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DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — Michael Reed Sr. knew before age 10 what he wanted to be when he grew up.
“I wanted to be a fireman, a policeman and a race car driver. When dad took us to the Lake County Speedway three or four nights a year when I was four or five years old, I knew right then I wanted to drive race cars,” Reed Sr. said. “We lived a few miles from the track and could hear them racing every week.”
His parents allowed him get his first race car when he turned 17. By the time he was 20, he became a member of the Painesville (Ohio) Township Fire Department. At 22 he joined the Lake County Sherriff’s Office. For the next 10 years he was simultaneously a fireman, a deputy sheriff, and race car driver. When promoted to the rank of sergeant in the sheriff’s office at age 32, the added responsibilities caused him to step back from the fire department.
Today Reed Sr., 44, of Perry, Ohio, is a lieutenant and patrol division shift commander for the sheriff’s office headquartered in Painesville. On Saturdays at nearby Lake County Speedway, however, he’s known as a five-time figure-8 division champion and current points leader. Reed’s son Michael “M.J.” Reed Jr., 15, is the current points leader in the track’s Renegade division.
They’re living the summertime racing dream at NASCAR’s shortest track. The .2-mile paved oval is located in Painesville, about 30 miles northeast up the Lake Erie shoreline from downtown Cleveland.
“Figure-8 racing was definitely what I wanted to do from the time dad took us to the track,” Reed Sr. said. “I thought it was the most exciting event. We had to wait because they wet the track so figure-8s were the last race of the night.”
Reed Sr. repurposed his figure-8 championship winning race car this year. It is now the Renegade division car being driven by Reed Jr. The Renegades use only the oval track.
“If you told me I’d do this well I wouldn’t have believed it,” Reed Jr. said of his first season racing at the speedway. “I didn’t expect it. I have a strong car but I’ve had a lot of good luck, too. I haven’t cut a tire or damaged the car.”
Figure-8 cars are Lake County Speedway’s NASCAR Finalist Division III. Reed Sr.’s record so far this year is six wins, 12 top-fives and 14 top-10s in 14 starts. He’s outside the Division III Top 100. Renegades are the track’s NASCAR Finalist Division V and Reed Jr. leads this week’s divisional standings. His 14-race record is nine wins and 14 top-fives.
The NASCAR Finalist Division program recognizes drivers who compete in support divisions at NASCAR Whelen All-American Series tracks. With “Division I” being each track’s top division, the NASCAR Finalist Division line-up at each track highlights drivers competing in their second, third, fourth and fifth tier divisions. Through Sept. 15 a NASCAR-licensed driver’s best 14 finishes are counted toward their final point total for the year. Points are kept separately for dirt and asphalt tracks.
The top three asphalt track NASCAR Finalist Division leaders in each division this week include Division II Ricky Martin, Raceway Park in Shakopee, Minn.; Zack Clifton, Bowman Gray Stadium in Winston-Salem, N.C.; Mack Little III, Bowman Gray. Division III Blake Dorweiler, Raceway Park; John Ketron, Kingsport (Tenn.) Speedway; Brent Kane, Elko (Minn.) Speedway. Division IV Arlyn Roush, Rockford (Ill.) Speedway; Jeff Watkins II, Kil-Kare Raceway, Xenia, Ohio and Columbus (Ohio) Motor Speedway; Terrance Robinson, Rockford. Division V M.J. Reed Jr., Lake County Speedway in Painesville, Ohio; Jack Cook, Kalamazoo (Mich.) Speedway; Mike Stoer, Raceway Park.
The top three dirt track NASCAR Finalist Division leaders in each division this week include Division II Mark Leiting, Junction Motor Speedway in McCool Junction, Neb. and I-80 Speedway in Greenwood, Neb.; Andy Wilkinson, Junction and I-80; Chuck Schutz Jr., Grandview Speedway in Bechtelsville, Pa. Division III Jared Umbenhauer, Grandview; Tony Rost, Adams County Speedway in Corning, Iowa, Junction and I-80; Jerod Weston, I-80 and Adams County. Division IV Jason Vandekamp, Cedar Lake Speedway in New Richmond, Wis.; Cody Clark, Adams County and I-80; Ryan Olson, Cedar Lake. Division V Jeremy Purdy, Adams County; Art Reed, Salina (Okla.) Highbanks Speedway; Andy Davison, Adams County.
Reed Sr. raced in a variety of divisions from Late Models to demolition derbies at a number of tracks and fairgrounds during more than 25 years of action. He won the 2001 Sportsman division championship at Lake Erie Speedway, a .375-mile paved oval in North East, Pa.
"I’ve driven a little bit of everything over the years,” he said.
He always finds his way back home to Lake County Speedway to enjoy the challenges of figure-8 racing.
“It’s interesting racing and that always draws me back to the track,” Reed Sr. said. “You worry about getting through the intersection; you’re looking ahead to the traffic on the other side of the track. In a 20-lap race you’re going through the intersection 40 times so there’s a lot going on. If you’re trying to pass someone it might be give and take, but you’ve got to take as much as you can.”
When he won his first Lake County figure-8 championship in 1988, he was the track’s youngest champion ever at 19. His other titles came in 1993, 1997, and 2008. Last year he won the figure-8 and Renegade division championships.
Reed Sr. is more excited about his son’s accomplishments.
“He was racing battery-powered toys at two and started competing in ATVs when he as five. I try to provide what I can for his racing and it’s cool to see what he’s doing. At 15, he’s accomplishing so much.”
From ATVs, Reed Jr. went on to drive go-karts and Bandoleros. He worked as a spotter for his dad by age 10 and raced in the four cylinder division at Lake Erie in 2011 and 2012.
“I remember watching dad race when I was little. I just loved everything about racing,” Reed Jr. said. “I got pretty involved with it.”
His hope is to eventually race against his dad in the figure-8 division.
“I’m looking forward to racing with him and I want to beat him,” he said with a smile.
Reed Jr. is an honors student and a junior at Perry (Ohio) High School. He’s on the football, baseball and wrestling teams and plays soccer. A younger brother, Chad Austin Reed, 14, is involved in motocross and go-kart racing. Their mom and Michael’s wife, Kelly Reed, is part of the team.
“We’re a big sports family,” Reed Sr. said.
Reed Sr. has two figure-8 cars including 1974 and 1975 Chevy Malibus. His sponsors include Spee-D-Metals and Slyman’s of Cleveland deli. Reed Jr.’s car is a 1997 Chevy Cavalier with a 2003 body. His sponsors include Kurt’s Shooter Supplies and Mr. Muffler operated by Josh Way.