The word Icon is defined as a person who is very successful and admired. This is exactly what Mustang Mike Modeste was, he was an Icon. Mike was a soft spoken, hard working, championship driver, tuner, and builder.
Last Tuesday we received the news that our friend Mike had passed away unexpectedly. One of the hardest calls I had to make was to call Ellen and let her know that Mike had passed away. Neither of us could believe that this was happening. He was too young, and seemed like a picture of good health. I kept thinking to myself that this can't be true, I was just with him days prior to this at PRI. We were together at the Drag Illustrated party on Thursday night. We talked about next season and what the plans were. I actually had to start dancing to get him to laugh at the party as well. I will never forget that night.
As a Ford guy through out my life, Mike was one of those that a lot of us followed. He always out there in front of the crowd making it look easy to those that didn't know. What some didn't know is that Mike was one of the hardest workers in all of drag racing.
Mike was known to travel thousands of miles to a race with no one else, and no crew at the race. He would manage to find someone to help work on the car with him that weekend. You'd never know it though, because Mike never talked about that stuff. He didn't expect anything from anyone. He was out there to bust his butt and win races.
The most confusion I have ever seen at the drag strip was when someone would go up to Mike's car and see two holes in the front bumper. Immediately they would assume that Mike is running a twin turbo setup. Look a little closer and you would see that they weren't twin turbos, but they were twin Procharger superchargers. Yep, twin blowers on a big block Ford engine.
There is no big secret that Mike was the only one to ever get the twin blowers to work and succeed at it. It was that drive to make it work that made Mike an exceptional racer and an even more exceptional human being. When you walk by Mike's trailer there is a good chance you'd see him smiling and writing in his notebook.
That smile. That smile it something that I will never forget. One of my favorite photos that I have ever taken at the race track is of Mike. He was in the doorway of his trailer in 2015 at the Orlando World Street Nationals. I walked by and saw him there. I yelled "Mike" and he looked and smiled. I knew right then that I captured that moment and I would never forget it. Mike had a way of you never forgetting the moments. There was a race we were at in 2016 and Mike was parked in the far 40. I walked out there and Mike was packing up. I didn't want to take photos, I just wanted to say hello. I knew that he had to head back to Brooklyn, yet it was another 3 minute moment that I won't ever forget.
At the end of 2016 I was lucky enough to be around for two more of Mike's wins. We were covering Radial Fest in Huntsville, along with Mike's big win at Jason Miller's World Cup race in Maryland. To see that smile after a win was just amazing. I don't think there was a happier guy than Mike was.
Using a word like Icon is a bold statement. You may not believe that Mike was an Icon, and you are entitled to that opinion, no matter how wrong you are. The outpouring of love for Mike when everyone found out about his passing was incredible. I don't think there is a person in the drag racing community that doesn't miss Mike and will continue to for a long time to come. For me personally, I feel like there is going to be something sorely missing every time I go to the track and it's a race Mike would have been at.
Mike, you were an Icon! You were an inspiration to more people than you'd ever know. You are missed and will continue to be missed. Your legacy will continue to live on. Thank you for all the memories!