TOP FUEL BIKE
© 1999-2001 Dwight Drum
Questions and Story by Dwight Drum
Photos by Gary Larsen and Dwight Drum
Mike and Patty Romine are married to each other and seemingly to the sport of racing Top Fuel Harley-Davidsons also. Drop by their colorful canopy at an IHRA or AHDRA event, and your first impression may be that this family arrived to race. Patty is likely to welcome you as she did us, and Mike Romine who is a tall silent type, is likely to stand back at first. Mike isn't shy, he's just Mike…tall, strong Mike. Once Mike knows you, he isn't as likely to stand back, and you learn quickly he's also the type of person you want as a friend. Step into this Top Fuel camp where nitro is the fuel, speed is the goal, and friends are welcome.
DWIGHT CHATS WITH MIKE ROMINE…
What personal quality (one trait) would you want to be admired for the most?
“The personal quality I most want to be remembered for is honesty.”
What’s most important?
“Winning is the most important thing.”
Do you have a nickname?
“Some fellow racers call me "Mikey", but that is the only nickname I am aware of. However, there might be others (ha ha).”
Who are your Heroes?
“My dad is my hero.”
Are you pleased with life?
“Yes, I am happy.”
What could please you more in life?
“An IHRA championship would make me happier. I have already accomplished one of my goals for this year when I was the #1 qualifier at the IHRA race in Richmond, Virginia. The AHDRA #1 plate is another of my goals.”
When driving a car, do you always wear a seatbelt?
Yes. 2. No. 3. Sometimes?
“When I drive a car I try to always wear a seatbelt, but I am ashamed to admit that I don't always do it. Patty bugs me about it all the time.”
Is racing your full-time occupation?
“No, unfortunately, racing is not my full-time occupation. I have a shop in Sturgis, Michigan where I build race motors for other people and work on street bikes. I sell my own line of race cams, and I also sell PRP products. Patty is a teacher (alternative high school).”
Do you have time for a hobby?
“In the winter I have a little time for a hobby. Patty and I have snowmobiles and we like to go to northern Michigan and ride them on weekends. In the summer, when we have time, we like to ride our street bikes. (They don't have many miles on them.).”
What vehicle do you drive on the street?
"My street vehicle is a 2001 Ford F-250 4-door black pickup."
Do you work out?
“No, I don't have a regular workout routine. Sometimes Patty and I will go for walks after supper.”
Name one other sport, you feel you could master or be competitive at?
"I think I could master the game of golf, if I had the patience. How hard could it be? (ha ha)."
If you could make one part of your body stronger, what part would that be?
"I would like to make my back stronger. Drag racing has been hard on my lower back. At one IHRA race a couple years ago, Doc Sipples (a fellow IHRA racer who is also a chiropractor) had to come to my trailer after every pass to put my back in place. He was the only reason I made it through that race."
Do you have pets?
"We have one pet. A black lab named Blackjack, who goes with me everywhere. He is really spoiled. Many people have probably seen him at the races with us."
Do you have a special diet?
“No, I do not have a special diet. Patty is always trying to feed me more fruits and vegetables.”
What quality do you admire most in other people?
"In other people, I most admire humility. Too many racers believe the P.A. hype that they hear about themselves. I can't stand it when people get big-headed. Some people are big-headed before they even make a pass, which is really dumb. I feel that no matter how good you are or how long you've been racing, you should still be humble, since you're only as good as your last race. In drag racing, there is only one winner at each race, so you're going to lose a lot more than you win."
When frustrated. What do you do first?
1.Erupt. 2.Withdraw 3. Try to be cool. 4. Other
“When I am frustrated, I first try to be cool. Then I sometimes withdraw.”
What mental routine prepares you for each run?
“My mental routine involves trying to focus on the moment. I don't like people talking to me for the few minutes before I run, because I am trying to focus..”
What are (or have been) your scariest moments?
“I've had quite a few scary moments, since I have been racing fuel bikes for 17 years. One of the worst was when my trottle-side handlebar broke at the finish line in Hallsville, Texas. As the cable stretched, the bike accelerated. The shut-off was on the handlebar that was broken and dangling. I had to reach down, find the shut-off, push it, then steer
the bike holding onto the front fork.”
What do you do to unwind?
"To unwind, I ride my street bike or throw the tennis ball for Blackjack."
If you could change one thing about drag racing, what would you change?
"If I could change one thing about drag racing, I would make it more profitable, so I could actually make a living racing."
When asleep do you ever dream you are racing?
“No, I have never dreamed of racing that I am aware of.”
Where do you find the most peace in your life?
“I find the most peace in my life when I am going down the track on a run. It sounds odd, but time seems to be suspended. Once I put my helmet on and fire the bike, a peace comes over me.”
You’re a skilled racer… On public highways, what's different about you and other drivers?
“Many people use highway driving to test their limits and get their thrills. I don't need to do that. I see a lot of people on the highway who think they are Parnelli Jones or somebody. I keep my distance and give them lots of space when I see people driving stupid.”
What do you worry about the most?
"I worry most about continuing to be able to finance my race team."
Can you describe the G-forces at the tree…the launch?
"It's hard to describe the g-forces on a launch, although I get asked that a lot. I guess it's similar to taking off in a big jet, but multiplied five to ten times."
Most people learn something from mistakes. What mistake caused you to learn the most?
"I have learned a lot from many mistakes. I can't really pinpoint one."
Who means the most to you?
"My wife and Crew Chief, Patty, means the most to me."
If you could acquire three traits from three people, what traits would you take from whom?
"I would acquire wisdom from my dad, patience from my wife and a light-hearted view of life from my friend Bob Hemings (who is no longer with us).
How did you get started in drag racing?
"In 1984, I was racing my 98" Super Glide at local dragstrips, but I just wasn't going fast enough. I heard about a Harley that ran on nitro that was for sale in Wichita, Kansas (owned by Bonnie Truett). I went to the bank and got a loan for $5,000 and went to Kansas to look at it. Bonnie started it for us in his shop and when he hit the throttle we all
jumped. It was then that I knew that I had to have that bike, so I bought it and the rest is history."
In a few words, how would you sum up…yourself?
"In a few words, I would sum myself up as intense, loyal, honest and impatient."
Finding one word to describe a complex human is always challenging. Mike Romine is often a man of few words, but he is also one of speedy action. It takes strength and courage to wrestle a Top Fuel Harley-Davidson down the track. I searched for a word for Mike that would fit his personality, and found a final word that emphasizes strength. Gary Larsen agreed. Mike Romine is…