Spec Racer Success: A Chat with Mike Miserendino
Photos courtesy of SCCA and Van Hap Photography
After four SCCA Spec Racer Ford national championships, Mike Miserendino has made his name as a consistently fast driver. As Business Development Manager for Buttonwillow Raceway Park, most of his days are spent at the track—albeit not always in a car. We had a few questions for Mike as to what helps him win, and what keeps him coming to races outside of his duties at Buttonwillow.
How did you get your start in racing?
I started racing go karts at the age of 8. Both my dad and uncle have raced SCCA since the late 1980s, so it was pretty natural that I started racing SCCA when I was sixteen. I grew up at the race track—it has been in my blood since day one.
Why did you choose to go with a Spec Racer Ford? Tell us a little bit about the cars and the standard race format.
I chose the SRF because first and foremost I wanted to race with my dad. It truly is a spec car and the fields are big all over the country which makes the racing exciting. The motors, transmissions, and shocks are all sealed. Everyone has to run the same tire, springs, and sway bars. All these spec components leave speed up to car set up and driver skill. The class isn’t about who can spend the most, which is great for all competitors. A typical race weekend will feature two 30-40 minute races.
What kind of advice do you have for people just getting started in racing?
Come with an open mind and learn from anywhere you can. The sport isn’t easy and there will be plenty of challenges along the way. It is important to surround yourself with a good support structure. I have been very fortunate to have my whole family involved throughout my racing career. Whether it is a pro team or just a group of friends, if you work well together, the success won’t be far behind. You can’t forget the single most important thing: have fun!
What has been your biggest challenge in racing so far, and what did you do to overcome that?
This is easy—the fact when I finally realized Roger Penske wasn’t going to be calling me to drive one of his racecars. When I was a kid, all I wanted to do was become a professional racecar driver. My life was going to be over if I didn’t. I still want to be a professional racecar driver, but I am ok with the fact that I probably never will be. This was hard for me to realize at first. The reality is I am very fortunate to be able to race any type of car at any type of level. I enjoy racing with my dad, uncle and also my father-in-law.
You’ve been at the top of the Spec Racer Ford results for a while now, with four championships under your belt. What do you do to continue to improve as a racer?
Pay attention to other racers and don’t be afraid to try a new approach. Whether it is a set up change or a line change or a driving style change, try it. It might work, and it might not work. No matter what you will have experience to draw from if it ever happens again. There are a wide variety of styles out there, study what works for you and what doesn’t.
What do you credit as the biggest factor in winning a race?
You have to keep your head on straight. You can’t “beat” yourself. No matter the circumstances, stay focused, stay calm and minimize your mistakes. You can have the fastest car by over a second per lap, but if you don’t keep it on the road, no victory.
Tell us about working for Buttonwillow. Does this have any affect (positive or negative) on your racing?
Most people think since I work at a racetrack that I just constantly drive my racecar around it whenever I have free time. That actually is not the case. I do plenty of laps on the track each week—the only problem is I am driving our safety truck or our tractor we use to sweep the track! An upside is that racing is always on my mind and I get to chat with racers daily. Although it is “work,” it is cool to be around people that you share a passion with.
Besides your day job, what keeps you coming back to race weekends?
Winning! I know that might sound kind of cliché, but it is the truth. Racing is NOT easy, but winning a race is such a cool feeling that I want to keep striving for it.
What are your plans for the future? Will you continue racing Spec Racer Fords, or try something new?
The plans for now are to keep racing my Spec Racer Ford. As I said earlier, I really enjoy doing it with my family. I have run a couple other cars recently and I am always open to trying some new stuff, Hey Roger, if you are reading, I am available. ☺