Mike Mullen beats the field for the biggest win of his racing career
By Bert Lehman
Editor, Full Throttle Magazine
Before the start of the $10,000-to-win, 50-lap IMCA Modified feature at the Clash at the Creek IV at 141 Speedway, Mike Mullen said he was just happy to be in the show.
“This is probably the hardest one I had to try to get into with all the good drivers here,” Mullen said.
Mullen qualified for the feature by winning both of his heat races on qualifying night, June 25. This netted him the most points of any of the 69 drivers on hand. That distinction earned him the pole for the feature the following night.
“First or 10th would have been fine with me,” Mullen said.
When asked several hours before the feature what his plan of attack for the race would be, Mullen said, “I’m honestly going to hope I get a good jump. I’m not holding anything back. No sandbagging. I’m putting it down.”
That’s exactly what he did, as he led all 50 laps to take home the victory.
“Never, that’s it, never,” said Mullen in victory lane when asked if he thought in his wildest dreams he would find himself in victory lane.
In victory lane, Mullen again reiterated that he was just happy to make the show, but was also quick to thank his crew and car owner Ricky Lemmen.
During the middle portion of the race, Josh Long may have been the fastest car on the track. He started 13th and used the lowest groove possible on the track to make his way up to third place.
“I was just trying to be patient and wait for the right time,” Long said. “I passed one by one and worked my way up to the front.”
As he was passing cars, Long admitted the thought he had a shot at winning the race.
“The car was pretty fast and the car got faster and faster. Then before you knew it the white flag was out. I was hoping for 10 more laps or a caution,” he said.
It was quite an accomplishment considering Long had to qualify for the feature through a B Main.
“I wish it could have been better but I’m definitely happy with a third place. There’s nothing you can complain about there,” Long said.
Jeff Taylor, who made the trip from Cave City, Arkansas, finished second.
Prior to the feature Taylor said he mostly follows IMCA Modified racing, and since this was a good paying IMCA-sanctioned show, he decided to make the trip to Wisconsin. He was also persuaded in another way.
“I kind of caught a lot of flack here over the years for not coming up here to race against these guys,” Taylor said. “They’re pretty good here, especially in their own area.”
He added that part of the decision was to see if he could run with the Wisconsin Modified drivers. He said he also received messages on Facebook saying that he wouldn’t do good at the special.
“That just fuels your fire,” Taylor said.
Taylor said he didn’t have a good practice session. The poor practice session caused Taylor to lose some sleep the night before the qualifying races.
“I was racking my brain with what I needed to do,” he said.
Taylor added, “We just came up here with our baseline deal and we weren’t very good on practice night,” he said. “We went a whole different direction today and it seemed to be the right direction, the car was way better.”
Prior to the feature, Taylor said a top three or top five finish would feel like a win to him.
“I don’t know if we have a winning car. I think we have a top three car as far as time-wise goes,” he said. “A couple of these local guys are really fast. You put those guys on the front and they’re going to be hard to beat.”
Taylor could not have spoken truer words. Even though he said he would have been happy with a top five finish, you could sense the disappointment in his voice when interviewed after the race.
“I gave it all I had. He was just a little bit better than me,” Taylor said. “… He had a good car and he could cut down across the race track. I was a little skatey, so I had to drag my brakes and I couldn’t quite rotate like I wanted to.
“They’re a tough bunch up here. It’s definitely a little bit out of my league. We’ll have to get a little bit better to come back.”
Mullen said he knew Taylor was behind him.
“When the caution came out I was looking for anybody to give me any kind of hints of anything because when you see Taylor’s number behind you, you’re in trouble,” Mullen said. “I just tried running my line and it worked out.”
Mike Mullen’s dad, Brian Mullen, who didn’t qualify for the feature, said he has raced against Taylor before, and as he watched the race, he liked what he saw.
“When I saw him (Taylor) moving all over the race track I knew that Mike had the faster car and would win if lapped traffic didn’t affect it,” Brian Mullen said.
Lapped traffic is a sour spot with the Mullen family. Brian Mullen was leading last year’s Clash at the Creek late in the race when he encountered lapped traffic. After contact with a lapped car, he was forced to pull to the pits, ending his shot at $10,000.
“For the last three years the leader usually got wrecked in lapped traffic and second place won, and we’ve been in that twice,” Brian Mullen said.
Mike Mullen admitted the Mullen experience with lapped traffic entered his mind when he drove up on lapped traffic during the race.
“You just try to stay out of the wreck but you always have to remember the best drivers around are behind you,” Mike Mullen said. “If you mess around too long, they’re going to get you. Eventually you just have to go.”
The win was satisfying for both Mike Mullen and his dad.
“It’s easily the biggest [race I’ve won],” said Mike Mullen, “and I could tell he was real happy about it too.”
(This article appeared in the July 2014 issue of Full Throttle magazine.)