Story By: CAMDEN PROUD / ISMA – OSWEGO, NY – Legendary Supermodified car owner Clyde Booth and driver Mike Ordway Jr. are busy preparing for another season together on the ISMA tour.
Booth and Ordway elected not to bring the ‘Silver Bullet’ No. 61 on the full schedule in 2017, but returned full-time in 2018 to finish fifth in the point standings with two feature wins and seven top five finishes. The duo has again signed on as a franchise team in 2019.
“We’re planning to run the full season and looking to gain on where we left off with everything last year,” Ordway confirmed. “I’ve been fortunate to race for Clyde over the past few years and I think each time we go back to a race track we build off of what we had the year before.”
Booth has built and owned Supermodifieds for decades. An engineer, and the first person to introduce the true ‘aero’ Super to the Oswego Speedway, the New England native has always been known for his experiments.
“It’s no secret that Clyde likes to experiment,” cited Ordway. “We try different things and it’s very rare we will bring the same type of deal to a race track more than once. In changing things up, we always seem to go in the right direction. We’re just hoping to build on that again.”
Despite signing on to run the full season, all Booth and Ordway want to do is win races. Booth and the 61 team have never been big points racers and Ordway has absolutely no problem with that. He simply just wants to improve the package they have.
“Clyde is not big on points and points racing doesn’t matter to me either,” said Ordway. “If we get to the last couple races and we are in the hunt, then we are and if we aren’t, then we aren’t. We’ll just look to go and win some races.”
As usual, the Booth package was fast at essentially every track last season. Ordway’s 2018 run began with a fourth place at Delaware Speedway. After showing speed right out of the gate, the team decided to work on some experimenting which began at Monadnock Speedway in New Hampshire and continued at Ontario’s Jukasa Motor Speedway. Things didn’t necessarily pan out for the team at either of those facilities. Even worse, mechanical problems proved a major letdown for Ordway on Hy-Miler Weekend at Sandusky.
“We had speed everywhere we went last year, but did have quite a bit of bad luck at certain times,” offered Ordway. “We started off running fourth at Delaware and knew we’d be pretty decent. We had a good package put together, then tried stuff the next few races and kind of struggled. We actually had some mechanical problems out at Sandusky which was really disappointing for us. We dropped out Friday night and didn’t run Saturday.”
By the second half of the season, things finally started to turn in Ordway’s favor. The Windham, ME pilot returned to Lee USA Speedway in New Hampshire. It’s a venue which Ordway has spent plenty of time over the years, which included multiple trips to victory lane driving for various 350 Supermodifed teams.
“At Lee we really were able to turn things around,” recalled Ordway. “It is my home track and we had good speed right off the trailer. Track position is huge and with the way handicapping was, we were able to capitalize on those bad finishes and get track position to start up front. I have way more laps there than anywhere else which is obviously beneficial. Picking up the win was pretty neat. I’ve always dreamed of winning an ISMA race there.”
Just one short week later, Ordway then returned to the Delaware Speedway with another package entirely different from the setup his team used in June. It took some time to get there, but Ordway patiently worked his way to the front and took the lead with five to go to pick up his second win in as many events.
“When we went to Delaware the following week, it was a completely different package and we were able to hit on it again,” Ordway said. “We started tenth and I took the lead with five to go. It took a long time for the car to come in and get to the front, but we got it done and were able to pick up the win.”
Following the second Delaware event, Ordway finished fifth in the ISMA Supernationals at Oswego Speedway, struggled in the Star Classic, and again at Thompson’s World Series in October. Sometimes, though, trial and error is just as important as results.
“We were trying a lot of different stuff at Star and Thompson,” Ordway explained. “Oswego was decent though. I think we went from fifteenth to fifth. It was alright, definitely better than in the past, but not what we wanted. At the last two shows, we probably changed too much, but that’s fine. We were out of the points and figured we would build for this year and that’s why I think we are in really good shape for the upcoming season.”
Ordway will turn 30 years old this year. That makes nearly three decades of involvement in Supermodified racing. He grew up around the Star and Lee Speedways watching Mike Ordway Sr. compete. Looking back on his career, it was only fitting that his beginnings came at Lee with a car built by his father.
“I actually started in a small block at Lee,” cited Ordway. “They ran on Friday nights so it was easy for us to get up there. I raced in 2004 in a car my Dad built and won the championship with it in 2005. From there, I went and raced NEMA Midgets for a couple years and didn’t have much success, but it got me away from Lee and going to different tracks every weekend.”
Following his time in NEMA, Ordway was given what ultimately has been one of the biggest opportunities of his career. He was only 18 years old when Rick Wentworth offered a full-time ISMA ride in 2007. The talented young hot shoe certainly made the most of it. He visited victory lane in only the second big block race of his career. Ordway was then able to remain consistent throughout the season and finished a highly impressive second in points to series champion Chris Perley. Needless to say, that effort was good enough for rookie of the year honors.
“When I got to run the whole ISMA tour with Rick Wentworth’s team that was an unbelievable opportunity,” mentioned Ordway. “I was pretty much a team car to Chris Perley that year. I won in my second start and finished second in points as a rookie, but Perley was pretty dominant during that time. We were fortunate enough to get the runner-up in points, which didn’t seem too bad for my age.”
With an eye opening rookie season in the books, Ordway surprisingly did not rejoin the tour in 2008, but instead dabbled in Star Speedway’s Modified class for a year or so. He then returned to Lee Speedway with a 350 and won a few shows with that car before coming to the realization that he “just couldn’t afford to do it on his own.”
Six years had passed since Ordway’s last ISMA start when he was offered a one off deal with the Lee Vinyl team during the time Eddie Witkum had to step away due to injury in 2013. Ordway finished third with the No. 21 at Waterford Speedbowl and then “sat around for two years not doing any racing at all,” as he recalled.
In 2015, Ordway received another call, this time from the Witkum family who asked if he might be interested in driving their 350 Super at Lee. Ordway obliged, won three races, and finished third in points. It was at Thompson later that same season when this lifelong race fan had a conversation that “changed everything.”
“At the Thompson race in 2015, I was approached by Clyde Booth about driving his car for 2016 and was very surprised. Racing for him was always a dream of mine. When I was away from big block racing for so long, I pretty much came to terms that I wasn’t ever going to get to drive for Booth Racing,” Ordway explained. “When he came up to me and asked that question it was a really neat feeling for my family and I.”
If you know your Supermodified history, you surely know about the success Mike Ordway Sr. had piloting the No. 61. The former ISMA champion won dozens of winged events with the car and over a dozen non-wing shows at Oswego including the 2003 International Classic. For so many reasons, the names ‘Ordway and Booth’ will forever remain synonymous with one another in Supermodified racing. Ordway Jr. is well aware of the numbers the pair has put up over the years. He says barring that in mind sometimes isn’t very easy.
“It’s tough. I’m Mike Ordway’s kid and I’m racing for Clyde Booth. There is definitely a lot of added pressure there,” said Ordway. “I will never match what they have done, but if I can win races each year that Clyde allows me to drive his car then I am happy. I think the people that really follow along know some of the differences and know the sport, but your average fan is going to expect the same results out of me that Dad got out of the car. I try hard not to let it get to me, but it is always in the back of my mind. I often wonder if Clyde thinks Dad might have done better, but you just can’t worry about it. I do my best every time I’m on the track.”
As it turned out, it did not take Ordway Jr. very long to prove himself. In one of his very first events with Booth, he won the Summercade 100 at Lorain County Speedway. It was a special moment. A childhood dream had come true. Nearly thirty years since his father’s first ISMA win with Booth, Ordway Jr. brought the No. 61 to victory lane.
“To be able to race for Clyde is one thing, but when we went to Lorain and picked up the win in the 100-lapper that was such a relief,” recalled Ordway. “It was just an unbelievable feeling. I grew up watching my Dad race the 61. To be able to have my family there with me that day and get my first win with that car was something I’ll always remember. I was glad to get that first one out of the way quickly. It took a lot of pressure off for the rest of the season.”
Mike Sr. was present in victory lane on that memorable day in Ohio as was his wife Cathy, daughter Jessica, and daughter in-law Kelsey. It was certainly an unforgettable moment for the Ordway family and a very, very proud moment too, especially for Ordway Sr. who won’t soon forget his son’s first checkered flag in the No. 61.
“To have my Dad along for the ride is awesome and I think it’s cool for him too. He is still very competitive and isn’t afraid to tell me or my brother in-law (Trent Stephens) his opinion on things. I am constantly leaning on him for advice and try to make sure I do what he says or I might end up getting in trouble,” joked Ordway.
Ordway Sr. recently moved to North Carolina not far from where Booth has relocated his race shop. It allows him to be involved in the day to day operation of the team, at least in some way, shape or form. He isn’t always in the shop with Clyde, but Ordway Jr. says when he’s not, he usually is on the phone. “They have always had this unbelievable chemistry together,” he said.
Supermodified fans will remember the period of more than six years in which Ordway Sr. did not pilot a car. In the meantime, the likes of Doug Didero, Dave Shullick Jr, Ted Christopher, and Jon McKennedy all saw seat time in the 61. Ordway was then called upon to return to the seat in 2012. It has now been more than six years since his last ride and Mike Sr. is in his late 50’s. Have we seen the last of him in a Supermodified? “Never say never,” his son says. At least don’t bet against it, anyway.
“I wouldn’t say it’s out of the question,” offered Ordway. “When Clyde approached him about me driving the car, Dad expressed that he’d love to see me have the chance to race, but he would like to drive too. If he did get back in a car, it probably would only be in Clyde’s. I do think he’s at a point where he enjoys being hands on with the race car, helping me out or helping my brother in-law out. If neither of us had anything to do with it, I think Dad would most likely still be racing cars, but right now he doesn’t have the opportunity. He’s too focused on me winning races.”
Mike Ordway Sr. has done it all. He’s won the Hy-Miler, Star Classic, International Classic, and World Series, but his son is well on his way to achieving similar feats. Ordway Jr. has already crossed the Hy-Miler off his list. He says the Star Classic, or perhaps the ISMA Supernationals are next on his radar.
“As far as ISMA goes, I was fortunate enough to win the Hy-Miler with Clyde and also at my home track of Lee which was special,” mentioned Ordway. “I would definitely like to win the Star Classic. That would be another dream come true. Clyde has won it before and so has Dad. I grew up right down the street from Star and went to high school in Epping, so that’s home. To be able to win the Star Classic would be cool and same thing with Oswego on Classic Weekend.”
Ordway Jr. was hardly a teenager when his father won the Classic at Oswego, but remembers it well and would love to do the same someday. He called it what may be his “ultimate goal.” After all, he has spent as much time at the Steel Palace as anywhere else, even competing in the 200 once before.
“I have spent so much time with Dad at Oswego over the years,” explained Ordway. “It started with the Graves team in the early 90’s and then with Clyde in the early 2000’s. Ultimately, the one we all want to win at Oswego is on Sunday afternoon, but for me that is not an opportunity at this point. If I could win anything up there or in Supermodified racing I would say it has to be that race.”
Oswego fans have fallen in love with the No. 61 car over the years. Booth says he thought management was doing “all the right things” with the new rule change implementing a spec rear wing, but is “focused on ISMA” and does not plan to participate in any events there. Is there any chance that might change down the road?
“At the moment I would say probably not, but anything can happen,” offered Ordway. “Right now Clyde is pretty much at the point where he just wants to focus on the full ISMA deal. The car he has is definitely geared towards the top wing so that’s what we’re looking at for now. I would say the small wing deal at Oswego is not a possibility, but maybe someday. Who knows.”
Now three seasons and four wins later, the Booth deal may have come as a surprise to Ordway, but it has proved a successful one for owner and driver. With a strong plan in place and as good a package as the team has ever seen, fans know never to count the No. 61 out, even for the points title. Ordway simply looks forward to another season living his dream.
“It would’ve been nice to run NASCAR or IndyCar, but this is what I have wanted to do my entire life,” Ordway said. “All I ever wanted was to race for Clyde Booth. I am excited for another season and am going to give it my 100% week in and week out. The only thing I want to do is make Clyde’s cars faster. My biggest fear is letting him down.The success he’s had is unbelievable and I want to continue it. I know Clyde will only put who he feels is the right person in his car and right now he apparently think it’s me. I just want to get the job done for him.”
In addition to keeping busy with ISMA, Ordway is also working on a 350 Supermodified for his brother- in- law Brad Babb. They hope to campaign the car for select races in New England this season and also at the Oswego Speedway.
Between Ordway Sr, Ordway Jr, Stephens, and Babb, racing will continue to be a way of life in the Ordway family for several years to come.