Mike "Super K" Kirby
Although Mike Kirby calls Lomita, California home, he was born in Hawthorne, California on May 1, 1964. In Lomita, also home to several other SCRA racers, Mike and his wife Becky and their two little girls, six year old Brenda and 3 year old Amanda live on a quiet cul-de-sac. Brad and Nancy Guerin, Becky's parents and Mike's car owner, live nearby on the same property. Having grown up in Lomita, Mike likes living on this peaceful cul-de-sac, where his girls can play and have fun safely, without drive-by traffic.
Mike's racing career actually started at age fifteen and he has been going at it now for almost 22 years. He found out early on that school wasn't where he wanted to be, so he took up hanging around racing garages in the neighborhood. He didn't like Monday's at school in particular, and eventually left the hallowed halls of learning to go to work. He hung out in Earl Cox's race shop whenever he could in those days. As a mentor of sorts, Earl gets much of the credit for giving Mike his start in racing. He allowed him to work on his racecars, and that put Mike on the fast track to doing this racing that he is so good at today.
When he was a young boy, his dad took him to Ascot, and they fell in love with the Figure 8's, so it was only natural that he got into that crazy "F8" racing to begin with. Using the "plenty of money" he earned from different jobs he worked during those early years, Mike bought himself a Figure 8 car. In the beginning, whenever Mike wrecked his car, he would take it to his friend Earl, and somehow the repairs would always get done.
The first year he didn't win a race, as he was somewhat limited with what he called a "plain Jane" car at the time. Still, he learned plenty and was ready to race the second year. He bought a more competitive racecar, put his motor in it, and presto, Mike Kirby started winning! He ran both regular oval races and Figure 8's, and was highly successful in both. One season he won over 21 races in Figure 8's and 10 on the ovals. Mike adapted quickly to being a winner! In fact, he revealed he made more money driving the Figure 8's one year than he did working on his regular job!
At Ascot, the track where he started his racing career, he was the Figure 8 Champion and Stock Car Champ many times. He became a very talented driver and has proved over the years that he can drive anything with wheels and be competitive.
Along the way, he became good friends with Jeff Babbit, and one day Jeff asked him if he bought a sprint car, would Mike drive it. The answer was "of course!" Thus, the beginning of Mike Kirby's sprint car career! In 1992, Mike won the "last official" California Racing Association Championship, all on the road, edging out defending champ, Lealand McSpadden. This, at the very last CRA race at Bakersfield Speedway. During this period of his racing career, Mike was driving for long time CRA car owner, Danny Pivovaroff, and enjoyed some of the most prestigious highlights of his career with his great driving and hard work.
Mike was CRA's "Most Improved" driver in 1988 and 1992, and is one SCRA's "big dogs" to this day. With one fast time, 3 feature wins and 14 top fives in the just completed 2001 season, you can look for more great driving out of him in 2002. His overall sprint car history boasts of 3 CRA wins and 36 SCRA wins, the most recent win at Tulare on August 4, 2001.
Mike has always been quiet and seemingly shy, never seeking the limelight, even when winning the Championship in '92. He lets his driving talent shine on the track, preferring to remain in the background when off the track. His easy going way and unassuming personality makes him a "fan" favorite, as he is the same in his pit after the races, whether he won, lost, broke or crashed.
Though he hangs out in his pits after the races for his fans, he is always anxious to pack up his family, preferring to head for home rather than "party hearty" after the races. "Nothing personal," Mike says, it's just that the racing is his thing, not being "Mr. PR." He shuns the limelight, and doing interviews is more of a chore than a pleasure. SCRA infield announcer, Chris Holt, related a story that once he set up an interview with the local media to talk with Mike, but when they arrived, Mike was no where to be found! He would rather go into hiding when the media arrives, unlike some that go out of their way to be interviewed or photographed.
Although sprint car racing and Figure 8s take up a lot of Mike's time and attention, he is also a devoted family man who likes to pursue many avenues of fun. He enjoys going off to the nearby desert to ride dirt bikes during the day then run over to the PAS for the race that night, and back to the desert to ride again the next day. The entire race team takes time off from racing (yes, actually on racing weekends) for "family" time, where they enjoy houseboat trips and other interesting activities.
This writer's first visit with Mike many years ago was very brief. Did I mention that he didn't seek out attention? Well, I had to practically corner him where he was hiding behind his toolbox, way out of the "fan" path. As we spoke, he answered each question with a very crisp and to the point answer, though he was very polite. He had little to say, and even becoming the champion, did little to change his quiet, yet plainspoken, wholesome demeanor. However, despite the fact that Mike doesn't seek the publicity that comes with winning a championship or even following winning a race, he has become very adept in handling interviews and represents the SCRA with flair. His humor always shines through as he spars with Chris Holt on the podium.
Mike is surrounded by people who both love and support him as a racer and a friend, both on and off the track. He is an extremely popular driver who would give you the shirt off his back. His car owners (and in-laws) and his crew work hard to put the best car on the track for him, then they enjoy themselves and the racing. Crew Chief, Brett Roa, is always fiddling with the car (and successfully at that!), and together the team, small as it is, just flat love what they are doing.
In 2001, the Guerin/Kirby/Roa team merged with the Alexander Racing team, which cut down on the amount of time Mike spent working on the racecar during the week. This was a good thing for Mike, as he had reached the point where working on the car during the week had gotten to be a drag that that cut into his family life.
However, when Rickie Gaunt came on board as a "teammate," it would meant more work for all concerned, since they had to work on two cars. Now, the upcoming 2002 season finds the team going back to the "old way," which means keeping the car at home, where Mike will once again find himself working on the car. The Alexander's will team up separately with Rickie this year, as there was not just enough sponsorship money to keep both cars going. And, although the "split" means Mike and Rickie won't be "teammates," look for Rickie and the Alexander's to continue pitting next to Mike, as they have a great time together. Never a dull moment when Rickie Gaunt is around!
The 2001 season had its ups and downs and the win at Tulare was a major highlight for this team. Mike Kirby loves to race, but when they weren't able run as competitively as they have in the past, he was not a happy camper. That was last year, however, and 2002 will bring renewed enthusiasm and high hopes. Brad and Nancy Guerin put their son-in-law in a racecar because they love sprint car racing and they love him. Because fielding two cars is such a major expense, Mike will be the primary driver of the Guerin cars, even though their second (backup) car has been home for a few other drivers from time to time. Having the backup car on the track does keep Mike on his toes, though, as it seems he chases that car harder than he does all the rest!
A couple of years ago, Kirby started a "Figure 8" club, and has promoted several races since. He even missed an SCRA race or two to "oversee" this group. This past year, he had about fifteen F8 races scheduled and occasionally talks like he might even retire from the seat of the Statewide Towing sponsored #5 sprinter, if things go really well. One would certainly hope not, but Mike says keeping the racecar at least even in the books is number one on his list of priorities.
He's just as happy driving one of these dirt stock cars that are lightweight and run fast. It's not the money, he insists, if he decides to go off to run the F8s, it is more that it's fun and he loves it! Mike Kirby will drive anything because he just wants to be behind the wheel of a racecar. He has a 7-year-old F8 car that he can't wait to get on the track again. We've seen him run the wild and crazy F8's at Venture twice over the last two years, and can attest to his unbeatable driving style and his brave "crossings" where the two paths on the track intersect! Kirby was not to be denied and lapped the field quick in both main events. Acting like he had on "horse blinders," he pretended he "didn't see nuthin' coming at the crossing!" Breathtaking describes Mike Kirby in Figure 8 action!
Mike cites a Figure 8 race at the old Corona Speedway as one of the best races in his racing memory book. There were three features run that day, and he won two and finished a close 2nd in the third. He described it as "a kick!"
This man can run small and large tracks with equal skill and loves Manzanita Speedway and Ventura, listing both as his favorites. But, the friendly confines of "Naylorland" is one of the best places for him, because he says Jim Naylor makes the racers feel at home. Of course it could have something to do with the fact that he's won more races at Ventura than anyone else.
Racing hasn't always treated Mike well. Two years ago at Perris Auto Speedway, his leg was broken when a part from another racecar flew inside the cockpit of his car and shattered the bone. It didn't keep him down long, however, as he is a "real racer," and can't stay away from the track!
A fun-loving guy, who happens to drive a racecar exceptionally well, Mike says he plans to keep on driving as long as the car makes money. His best season was in 1998 when he won eleven features. He still drags out that treasured winning chassis and uses it once in a while. When Mike is in "the zone," he is almost impossible to beat.
Like many drivers, he can be temperamental about his racecar. When he feels confidence in his car, he drives harder and does well. When he doesn't like the way the car is handling or the way the motor sounds, he is just as likely to pull into the pits and call it a day as to stay on the track. Because it is a family owned car, he says it is never worth driving a wounded car. Better to stop and fix it and be ready for the next race. A blast from 17th to 5th at Ventura last season was classic Mike. Unfortunately, the motor began smoking and he let up to finish 5th, choosing not to press his luck and hurt the car.
Mike Kirby's success over the years has been truly amazing. Even though today there are many possible winners in the SCRA, Mike is still a driver who can win at any track, any time, weaving through traffic with flair. Mike is really a giant in our nonwing form of racing. His results can be both impressive and entertaining, but above all, he is a man with a firm grip on life that plays hard and is a winner, both as a family man and a racer.
Truly the best of both worlds at this disposal, Mike appears to have it all with a great family life, and a great racing life - a natural sort of guy, who loves to race, and does it very well. He is not a "win at all cost," driver, but he is "Super K," that blue blur on the track!
Could Mike Kirby win another championship? Don't bet against it!