What does “Friends of Mike” really mean?
What does “Friends of Mike” really mean?
“Friends of Mike”; what’s it all about? What’s it really mean? Some fans and drivers don’t really know, but I do think most people know the meaning behind the ‘race’. While some, REALLY know how and why this annual event is now going on its 10th year!
Ten years ago a very good friend of mine, Mike Rogie, was diagnosed with cancer in the fall of 2005. I met Mike at New Egypt in ohh I’d say the year 2000. We just happened to sit next to each other in the famous ‘Section 6’ and as they say the rest is history.
Mike was an avid race fan. He grew up going to Flemington and East Windsor and traveled to many other tracks for special events. As Mike and I became closer friends we traveled together along with our good friend Jim, who was from Illinois. The three of us took trips to Syracuse, Hagerstown, Volusia, Williams Grove, you name it.
Mike also loved sports, especially football (both college and pro). On almost any given Sunday, you’d find the three of us at Mike’s house drinking some beers, eating from the bbq, and yelling at the television. I might add, Mike was an excellent cook, he was our master chef at all our tailgates throughout the racing season.
So fast forward to the fall of 2005 and Mike just blurts out that the doctors told him he had cancer. Mike was a pretty quiet guy and kept his business just that, his business…especially compared to the styles of myself and ‘Jimbo’. He didn’t talk about the cancer much at all. To this day I don’t know if he really knew how bad it was and didn’t want to tell anyone or, was he just in denial, or was he thinking ‘No biggie, I got this thing beat”. I still don’t know that answer.
As the winter and spring of 2006 progressed so did Mike’s cancer. He was able to make to a few races in the spring but by the time June rolled around, Mike was in bad shape. To be honest, it was sad! I thought: Here’s a guy that’s just an all-around good guy and there’s nothing anyone can do to stop this monster they call cancer. I was feeling really down about Mike’s situation and I knew it was only a matter of time until he would dreadfully lose this battle. I called Jim up one day out of the blue and said, “Hey meet me here for a drink, I wanna talk to you about something.” Jim met me and as we made a toast to Mike, I told him what I wanted to do.
I said, “I don’t know really what to do at this point but, what if we and a couple of our friends put some money together and give it to the drivers in Mike’s honor.” I thought maybe it’s a stupid idea maybe it’s not but, if we could give the drivers a little something extra to race for while paying tribute to a friend, we might just be able to put a smile on Mike’s face for a little while. The plan was to have Mike there and let him know that he was loved by many and that he wasn’t going through this journey alone.
Well, I got on the horn and talked to our fellow race fans and before you knew it, people were kicking in $20 here, $50 there, $100 here, $200 there. I couldn’t believe it be honest. While many new Mike personally, just as many didn’t but they were down with the cause. Now I know what some people might be thinking. How about some money for Mike or his bills, or his family right? Well, I had a long talk with his parents and they wanted and needed nothing from us but were in full support of this race.
Now as July rolled around, Mike’s health took a turn for the worse. The date was July 29 that we set for this race to pick Mike’s spirits up. Two weeks prior, Mike’s condition even worsened. At this point we knew Mike wasn’t going to be able to attend his own race, but the race went on.
My good friend and track photographer Jim Brown said one day, “Why don’t we have an auction to try and raise some more money for the race?” I thought he was crazy, I swear. But I listened, and we put together one hell of an auction where fans won all types of prized (race orientated and things that weren’t). The one thing I do remember was there were tons of tailgaters, horseshoes were flying and it was well over 100 degrees that day!
We were having a good time but we were missing our friend. And then we received a call as the cars were about to come out to pack the track in. It was call that I never thought would happen on this day. Mike had passed away just a couple of hours before race time. I truly believe that Mike had all intentions of witnessing this race, his race, he was going to watch it come hell or high water. And I can tell you he had the best seat in the house too!
We were able to raise just over $7,000 in just 4 weeks’ time! It would be an injustice if I told you it was an extremely emotional day for me that day. I just couldn’t believe that so many people would gather together for one person. I couldn’t believe that we pulled off this spectacular race (keep in mind I was simply a fan at this point in time), and most of all I couldn’t believe that Mike was no longer with us.
No more racing trips, no more Sunday football bbqs (and I can tell you, I haven’t been into football at all since then either, it just doesn’t mean as much to me). It just all-around sucked to be honest.
Well, I won’t bore you with the statistics of this race but, I will mention a few things: Over $135,000 has been raised and all been given back to the drivers over the course of 9 years! It’s been a total group effort and this race could not be possible without the generous givers that nowadays never even had the chance to meet Mike Rogie. We’ve had Modified 30 lappers, 38 lappers, 50, 60, 100-lap races, Four 20’s you name it. The one thing that I am extremely proud of is that in 2011 we were able to pay a whopping $20,000 to win. We’ve had match races where it was winner take all for $1,000! We’ve had $500 to win heats as well as $1,000 to win heats, races that paid $1,000 to for dead last!
The days of finding that kind of sponsorship are most likely past us but, the whole idea of this race is to remember a great person. That’s the one thing that cannot and should not be lost in all of this hoopla. No matter the purse, no matter the laps, no matter the winner…what really matters is that my friend Mike Rogie’s name lives on and he is remembered along with ALL the other racing family members that we’ve lost in these last nine years.
So if you love racing, or if you’ve lost someone close to you that you’d like to remember in your own way, then Bridgeport Speedway is the place to be on Tuesday, August 18. Bring your friends, bring your own ‘Mike Rogie’ and have a beer with them…talk racing, stay connected, enjoy the moment, because we never know when that will be taken away from us. Here’s to F.O.M. X.