Mike was born March 31, 1959, in Bowmanville, Ontario. That’s 19 hours of driving, some 1254 miles north of Gainesville, Florida, where he raced in the PROSTAR series more than once, back in the day.
Motorcycling started off for Mike at a young age, it was his older brother and his friends that taught him how to ride, “My brother and his friends were always the crazy ones, so I hung out with them and that’s where I learned to ride.”
Drag racing came early to Mike, “In the early 1980’s, I went to Cayuga and saw my first drag race. I was hooked.” Initially what attracted Mike was the adrenalin and the challenge of Sportsman racing, “it’s a challenge to try and run the number again and again, trying to hit that same number every time.”
Mike was first drawn to motorcycle drag racing as a sport in 1981 when he attended the US Nationals at ATCO, NJ and saw Terry Vance on that Top Fuel bike.
During the 1980’s Mike began motorcycle drag racing with his street bike at drag strips in Canada and in the USA. “My first race bike was a 1973 Kawasaki, 900 that was punched out to about 1075cc and it was my street bike as well.” As he developed as a drag racer, Mike cut his teeth at the local tracks in Canada, like Cayuga Ontario Speedway.
As the 1980 era wound down, Mike began paying close attention to sanctioned motorcycle drag racing on the National level. While he did race some CMDRA and IDBA events, his real heart was set on AMA/PROSTAR racing. “I was a loyal AMA/PROSTAR racer for years and did some local races as well but PROSTAR racing was the toughest and the best. I started racing with AMA/PROSTAR in 1991 in the sportsman classes of S/C and Pro ET, back when Super Comp was an 8.60 dial-in. At one national event in 2002, at Norwalk, Ohio, I won in three of four classes I entered.”
Mike was one of the early Sportsman racers to enter into multiple classes and race more than one bike at the same national event. His appetite for drag racing back then was immense and his success level was high. “I usually raced in three, sometimes four classes. It was a very hectic time on race weekends.”
Accordingly, Mike got in a lot of seat time, “For sure I’ve made over 23 passes in one day at a race. Now double that number for a two day national event and you can see how he honed his skills to a knife edge.
During Mike’s primary racing years, he amassed, over 100 final round appearances, over 400 round wins and 9 number 1 qualifying spots; between racing in Super Comp, Top Gas and ET racing class competition. His biggest win, or most memorable: his triple championship achievement during the 2009, AMA/PAROSTAR season.
Mike will be the first to tell you, he didn’t achieve this by himself; Mike’s family were always there for him with support and encouragement. Paul Gast and his Fast By Gast shop always did whatever it took to get him out onto the race track.
It has not been all glory and winner’s circle for Mike during his decades of racing. He paid his dues like most other drag bike pilots. His bad day happened in 1993 when he came off at Cayuga Speedway due to a high-speed-wobble. “I broke my shoulder and some ribs, I know what it means to go down.”
Mike could have turned Pro, as many racers do, but he chose not to. Truth be told, he held an NHRA P/S motorcycle license at one time and even entered one race. But that kind of racing was not for him. “I’d rather race my motorcycles than work on them. I don’t want to go to a race and bring my bike home in a basket and have to work on it every race.”
What kept Mike going for so many years as a Sportsman racer? “The thrill of NOT being strapped in is what makes me feel alive, that does it for me. I also enjoy seeing my friends and family at the races, talking to people and seeing the next generation of racers coming up.”
On occasions you’ll still see Mike at the races, sometimes in the pits talking to old friends and foes, other times on one of his bikes giving the new generation of racers lessons. Know this: if you’re a drag racer and you see Mike Konopacki line up with you some Sunday afternoon, don’t make any mistakes on your run or you’re very likely going home early.