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Michael Sforza's Biography

My father and Mike go way back. I have come to know this man, more so, after the death of my Dad.

I am honored to have had this time, but wished I would have paid more attention before. Sadly we walk through life unknowingly... with blinders.... in a trance. It is not until something permanent and life altering happens do we take note of the importance of those that cross our paths. I, like many, am guilty.

Mike was inducted into the Hall of Fame the year before my Dad. For him, ‘being nominated was the only time he felt that somebody truly recognized him.’ Sadly, I fear this is the case for many monumental souls. Such vibrant human beings, lost in the shuffle of life. There is much information about him on the Internet and in archives. He is, and was, a man of the times.

As I sat and spoke with him, I saw bits and pieces of my Dad.

Funny, it is said that the people that surround you ‘mirror’ you. I look at my life and see so much of ‘me’ in the people of my life. No matter who... my friends, sisters, mother, husband, children... and yes, even my dog. You can’t be part of a life, and not impact that life.

Now as I sit here, I see my father in Mike. Don’t get me wrong... I do not mean he has taken the place of my father. I mean the similarities... the reason why they were such good friends. It was a joy to share our time together.

We turned through the pages of my fathers scrap book, the pictures - and Mike - told stories of a time gone by.

Mike and my dad were friends long before the racing days even started. I listened as he told me how he enjoyed many dinners at my Grandparents house, while visiting, or as he put it ‘hangin out’ with Dad. There were many mornings Mike roused my Dad for a day of racing. I listened to him complain of how hard it was to wake my Dad. How ‘It took so long to get him up?!!’

Funny?! My side of the story was that Dad was the first up in the house... no fun for us sleeping beauties - me and my sisters - who were woken by being literally bounced off the bed, or dumped out of a warm sleeping bag. All in fun, of course... at the moment his. This being one of those ‘you’ll laugh later’ stories.

Mike told of how the name ‘Charlie Dodge’ came about...

My dad had a 1940 Ford, four door that he had hopes of putting a Hemi in. Unfortunately, at the time, a Hemi was too deep for his pockets. So he put the word out that he was looking for an engine... Mike got wind of a Red Ram being sold for $50, which he relayed to my dad.

It wasn’t long before dad was barreling down the road in his ‘baby now equipped with this ‘baby Chrysler’.

As dad was driving over to see his buddies... Mike saw him coming around the corner and laughingly said... "Here comes Charlie Dodge!" That was it! The name stuck, Charlie ‘Dodge’ was born.

He told stories of racing. Of how you could feel ‘it’ on your body.

When these men started racing they only had goggles. 'Leather face masks came out later which helped. The faster you’d go the more you felt the mask pressing into your skin. Everything was a blur racing down the track. You had to be prepared to pull the shoot. 7 seconds was all you had to make your mark.'  I listened to how his car flipped... and how, thankfully, like a miracle he got out of the car and walked away.

Mike’s car was the ‘Patrician.’ It now sits in a museum. 'Don Garlits redid the car ...the headers have been changed. For the most part any changes that were done, were with the utmost respect for the car. Even going as far as measuring the writing and matching the gold leafing before repainting.'

Each picture had its own tale. The photo of ‘The Pride’ brought back a flood of memories.

‘This is the car! We had more fun in this ‘32. This is the one your father rode in with me to Florida’.....

'Gus snapped this picture from upstairs.'