In the fast-paced sport of drag racing, it takes passion, dedication, and a unique perspective to stand out. Corey Michalek, a young and successful entrepreneur, is making waves with his innovative approach to this adrenaline-fueled sport. In a recent episode of “The Racing Business,” hosted by Jason Dukes, Michalek opens up about his journey and the impact he’s making in the racing community.
Michalek’s story is one of transformation and adaptation. He began his journey without the typical motorsports background that many in the industry share. Instead, he was a three-sport athlete in a small town where high school football reigned supreme. However, everything changed when he attended his first drag racing event. Michalek recalled the moment, saying, “My first opportunity to go see the sport in person is what made me fall in love with it. Unless you’re there in person, you can’t fully grasp the power and the sheer magnitude of the show that comes from these vehicles.”
It was this initial exposure to the awe-inspiring spectacle of drag racing that sparked Michalek’s passion for the sport. He started attending events with his family to support Mark Thomas, a winning IHRA Top Alcohol Funny Car driver. To get involved, Corey took up a camera and began creating promotional videos for Thomas’s team, contributing in a way that felt meaningful to him.
Michalek’s journey took a significant turn when he attended Ohio University, where he pursued a degree in Visual Communications specializing in interactive multimedia. During this time, he continued to participate on Mark Thomas’s pit crew, gaining valuable experience at the highest levels of the sport. Michalek’s dual life as a student and a pit crew member helped him develop a deep understanding of racing and the intricacies involved.
As Michalek continued his education and racing pursuits, he found himself at a crossroads. He had a burgeoning career at an advertising agency in New York, but he also had a passion for racing and storytelling. The turning point came when he and his brother entered the “Search for a Champion” contest, winning a $60,000 sponsorship that allowed them to compete in the NHRA Top Alcohol Dragster class. Corey Michalek’s versatile skills and passion for racing converged as he started producing unique content for NHRA teams, including Steve Torrence and Ron Capps.
Reflecting on this phase of his career, Corey noted, “During those times, I really began to get a grasp from a professional standpoint, not only understanding the technical skills it took to be proficient in my craft but also being able to build relationships, carry on conversations with many different folks from different industries, and understand their needs from a marketing perspective.”
In 2022, Corey made a bold decision. After 12 years with the same company, he took a leap of faith and founded React104, a business specializing in creating marketing assets for drag racing teams and organizations. React 104’s mission is to elevate the sport of drag racing by leveraging the power of digital media and storytelling. Michalek’s business venture has proven to be successful and fulfilling, bridging the gap between traditional motorsports and the digital age.
Michalek’s journey is a testament to the endless possibilities that come from following your passion and adapting to change. His work not only enhances the fan experience but also empowers teams to connect with a wider audience. As he looks ahead to 2024, Corey remains committed to his mission of pushing the boundaries of storytelling in drag racing.
Michalek explained, “I think that this is something that drag racing needs. It is something that people from both inside the sport and outside the sport are able to take advantage of and embrace, and then also be able to push themselves in their businesses even further. To be able to play a role in that has been nothing short of amazing this first year, and I can’t wait to see what 2024 brings.”