the URC feature.

“I have a really good car and a phenomenal engine,” he said of his resurgence. “We pretty much have the same crew guys and the same setup that we’ve been running. I know I have as much motor as anybody there, maybe a little bit more.”

The engine, according to Walter, is not a new motor, rather it’s made of up a lot of different parts.

“It’s a lot of stuff that was pulled out from under the bench and the engine builders said let’s try this and they did a phenomenal job,” he said. “This thing is a monster.”

Heading into this weekend’s race, Walter is third in points, 10 points behind second place T.J. Stutts of Liverpool and 100 points behind leader Mark Smith of Sunbury.

His nickname, “Hurricane,” came from racers Cliff and Danny Loss.

“It was my destructive personality more than anything else,” he said with a laugh. “I’ve heard a hundred reasons why I am called hurricane, and none of them are true.”

He told The Daily Item last Saturday that he’s got three to four more years to go before he turns the car over to his son Mike Walter II.

Walter Sr. started racing go-karts in 1975, and at 16 he was racing a Thundercar at Selinsgrove. He started in the sprint car ranks in 1993.

He went on to say that the time that he spent driving the Carl Fry No. 88 was when he learned how to race.

“It was an ugly burgundy-colored car and Carl just loved that color,” Walter said.

His most memorable moment in a sprint car came at the New York State Fairgrounds on the one-mile dirt track in Syracuse.

“That was my first year in sprint cars and that car was a piece of junk and that place was way too fast for the piece of junk I was sitting in,” he said. “The speeds were just phenomenal. We were 18th when we got lapped and it was the fastest (164 miles per hour) that I had ever gone in a sprint car.”

That was the year that Billy Pauch Sr. set the record for the world fastest sprint car.

“Pauch went blowing by me and I thought he was going to take the wing and the hood with him,” he said.

He said the worst crash he ever had came in 1998 in the first turn at the track in Gary Kratzer’s 410 sprint car.

“That was a bell-ringer,” he said.

Walter also has a good sense of humor.

One night, Todd Shaffer (now retired) came over to him after hot laps and asked him how it was out there.

Walter replied, “It’s smokin.”

He said that he looked up to Jim Nace and that it was really cool to race against a lot of the legends in the sport.

“I had so much respect for Jimmy,” he said. “He used to come into my trailer and he would come steal my cigarettes because his wife wouldn’t let him smoke,” he said. “He gave me pointers and he gave me a pretty good speech that I’ve shared with some young kids over the years.”

Walter noted that he hasn’t had a car this good since 2007 and it may not been too long before the crafty veteran goes blowing into victory lane.

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