“Man, it’s where all the action is at,” says Mike Gunter, a little over a week removed from a final round win at the recently completed Dig Or Die No Prep Shootout that netted him $30,000 after the $60,000-plus purse was split amongst the eight drivers remaining in the race that featured 117 entries.
“We’d done a lot of grudge racing, some radial racing – X275 early on – but most of it’s just gotten so out of control,” Gunter continues. “When we saw these no prep races starting to pop up all over, getting a lot of play on social media, we knew we wanted to get involved. When you see events like Dig or Die popping up on Facebook with a $100,000 up for grabs? It’s exciting; it peaked my interest for sure – if they’re going to be racing for that kind of money, we want to be a part of it.”
As fate would have it, Gunter came across an unfinished Fox Body Mustang late in 2020 – essentially a rolling chassis – that included a lot of the parts necessary for completion that would be perfect for this particular brand of racing. Over the winter Gunter and company finished the build and in March of this year made their debut at the spring running of Dig or Die No Prep at The New 710 Dragway in Rowland, North Carolina.
“First race out, I think our tenth pass on the car, I wrecked it,” he says, laughing a little, and explaining that is where the car’s nickname “Miss Duct Tape” was born. “We were going to call it ‘Notorious’, but we had to pivot after I put it in the wall. We literally duct taped the front end of the car back together for the race and one thing led to another. Now, she’s ‘Miss Duct Tape’ and I think it’s permanent.”
Since then, Gunter has gotten his sea legs, or no prep legs if you will, under him and become a force to be reckoned with on the small tire, no prep scene – especially after he cleaned house at Dig or Die 2, which was held, interestingly, in the shutdown area at the legendary Rockingham Dragway in North Carolina.
“It’s a whole new deal running back up the track towards the tower,” admits Gunter. “That gets your attention a little bit, it’s definitely a different experience, but the surface in the shutdown…that’s about as close as you can get to real street racing. The energy and the crowds they get at these races make it like a big time grudge race pretty much every pass, and the track is so hard to navigate, so hard to get down, that it really is anybody’s game.”
The format for Dig or Die only adds to the anyone-can-win nature. The event’s $100,000-to-win purse was contingent on 200 entries, so with 117 on the property, the payout exceeded $60,000 – a truly tremendous amount of money for a small-tire, eighth-mile drag race. The event is an “off the trailer” race, so there’s no shakedown runs, time trails or qualifying rounds. Pairings are determined by a random chip draw prior to every elimination round until two drivers are left standing, who face off for the loot and the bragging rights.
With 117 cars on the property, there would be no easy path to the winner’s circle for anyone, but Gunter’s day started especially difficult when he drew small tire racing legend Manny Buginga in the opening round.
“Just talking with that guy was a big deal for me, personally,” says Gunter. “But to have to race him first round? I was like, ‘Oh, come on.’ That’s a best of the best deal in the other lane, but we got past him.”
Gunter’s “Miss Duct Tape” carried him through six more rounds with the Chris Seidle-built small block Ford under the cowl hood never missing a beat. Topped with a single carburetor and a cast aluminum intake, the 434ci gets additional motivation from a Switzer Dynamics two-stage plate nitrous system and is manipulated down the eighth-mile by way of merely MSD 7531 box and N.O.S. mini two-stage progressive nitrous controller.
“It’s not a super exotic deal; really simple and straightforward,” says Gunter. “It just works.”
The Virginia-based racer also leans on a little bit of good ol’ fashioned seat-of-the-pants power application to get the Mustang from A to B under power.
“On a car like this at a prepped race like a No Clocks Small Block race, I’d be trying to get all the nitrous on in like a second,” explains Gunter. “In no prep, it’s more like 1.8-seconds. Basically, I let off the transbrake and I grab the first kit – it’s on a button on the steering wheel. If I feel it start to move or spin, I can bump the button and it resets the progressive controller. On the other side of the steering wheel, I’ve got the second system on a button, kind of the ‘oh no’ button if it’s close or they’re out front.”
Gunter managed to keep himself out front throughout the course of Dig or Die, ultimately getting the job done around 5:30 AM on Sunday morning. First round went down late Friday night.
“It was a wild deal,” says Gunter. “To tell you the truth, Geno Raborg is the buddy that probably made me win that deal. He hand-made a wing for the car, and it made all the difference. About three weeks before the race they announced you couldn’t have any external weight on the car at all – no big weight bars, no heavy parachutes. So, we thought, ‘we’re going to make a heavy ass wing.’ Geno worked on that wing non stop for two weeks.
“Patrick Watts, too, and Gary Easter, TBM Brakes, Induction Solutions, Rick’s Tire and Auto, Rich Siegman at Speed Services, I’ve just got a lot of great people around me and it makes all the difference. We’re looking forward to doing a lot more of these events. Hopefully, we’ll be able to do more winning, too.”