today i have the pleasure of interviewing the former leader of the beerhill gang mike root. mike sat down with me to discuss the origins of the beerhill gang as well as the future for himself and the gang.
1. When did you get into racing?
Mike - I'd say 1989 is when I started going regularly.
2. What are some of your earliest memories of the sport?
Mike - My friends took me to the Grove back in 88 or 89 and I said "who's shirt should I buy?" I ended up buying a Scruffy shirt and he ended up winning that night. Hell, I use to ride a bmx bike out to the Grove back then. Pine and Aero can back me up on that. LOL
3. How did the idea of sponsoring a sprint car come about?
Mike - Bruce Ellis was putting in a plug on how Rick Lafferty could use some help and bam, I said lets go down and see how much it would take to get Beer Hill Gang on the wing.
4. What about the name "beerhill gang". how did that come about?
Mike - Not sure. We can't take credit for that. There's been people associated with that name before the sponsorship deal came about.
5. Who all is the "beerhill gang"?
Mike - We considered anyone that donated time or money a part of it. There's no membership or anything.
6. How did sponsoring rick laferty come about?
Mike- Refer to # 3.
7. Where did the money come from to start sponsoring rick?
Mike - It came from people that just wanted to help a driver. The fans. Just a bunch of guys and girls that wanted to help out.
8. You used some "different" ways to raise money. explain what all you have done to raise money?
Mike - We had 50-50 Raffles, Auctions, Car washes, the Girls use to even walk the Infield with an old Hodnett helmet until certain people would ridicule them and they quit. People would donate things as well.
9. How long did you sponsor rick?
Mike - April 2002 WoO Gumout show to July of 03.
10. Why the switch to the 5w of lucas wolfe?
Mike - An unfortunate misunderstanding led to a change.
11. How long have sponsored lucas?
Mike - Since Speedweek of 03 to 07
12. How exciting was it the first time you went to victory lane as a sponsor?
MIKE - It was great and it just happened to be at the Grove.
13. It must be just another night at the races now with the way lucas ran this past season?
MIKE - I can't really say. I didn't go to that many shows in 07.
14. You have sponsored different activities at different tracks. you had the wheelie contest at Susquehanna, and the match race at the grove. who comes up with these ideas?
Mike - I was at a wheelie contest back in 93 and thought it was great. So, I thought it would be cool to have one around here. I got to thank Todd Fisher for having that. The Match Race at the Grove never happened. It was scheduled twice in 06 and rain put a damper on it both times. I would like to see that happen again in the near future.
15. Who's idea was it for the hard luck award?
Mike - I was kicking the idea around of getting top notch screen printed shirts done. So I thought, how could we have kick ass shirts without someone dishing out a couple grand by themselves? So why not sell spots to sponsors on the shirt and over the PA System. Each night was designated for a sponsor to support the HLA. It was a good way to help out all the drivers in addition to the driver we sponsored.
16. How did you pick the unluckiest team to give the money too?
Mike -Some nights were harder than others. It wasn't easy. Not everyone agreed to it as well. For example, some nights it was given to drivers that never made it past Hot Laps.
17. How appreciative where the drivers to receive the money?
Mike -Very! Even the Owners. We had Thank You Letters from 2 teams sent to the house on occasion. Others would come up on the Hill and show their appreciation in person. One thing I will always remember is Bob Stewart coming up on the Hill during the races. That's what made it all worth it!
18. Where did the money come from?
Mike -The money came from our BHG t-shirts sales in 05 and 06.
19. When did you decide to step down as the head of the beerhill gang?
Mike -After the 06 Season.
20. How hard was it for you to make that decision?
Mike -It was a little tough. Tracy often asked if that's what I wanted. We had a baby at the time and I began to see things differently. I wanted to go to the races when I wanted to go and not when I had to.
22. How did you go about picking a new leader for the beerhill gang?
Mike -We didn't. Only one person stepped up to the plate and said they would do it.
23. How do you feel when you read something mentioning or you watch an woo and they say such good things about the beerhill gang?
Mike -It makes you feel good that people around the world in racing are recognizing what these fans are doing.
24. Other members of the hill have also decided to help out other low dollar teams. how does that make you feel to know that you helped show that anybody can help out the drivers we watch every week?
Mike -I think it's great. Just look at what has evolved here in Central Pa. with everything that goes on. Other groups of fans have helped out drivers across the country before this ever happened in PA though.
25. Because of what you started with the beerhill gang,you have shown that central pa fans are some of the best in the country. what do you have to say about that?
Mike -SOME of the best is correct. PA is always under a microscope, if you will. Like I said, there are fans and groups around the country that were well established before us. For some reason The BHG gets a lot of attention compared to others. Is it because of being a part of the PA racing scene? Who knows.
26. Finish this quote.INFIELD.........
Mike -is where I watch from on certain nights. LOL
27. Anything else you would like to add?
Mike -Yes. I wanna thank the fans. Without them, it would have been nothing. I would also like to thank all the sponsors that helped over the years. Tracy, my Wife, helped tremendously as well. She was even on the Hill selling shirts hours before she went into Labor.
I met a lot of great people along the way and had a lot of fun. Memories for a Lifetime! thanks.
Thank you to mike for taking the time to sit down with me for this interview. please if you are ever at Williams Grove Speedway, make your way up to the top of turn 3 and say hi to the gang, and make sure to purchase a new 2008 beerhill gang t-shirt. you can check out the beerhill gang on the web at http://beerhillgang.com//