Michael Johnson Associate Editor
July 1, 2004
Photos By: Steve Turner

Regular 5.0&SF readers should recognize NMRA Factory Stock racer Michael Washington.For those who don't, take a look back at our March '03 issue ("Factory Hero," p. 82). To give you the condensed version, Michael is a New York City firefighter, one of many who rushed to the scene on September 11, 2001. Unlike 343 of his buddies, he went home that night. He attended funerals every day-sometimes two a day-in the weeks following the disaster. At the behest of his fellow firefighers-who were also working in 24-hour shifts digging and sweeping around the World Trade Center grounds-he went to the NMRA finals at the end of September. He didn't really care how he finished. He was there, and that's what mattered.

In March 2002, Michael won the NMRA Bradenton, Florida, opener in Factory Stock, going on to finish Fourth in points for the season.

In 2003, he teamed up with Justin Burcham under the JPC Racing banner for a two-car assault-Michael competed in BFGoodrich Factory Stock and Justin in 5.0&SF-sponsored Real Street. Michael wasn't behind the wheel of his fire-engine-red, bubble-hatched LX because Justin took the team spirit to heart and let him borrow the LX coupe you see here to run his highly successful '02 Factory Stock combo in the new car. The car was completed in time for the NMRA opener at Bradenton, where Michael won for the second year in a row and set the tone for Factory Stock in 2003.

Justin and Robin Lawrence battled famously during the '02 Factory Stock season. Just as Michael inherited a successful combo, Jamie Holten picked up Robin's Factory Stock combination. Michael and Jamie carried on the tradition, battling it out all year. Unfortunately for Jamie, he came up short on every race except that of the Factory Stock finals at the NMRA World Finals in Bowling Green, Kentucky. That's when Michael's clutch pedal got stuck on the stop bolt that was designed to keep the clutch pedal from going all the way to the floor. The pedal lodged itself and wouldn't come back up.

The only other time Jamie came close was at the NMRA Columbus race when Michael had clutch-pedal problems, but he was racing Charles McCarthy, who was at the wheel of Melanie Burcham's (Justin's wife's) coupe. Charles must've had specific instructions to take one for the home team if Michael ran into problems because once that happened, Charles was on the brakes to allow Michael to cross the finish line first. Of course, the JPC crew fixed the problem before the next round, and Michael beat Jamie in the finals to continue his streak.

Consider this-with Michael's victory at the '02 NMRA Bradenton opener, Justin's streak of wins to finish out 2002, and Michael's domination in 2003, between the two of them they had 12 straight Factory Stock wins.

Besides Justin and Michael joining forces and winning races, the other big news was the team's sponsorship deal with Latemodel Restoration Supply. Obviously, with the quality of Michael's Factory Stock ride and its performance, the sponsorship has worked out quite well for everyone involved. When your sponsored car wins six races, and the other (Justin's Real Street car) becomes world famous for pulling wheelies and destroying rear bumper covers, your name is bound to be in front of a lot of Mustang fans-and they need parts too. Royal Purple also came on board and has been a huge sponsor as well.

To say last season was good for Michael would be like saying Robin Lawrence is old-it's a gross understatement. Michael qualified number one at every event, made it to the final round at every race, set low e.t. at every race, and won six of seven races. And, he had a new race car to beat on, and the car's not his. We all know it's a lot more fun to beat on someone else's car.