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‘Good ol' Charlie Brown’: Super Stock Legend Mike Boyles to Enter IHRA Hall of Fame

Thursday, 20 May 2021

Mike Boyles’ car is as iconic as he is.

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While it is far from intimidating at first glance, when competitors showed up to the racetrack and saw that brown and white 1957 Chevy wagon with Charlie Brown and the rest of the Peanuts gang adorning the side pull into the staging lanes, they knew they were in for a long day.

Such is the legacy left by Super Stock legend and eight-time International Hot Rod Association (IHRA) World Champion Mike Boyles, who was selected as part of the inaugural IHRA Hall of Fame class as the IHRA celebrates its 50th anniversary in 2021.

Over a career spanning the entirety of the existence of the IHRA, Boyles racked up titles, national honors, and over 200 career victories all from behind the wheel of his iconic ’57 Chevy wagon. And it all came about thanks to an unlucky incident to a colleague back in 1969.

“I was working at the dragstrip and this guy that was running a car there also ran a garage and had a radiator shop. He got radiator stuff on his hands one day and he couldn’t run his car, so I drove it for him,” Boyles recalled. “I had run a street car before just for the fun of it, but that was my first time in a car built for drag racing. I ran it for a while and did fairly well with it. From then on I was hooked.”

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Boyles began racing with the IHRA during its inaugural season in 1971, winning his first IHRA title in 1975. By the early 90s, the North Carolina native had compiled an impressive eight IHRA World Championships in Super Stock in 1975, ’78, ’80, ’82, ’85, ’90, ’91 and ’92.

He won Classic Gear Jammer championships in 1997, ’98 and 2008, as well as the 1983 Stroh’s Sportsman Cup. He was inducted into the North Carolina Drag Racing Hall of Fame in 2010.
All told, Boyles figures he has over 200 wins to his name, among them 22 national event victories and over 50 wins in the IHRA’s various national points-earning divisional formats.

“God was good to me,” Boyles said. “I didn’t deserve to win a lot of times that I won. I just messed up less than the other person; I made the fewest mistakes.”

His most memorable wins, according to Boyles, took place at the legendary Bristol Dragway, where he counts himself as one of the winningest sportsman drivers in the track’s storied history.

“I had taken time off from 1987 to 1989 after Billy Meyer cancelled the class and I had two kids I was putting through college. In the early 90s, after Super Stock came back, I won four Bristol races in a row for a total of 25 rounds without a loss at the spring and fall races for two years,” Boyles said. “Combined I have eight wins at Bristol and, to my knowledge, I have the most sportsman wins ever at the track.”

In addition to Bristol, Boyles accumulated trophies at a number of different tracks up and down the East Coast, including Norwalk, Lakeland, Florida, Rockingham, New York International and Bristol.

The vast majority of those wins took place inside the cockpit of his famous brown wagon.

Boyles began driving the car in 1971 and later bought it in 1977. The 3,600 pound monster was a beast on the track, but also a pain off of it, leading to Boyles having his first opportunity to get behind the wheel.

“The guy that owned the car ran it in the late 1960s, but it kept breaking axles and rear ends because he couldn’t run anything, but a regular old Chevrolet ’57 rear end under it and the car weighed 3,600 pounds. So he parked it and built a Camaro,” Boyles said. “I asked him if I could run it and he said if I fixed the rear end and got some axles and a spool to put in it I could. After that it quit breaking and I started winning. I won like seven weeks in a row and it paid $60 for first place.”

After running the car for the first time in 1971, Boyles bought the machine in 1977.

And the rest, as they say, his history.

For all his championships, except for a brief window in 1978 when it blew a motor and he won the championship in a Nova driving for Rodney Barnett, Boyles’ entire career has taken place inside the big brown wagon.

Despite the countless winner’s circle celebrations and on-track accomplishments, Boyles is most recognizable not by what’s under the hood but by what’s on the side of that car. Characters from the iconic Peanuts cartoon, created in 1950 by Charles M. Schultz, have made his Super Stock wagon famous.

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“Everybody called it the ‘big brown wagon’ and (Lyle Everson) wanted something different so he took it to a guy and told him to come up with something to put on it. He put that picture of Charlie Brown and Lucy on it that said, ‘Damn You Charlie Brown,’” Boyles said. “After that it just stuck. In fact, almost everyone at the track calls me Charlie. Not many people call me Mike, not at the drag strip anyway.”

During his career, Boyles garnered a lot of attention – both good and bad – for his performance on the track. He recalls drivers coming from all around the country to try and beat him and, for the most part, sending them home empty handed.

“I probably had a few rivalries, but I tried not to look at it like that. I knew a lot of them wanted to beat me and they built cars to beat me. And some of them actually did beat me. But over the long run, I kept hanging on until I did better than they did,” Boyles said. “I had a guy out of Mooresville who had a ’57 and he kept building motors trying to outrun me. Then there was this guy out of Wisconsin. I beat him and his ’57 and the next year he came to Bristol with a sign on the back of his car that said, ‘goodbye Charlie Brown.’

“He was running about two-tenths quicker than I was and we had a pro tree back then. I got ahead of him on the tree and beat him by just a little bit. Coming back up the return road, my buddy handed me a cold beer and said, ‘you earned this one.’ Over the years, guys built cars to try and beat me and a lot of them had faster cars, but somehow or another, I managed to get lucky and do well.”

Boyles’ last IHRA win came at a points race at Piedmont Dragway back in 2009, and he had a runner-up at Rockingham in Super Stock in 2013.

At the age of 75, Boyles continues to race, earning two wins and a third-place finish last year in local competition.

While his days of traveling the country competing for national titles may be over, he relishes a career that includes inductions into the North Carolina Drag Racing and IHRA Hall of Fame's, as well as his National Driver of the Year award. And he isn’t done driving just yet.

“I am glad to still be as competitive as I am,” Boyles said. “I am 75-years-old and those young boys are probably asking, ‘what is he still doing out here?’

“But I am here to have fun. That is how it has always been. I just went and had fun. I wanted to be competitive, but I wanted to do my part for the sport. I just went out there and raced my lane. I want to race as long as I can. I might not beat anybody, but I’m not telling them I can’t beat them.”

Last modified on Thursday, 20 May 2021

 

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