SALINAS AND HIS SCRAPPY TEAM INTEND TO MAKE NOISE
NHRA naysayers were skeptical when Mike Salinas said last year he would campaign his Scrappers Racing Top Fuel team full time in 2018.
Countless others have made that promise, and few have been able to deliver on the pipedream, but Salinas is living up to the commitment.
Many of the other hopeful racers in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series were not Salinas, a highly successful businessman from San Jose in Northern California.
“Scrappers” is not just a reference to the nature of his lucrative waste and salvage businesses; it also is the simplest way to describe the 56-year-old who has been turning garbage and unwanted metal into Bay Area gold for more than 32 years.
Since his first of 17 races in Top Fuel in 2011, he always has arrived with the best looking transporter and racecar.
Now he intends to leave tracks as the best performing.
He started this year in late January’s preseason testing and a week later at the Lucas Oil NHRA Winternationals at Pomona, California, with the best parts from Alan Johnson Performance Engineering and 12-time world champion crew chief Alan Johnson as the team’s consultant to crew chief Doug Kuch.
Salinas opened at Pomona by being the fourth quickest in the first session with a time of 3.764 seconds at a career-best 326.71 mph then recorded a best-ever E.T in that last session at 3.748. Of three completed qualifying runs, he topped his previous bests in E.T. and speed twice.
After a career-best seven races last year, he was seeded ninth for the opening round at Pomona and two weeks later near Phoenix where he lost to three-time world champion Antron Brown each time.
“I was very disappointed at Pomona,” said Salinas. At Phoenix, Salinas threw away a 3.752 at 327 with a red-light disqualification but accepted it as another learning experience.
“My expectations with Alan and all the new parts we have is to run very good.
“I don’t have time to mess around,” he said of capitalizing on Johnson’s input. “I tried it my way with different people. Some guys are not as steady or innovative (as Johnson). I’m doing it now like I have with by businesses, and that’s to go after the best people.
“If I accept failure then I’m a loser. When we get better, I’ll expect to run even better after that. Nothing is good enough. I want to run with these guys; they’re the best in the world. Alan has taken people from nothing (as racers) to something.”
If that sounds like Salinas is serious about succeeding in drag racing’s ultimate category, the California native has bigger plans.
He is trying to lease a 10,000-square-foot shop 2,300 miles from his home near the nitro hub of Brownsburg, Indiana, until he can build a 30,000- to 50,000-square-foot headquarters on 50 to 100 acres around Indianapolis for a permanent site.
Salinas owns and operates several successful businesses around San Jose including real estate.
He and his wife, Monica, met when they were 16 and have been together for 39 years. They became entrepreneurs 32 years ago by starting Valley a business with him driving their only truck and the office being run by Monica while she raised their four daughters. She is working toward a Master’s Degree in Business from Harvard University through coursework online and on campus at Cambridge, Massachusetts.
Salinas grew up in a large family in San Jose where he began developing his work ethic at a young age from his father Mike Salinas Sr., who was born in Texas, and any successful person he could observe.
“When I was a kid I’d shine shoes at a restaurant where the businessmen would go so I could listen to them talk about business deals,” he said. “I’d work side jobs and always be around the older men to hear them talk about business.”
He said after going to high school during the day he’d haul junk cars to scrapyards at night then on weekends and holidays.
“I work ten times harder because nothing comes easy. I will never reach every goal I set because when I get close, I move the bar up. Everything we do has not been good enough.
“We have a plan to execute, and our racing teams eventually will be based around Indy,”
The “s” in teams is not a typographical error.
“We never do anything halfway.”
He currently is funding Scrappers and has longtime event promoter and motorsports marketer Doug Davenport working to secure added funding to enhance support from John Santos’ Pleasanton (California) Ready Mix Concrete. Santos was Salinas’ second customer and offered support to Scrappers.
“I’ve never asked for anything and don’t know how to do,” Salinas admitted.
Top Fuel driver Richie Crampton is working on two new chassis for Salinas at Morgan Lucas Racing.
He wants to begin running a new car in April during the DENSO Spark Plugs new four-wide event at Las Vegas Motor Speedway and have his current front-halfed after that with Crampton scheduled to complete a third chassis.
He said one of the dragster frames is destined for his oldest daughter, Jasmine, 26, who soon will begin testing in an A/Fuel Dragster owned by Anthony Dicero Racing. She earned her NHRA Super Comp license at the Frank Hawley Drag Racing School after several years of NHRA Jr. Dragster competition. She is a 2014 graduate of the University of San Francisco where she majored in International Studies.
His third oldest daughter, Jianna, 20, is studying Child and Adolescent Development at San Jose State and will begin testing with veteran racers Karen and Gary Stoffer on a Pro Stock Motorcycle as early as after the Gatornationals, he added. She started in Jr. Dragsters when she was 10 and has a passion for street motorcycles.
His other daughters are involved in the racing operation.
Jacqueline, 24, has a Bachelor of Science degree in Industrial and Systems Engineering from San Jose State and oversees the family businesses when her parents are on the racing circuit.
Janae, a 17-year-old high school senior, could add to the family’s driver line-up.
That’s a long way from when he was a youngster and got to sit in one of Don "The Snake" Prudhomme's dragster at Baylands Raceway in Fremont, California, with his father who had raced at the Little Bonneville Dragstrip at San Jose Airstrip.
In 2001, Salinas began competing with his front-engine dragster in Nostalgia races. Ten years later he made his Top Fuel debut in the Fram Autolite NHRA Nationals at Sonoma, California.
“I’ve never been boating or fishing or skiing or hunting. I get so wrapped up in business,” he said. “I only relax when in my racecar. That’s only time I don’t think about business.
“I don’t really know how to take it easy. I’m trying to do it with racing, but I don’t know if it will be enough. My wife and four daughters are my best friends. As long as racing is fun, we’ll continue to do it.
“I’ve given my daughters and our amazing staff my 22-month notice when I’ll step back and let my people do their jobs. I’ve worked 20-hour days, seven days a week all my life.”
Now he is transitioning his addictive tendency from business to racing.