Today we induct a new Hall of Famer to the Racingkc racing legends and oh what a legend he became. It is with a heavy heart I write this article because the inductee is none other than Mike Knight, who passed away overnight, September 5, 2016. Mike is truly a behind the scenes racing hero. Every time I climb into the tractor I utilize on Green Rolling Farms I think of Mike Knight, you see the tractor we purchased from Marc Olson in 2005, is the same tractor Mike Knight utilized to sweep I-70 Speedway. This tractor and Mike were on national television when I-70 Speedway hosted the NASCAR Craftsman Truck races in 1996 through 1999, as he would use the tractor to sweep away the speedy dry.
Mike was hired as the I-70 Speedway caretaker in 1994 when Ted Carlson purchased the track. In 1995 he assumed the same role at Lakeside Speedway when that track came under Carlson ownership. Behind the scenes he maintained both tracks, the equipment needed, worked in the kitchen if needed, ensured the stands were cleaned after race events, was an outstanding plumber, (and what track doesn’t need a plumber), stocked the food, was there for deliveries, was there to open the gates and close the gates at the end of the night. Yes you could call the rule to leave the Lakeside Speedway pits one hour after the last race the Mike Knight rule, but it was so he could turn out the lights, lock the gate and get some sleep before the cleaning crew arrived at 6:30 the next morning.
In 2000 his role changed even again as 20,000 metric tons of dirt were dumped over the asphalt at Lakeside Speedway. Mike had a new role, a role he became great at accomplishing, that of dirt track guru. Mike worked to become a master craftsman at this trade. At first he learned from Butch at Park Jefferson Speedway, but when Butch told Mike he could not put enough water on the track and the second night of Mike maintaining the Lakeside dirt, it took us nearly two hours to roll in the track, Mike sought out other experts. Like an apprentice who learns the craft better than the master, Mike became the dirt track guru!
Mike was especially the Lakeside Speedway dirt track guru, as that track having the dirt lay on top of asphalt creates another challenge in and of itself. The moisture can only sink so far, and after the flood of 1993, Lakeside is notorious for seepage after heavy rains. Mike overcame all these challenges, knowing how much water to add, when we could race, and when it was best to cancel. Mike’s opinion on dirt track preparation was requested by numerous other track owners, the media (Mike was a willing participant in an All Speed Racing News article in 2003), and other dirt track prep guys throughout the country.
Mike Knight worked for various promoters through the years including Bob Baker, Marc Olson, Tim Schreckler, and most recently Mike Johnson. In fact, when Johnson was one of the owners of Lakeside Speedway he brought back Mike Knight to work the Lakeside Speedway track. The first few weeks of the new Lakeside Speedway ownership in 2013, track preparation was a challenge, when Mike returned, he taught Johnson the nuisances of the dirt on top of asphalt and what the track required to be watered, how to water, and how to roll it in. Their work together, Johnson and Knight, became a lasting friendship.
Just last week, August 27, after 4.5 inches of rain had fallen overnight at I-35 Speedway, Mike Knight called Mike Johnson, in their discussion Knight advised Johnson we had experienced a similar weather issue last year (2015), and we raced that night. Once again Mike Knight was correct, through his advice we worked the track and worked the track and races were held that night.
In June of this year was the last time Mike Knight prepped a track. Mike Knight and Mike Johnson, met midweek as they have done for the last couple of years to prep I-35 Speedway, Mike Knight ran the grader, Mike Johnson pulled the sheep’s foot. Around and around the track they would work, putting in more laps than any driver ever on race night. Up until this time, Mike Knight would return on Saturday to water the track, but not this time, he was headed to surgery and to begin the battle against cancer. Overnight cancer took a legend from us, Godspeed Mike Knight, Rest in Peace, we will miss you!