You Can Call Me Skinny
by Roger Berta
Whether you call him Michael Schwartz, MoPar Mike or Skinny Mike, he will always answer while flashing that Tommy Ivo smile. Tommy Ivo is Skinny's hero, and they are a lot alike. Great ambassadors to the sport of drag racing, both run first class operations and both are always there for the fans by handing out T-shirts, track cards and stickers to kids and adults alike. Both will always answer questions a fan may have, and more than once, I saw Mike helping a fan into the cockpit of his dragster.
Mike was born on the North Side of Chicago in 1960 and lived there until he was 20 when he got married and moved north to Antioch, IL. He is currently on his third (best) wife with no children and lives in Central IL. He continues to operate his own advertising agency and has luckily worked for himself since 1980. He studied drafting & technical illustration at Chicago's biggest public high school - Lane Technical which was the launching pad for his career. He also attended the Art Institute of Chicago and took art classes at the College of Lake County.
Like most of us, Mike was bitten early by the Drag Racing Bug. He started as a young boy collecting Hot Wheels and Johnny Lightning die casts, then moved up to plastic model cars - almost ALL drag cars or American hot rods or muscle cars. Mike says: "when I was a kid, I built a LOT of models, but drew a lot too - mostly drag cars and race engines with some Roth style monsters and nude women thrown in . . just to practice drawing the life form of course! Ha Ha Ha I also collected PILES of Hot Rod & Drag mags! We would search the alleys of Chicago looking for stashes of them that some poor guy's mom threw out when he went off to college (or Vietnam) or got married or something, and WE FOUND PLENTY! - We scored piles of nudie mags and Rock LPs too and plenty of spare bike parts!"
Skinny was exposed to drag racing up close when he was in his early teens. He says: "My first time to the drag strip was when my dad took me and my little brother and neighborhood friends to Great Lakes Dragaway (GLD) in 1973 for their Time Machine Nationals. My dad was a scary smart guy that knew nothing about cars or drag racing, but he loved it and took us for a few more years until we were old enough to go on our own. The only reason I race more at GLD today than anywhere else is because I still consider it my home track".
Mike's first drag/show car was (and is) a 1948 Plymouth Special De Luxe 2-door coupe done in a vintage gasser theme. The old '48 is fitted with an 11.5 to 1 compression Dodge 340 Six Pack, 410 Posi (out of an old '67 Coronet) and a Pro Stock 4-Link with Track Locator. The highlight of this car is the power-tilt flip front end. Mike first ran it down the 1/4 mile at Great Lakes, but his first event with the car was the 2009 GoodGuys Nostalgia Drags at Indy under their Hot Rod class. Mike said he fell in love with Indy and the racing there and said "It was after this race that I knew I needed an FE DRAGSTER!".
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