I am heartbroken to report that Drag Week competitor and fan favorite Mike Wenzler has passed after sustaining injuries sustained while apparently attempting to fill a nitrous bottle. Wenzler is best known for his brutally cool third generation Camaro who’s first life was in pro stock. Powered by a big, iron-block Rat motor that sucked down multiple stages of spray, the silver Camaro is all the things that we love about the event. Violent, fast, over-the-top, and a product of its owners talented hands.
While we do not have all the specific details, we know that Mike was found unconscious days ago in the proximity of a nitrous bottle he was apparently attempting to fill. He was struck in the head during that operation and had been hospitalized since. We received word of his passing yesterday. All of us here at BangShift are gutted.
Mike was an exceptional hot rodder, a good man, and someone who we kept in contact with during the “off” season. We’re sending our best prayers toward his family and his fellow competitors who will undoubtedly be remembering him this year when Drag Week starts in a few days.
Sometimes life just does not make sense.
In happier times here’s what I wrote about Mike and his Camaro following Drag Week 2015 –
In the realm of announcing, you are not supposed to have favorites. I always try to be enthusiastic about what I am looking at and take things as they come but there are times when rules get tossed and that happened to me at Drag Week 2015. Mike Wenzler’s third generation Camaro was my favorite car in the joint and it survived the whole week, taking home second place honors in Unlimited. A former 500ci pro stock car, it is powered by an iron block, unported Dart headed Chevy engine with a cast tunnel ram, a couple of carbs, and a face full of nitrous. This thing is everything that Drag Week is about in my eyes.
The reasons I love this car are too many to turn into a coherent story but if we want to start somewhere it is right in the mindset of the build. Yes, it is completely insane by normal guy standards but every great drag week car ever has been just that. I love it because it is not a pro mod, it was an old pro stock car that has been made street legal and it LOOKS like it should. The thing is one of the most pissed off looking third generation Camaros I have ever seen. Another reason is the engine. It is a sledgehammer but a basic one. Please do not mistake that for an insult. It is the exact opposite. There was not a laptop to be found within 50 feat of that car. Jets and wrenches, baby. The next reason is the way the car left the starting line. Mike told me that they had wanted to run quicker and that some issues with junk in the lines caused the thing to be slower than they wanted but the way this thing hit the tire and leapt off the starting line just absolutely made me smile every damned time. Those of you who remember the good old days of 1990s pro mods likely know what I am talking about. Wrapped tire, car all reared back, OH MAN!
Anyway, I think I have pretty much embarrassed Mike with the amount of public fawning I have done over the car but the honest answer is that if I could have picked any car to leave with from Drag Week 2015, it would have been his. To see this this machine in the waning light of the afternoon with no hood, all that plumbing and the stance that it has rolling down the road was among the best moments of a very memorable week.
Now…time for that Lenco to fall back between the frame rails Mike!