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Drag Racing Sponsor Cordani Passes Away

Payne-Cordani-WallerMichael Cordani (near left), co-founder and CEO of FireIce and sponsor of numerous professional and amateur NHRA drag racers, including world champion Jay Payne (far left), Jim Dunn, Tony Bartone, Sean Bellemeur, Darrell Gwynn and Johnny Ahten, died Jan. 21, after a three-year battle with cancer. He was 53.

The vibrant New Yorker, who later moved to South Florida with his entire family, always enjoyed the sport of drag racing and began attending events as a young man with his brothers Peter and Billy. He later became involved with Gwynn’s Top Fuel dragster team as an associate sponsor, his first foray into corporate support of a racing team.

When GelTech’s flagship product FireIce, an environmentally friendly fire suppressant invented by his brother Peter, began selling worldwide, he teamed with Dunn and Bartone in an effort to spread the word. He then met and befriended Payne and in 2007 became the title sponsor of his Top Alcohol Funny Car and various Pro Mod entries.

“We are all deeply and profoundly saddened by Michael’s passing,” Payne said. “He was one of my closest and best friends, and we’re all going to miss him very much. I feel completely lucky to have met Michael and had the years we had together. He was such a positive person and gave us everything we ever needed.

“Quite frankly, his sponsorship of the team was secondary to our friendship. Michael was adamant about using the FireIce race cars as a heartfelt salute to the 1.1 million firefighters in this country. He never wanted any credit. He deflected everything to the firefighters and EMTs, and when you’d talk about the success of FireIce, he’d deflect that praise to his brother and their employees. That’s just the kind of guy he was. I’m talking about a very, very special person.”

Under Cordani’s direction, Payne routinely has hosted large groups of firefighters at the races. He has also honored certain individual firefighters by putting their names on his race cars, giving them unprecedented high-speed accolades.

“Drag racing was something Michael just loved,” Peter Cordani said. “He always had so much fun at the races, and every time he went to one he wouldn’t stop talking about it all week long.

“As much as he loved the cars and the speed, I think he loved the people that much more. I truly believe that his friendships out there carried him through these last three years, which were pretty hard at times. He always wanted to recover as fast as possible from his treatments so he could get back to the dragstrip.”

Cordani is survived by his wife Darlene, daughters Allyssa and Christina, father Bill, mother Ann, and brother Peter. He was preceded in death by his brother Billy.

Funeral services will be held at 10 a.m. ET, Saturday, at St. Edward’s Catholic Church, located at 144 N. County Road, Palm Beach, Fla.

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This story was originally published on January 24, 2014. Drag Illustrated

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