Thursday, April 14, 2016

‘88 Mike’ back in victory lane for ChampTruck inaugural race

ChampTruck racing series driver Mike Morgan’s goal is simple.

“The only way we’re going to get to the next race is to keep winning,” he said in a phone interview with Land Line.

Morgan got off to a good start at the first race of the series at the Palm Beach International Raceway last weekend, winning four of five timed heats, including the podium race.

“We really had a good time down there,” the OOIDA member from Wartrace, Tenn., said.

A diesel mechanic at the Mack of Nashville dealership by day, Morgan moonlights as a truck racer in a series that hopes to one day do for Class 8 commercial trucks what NASCAR did for stock cars. He races a black Mack, dubbed “Mack Vader” by his son Mikey. His handle, “88 Mike” is a nod to the military term for truck driver, which he chose in tribute to his family members and friends who have served in the armed forces, and for his favorite NASCAR driver, Dale Jarrett, now retired.

Despite winning the inaugural 2015 ChampTruck World Series season championship, Morgan said he’s still searching for a top-level sponsor to help him compete against his deep-pocketed opponents, some of whom field teams with as many as three trucks. 

ChampTruck is open to 2-axle (single-drive axle), Class-8 tractors with commercially available diesel engines (10-15 liters) and manual transmissions. The next race will be April 30 at the Virginia International Raceway in Alton, Va.



In order to compete, all trucks must be at least five years old. Trucks are not allowed to be highly modified. However, comprehensive safety systems, including a full-cab roll cage, competition containment seat, 5-point racing seatbelt harness, fire suppression system and safety fuel cell are required.

Morgan said he got his start in racing at the drag strip and has also raced autocross and in Porsche club racing. While he’s never taken Mack Vader down the quarter-mile, he says he’s pretty sure it could hang with the muscle cars he grew up racing.

“I’d like to see what we could do with it (at the drag strip),” he said. “They’ll set you back in the seat like there’s no tomorrow. I would feel pretty confident that this is a 13-second truck.”

The racing trucks are prohibited from going faster than 100 mph, due to safety concerns, so the challenge that Morgan and other drivers face is getting them up to top speed quickly and maintaining that speed while vying for position around the track. He said the strategy is really all about the driver’s ability to “throw your weight around,” something he picked up on driving his muscle cars to and from the drag strip.

“I’m not saying I ever did anything illegal,” he said. “But back in the day, if you had an old muscle car … if you learned how to throw an old muscle car around that wasn’t meant to go around the corner, well, that’s the fundamentals for racing the truck. We’re constantly trying to adjust it.”

When it comes to race expenses, Morgan said the race series requires the trucks to install two new steers for every race. He said Continental provides a deal for all the racers, but the tires still cost about $200 each. He said the truck also burns about five gallons of fuel per 25-minute racing heat. Then there’s the expense of actually getting the truck to and from the raceways.

While he’s still seeking a full-season sponsor, Morgan said he was grateful for the contributions he’d received from Dex Heavy Duty Parts, Etcom Inc., and Winrock Truck Parts & Equipment. He’s also had support from two owner-operators, E.D. Ackell Trucking, and Steve Nash Trucking.

With nine races left to go this season, Morgan said the pressure is on not only to keep winning, but also to find a long-term sponsor. As it stands right now, if he wants to keep racing, he’s got to keep winning. But even that might not be enough for him to make it to the finish.

“Even at that point, by the time we get through the first five, they’re semi-local (to Tennessee),” he said. “But from there on out, especially the last three, there’s just no way, even if I won the whole pot, to get there. We did that last year and blew everything we had in savings. Right now, whatever we win carries us to the next race.”

More information about the Meritor ChampTruck World Series can be found online at ChampTruck.us.com. More information about Mike Morgan’s racing team can be found at PowerShiftPerformance.com, or on social media like Facebook by searching for “Power Shift Performance.”