Whether it’s Indy Cars, NASCAR stock cars, prototype sports cars, or G.T. race cars of almost all makes, Thurmont’s Scott Michael has built them and raced them. And whether it’s been in North America, South America, Europe, Asia, or Australia, Scott has raced there. In a career that’s spanned 30-plus years, he says he’s “simply blessed to have chased my dreams and worked with my childhood heroes.”
Voted the biggest dreamer of Catoctin High School’s graduating class of 1982, Scott always knew exactly what he wanted to do in life and wasted very little time in reaching his goals.
He started in racing by helping local racecar drivers, Dave Lawyer and Dave Weddle, both of Thurmont, with dirt track cars at Hagerstown Speedway while he was still in high school. After high school, Scott pursued a mechanical engineering degree at West Virginia University, but became frustrated with the slow progress of becoming an engineer. He left college and quickly began working on all types of modified sports cars at local Summit Point Raceway, located near Charles Town, West Virginia, on the weekends, while holding various streetcar mechanic jobs during the week.
It was there that he met several drivers from the Washington, D.C. area that wanted to go semi-pro racing. From that starting point, through hard work and sheer determination, he worked his way up through the ranks from a “weekend warrior” and helper mechanic to truck driver, “over the wall” pit crew member, second mechanic, chief mechanic, and eventually, crew chief for many different racing teams. Throughout those years, racing became his full-time occupation, and the cars he worked on changed from modified street cars to purpose-built NASCAR stock cars, custom sports racing prototypes, and eventually full-blown Indy Cars, as he climbed the racing career ladder.
“Over those years, there were career highlights and lowlights,” Scott laughs. “Sure, being the crew chief on the winning G.T. car at the biggest sports car races in North America, the 24 Hours of Daytona, in 1996 is one of the highlights and qualifying 34th for the 1998 Indy 500 (only 33 cars start the race) is surely one of the lowlights.” There were other achievements along the way: being voted by his peers as the Indy Lights Mechanic of the Year in 1999, and later being asked by four-time Indy 500 winner A.J. Foyt to be a part of running a second Foyt team car for the 100th anniversary of the Indy 500 in 2011.
However, one of the funniest highlights happened when Scott was the crew chief on a Porsche racecar at Watkins Glen, New York, for co-drivers Kyle Petty and John Andretti. “I never thought that I’d be standing on pit lane with Richard Petty on one side and Aldo Andretti on the other side (Mario’s twin brother and John’s father), two members of the racing world’s dynasty families, while they asked me questions about race strategy and the pit stop procedures in sports car racing. That was pretty crazy.”
After many years moving from state to state and wearing out suitcases by traveling constantly, all while working for professional racing teams based in Virginia, Pennsylvania, Indiana, Illinois, Missouri, Florida, and Puerto Rico, and missing many family events while on the road, Scott knew that it was time to begin to slow down on the travel schedule.
So, to be closer to friends and family, he moved from Indianapolis to Pennsylvania, now residing outside of Allentown, where he maintains cars that predominately race on the East Coast. “I still run about 12 races a year these days, but they’re normally within a thousand miles of home, so that makes the travel part simple.” Scott went on to say, “I do make the occasional run to the West Coast, but that’s once every several years now, not several times a year like the old days.”
As time has marched on, many of the cars that Scott helped build and race when they were new have now begun to race on the vintage racing circuits.
Since he cut his teeth as a mechanic working on many of these cars, it’s only natural that he is now beginning the next phase of his career: restoring and racing these now-historic racecars. “The really appealing part of this next phase in my career is that it’s part mechanic and part historian,” adding, “therefore, it’s important to keep them in top mechanical condition while also keeping them historically correct.”
“One project that I’m particularly fond of is a 1984 Corvette that ran in the SCCA Trans Am Series. Although I didn’t work on it when it was new, I was mesmerized by its beauty when I saw it race at Summit Point as a kid.”
As time went on, the car was raced both professionally and later in amateur races until it was destroyed in an accident at Watkins Glen, New York, in 2009. Being one of only four of these cars ever built by the DeAtley team, the parts to repair it are basically non-existent. Still, Scott was given the task of putting it back together. “It was a part-time, five-year labor of love to take a bent frame, broken suspension parts, and completely destroyed body panels (the molds to which were tossed away years ago) and rebuild the car from a pile of junk. Working on it between races and over the off-seasons, it took considerable time. The car turned out so well that it is now on permanent display at the National Corvette Museum in Bowling Green, Kentucky.” Scott added, “Basically, the owner told me that it is now too beautiful to race.” However, there is talk of getting the car out of the museum and racing it some in 2020. If talk turns into reality, Scott will be there to oversee this historic car returning to the track.
There are still many projects to complete for Scott, both now and in the future. Currently, he is restoring a Corvette that was built specifically for, and raced in, the 1995 24 Hours of Le Mans in France. The car went on to race in both Europe and the United States, winning several championships along the way. It was a complete “barn find,” having been stored in a warehouse in England for about 12 years before the current owner bought it and shipped it to the United States. After that project is finished, next up is restoring another historically significant Corvette that raced in the 24 Hours of Daytona in 2001 with Dale Earnhardt Sr. and Dale Earnhardt Jr., as part of the driving ream. Sadly, this was one of the last cars that Dale Earnhardt Sr. ever completed a race in, tragically losing his life weeks later in the 2001 Daytona 500.
When he’s not traveling, Scott enjoys time back in his hometown of Thurmont, visiting with his childhood friends and family that live in the area.
But, for most of the last 30 or more years, his real home has been on pit lane. “It’s the one place in the world where I feel the most comfortable.”
1984 DeAtley Corvette that Scott rebuilt from scrap (2002-2007) now resides in National Corvette Museum in Bowling Green, Kentucky.
Photo captions from cover: (top left) Scott working on Indie Car in 2000 at Nazareth PA Speedway; (top right) Scott (pictured back) pushing Indie car out to qualify for the Indy 500 in 2011; (bottom) NASCAR Busch Grand National Series at Hickory Motor Speedway in 1994. Scott was on the team that buildt and raced this Ford Thunderbird.
GT de Las Americas Series Chevrolet Camaro in 1996 at Salinas Speedway, Puerto Rico.