Mike O'Rourke, Sr. Sails to Pro Championship

It may have been riddled with rust and it may have been what he referred to as a hooptie, but when Mike O’Rourke saw the 1978 Firebird for sale in 1993, he wanted it.

So, he paid the $1,800 asking price, fired up the big-block Chevy engine under the hood and hit the street.

By the following year, he wanted to hit the strip, too, and whether that engine was just tired or Mike asked too much of it too soon, he hurt it the second time out.

He promptly replaced it with another big-block Chevy engine, though, and took the car — various-colored panels and all — back to the track.

Racking up round wins by the year 2000 and wanting the car to look good for when he earned a trip to the winner’s circle, he had it painted primer black, and a few years later, he had it painted the bright and beautiful GM Torch Red that it is now.

After joining Summit Motorsports Park’s points program in 2015, he finished twenty-fifth, and wanting to wind up closer to the top, he came out of the gate running in 2016.

He was going round after round — or, as he puts it, “letting go of the button, driving the stripe and getting lucky” — but of great meaning to him was lining up alongside his son, Mikey, for a semifinal, and of even greater meaning to him was the fact that Mikey won.

That speaks volumes about the Redford Township, Michigan resident who drives a gravel hauler for a living and likens racing to playing chess at 140 mph.

With eighteen points, he earned the 2016 Lakewood Pro championship at Summit Motorsports Park, and was recognized for his efforts during the 43rd Accel Banquet of Champions, Jan. 14, 2017 at Sawmill Creek Resort in Huron, Ohio.

- Mary Lendzion

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