Most NHRA drag-racing fans look at a Top Fuel dragster, marvel at its sleek, aerodynamic design, imagine how it would feel to hurtle in it down the racetrack at nearly 335 miles an hour. But they seldom think about the rear wing (or the front one, for that matter), who fashioned it, and how it got there.
Crew chiefs Mike Kloeber and Bobby Lagana and Top Fuel drivers Terry McMillen (pictured), Scott Palmer, and Terry Totten thought about it – and revered Mike Magiera, the man who designed and built so many of those wings.
Magiera died July 29 in New Carlisle, Ind. at the age of 67, and Totten said the day “will be remembered as one of the saddest days in drag-racing history. We have lost one of the greatest talents the sport has ever known.”
Kloeber, regarded as one of the most intelligent engineering-oriented tuners in the sport himself, worked with Magiera on his painstaking monostrut wing project. And Kloeber, Clay Millican’s tuner, touted Magiera’s “expertise and ingenuity” in a 2006 Competition Plus article and said, “He is often overlooked and underappreciated for his contribution to Top Fuel and the other winged dragster classes. He is constantly tweaking the design and construction.”
With news of Magiera’s passing, McMillen wrote on his Facebook page, “Some people see this as a back wing, but it’s not just a back wing - it’s a Magiera wing. Since I’ve been racing, the only wings I have used were made & designed by Mike Magiera. This morning I learned of his passing. The world of racing lost an incredible man. Praying for his family and friends. Godspeed, my friend.”
Palmer remembered Magiera, also an avid photographer, as “one of the great ones” though his social-media account and called the fabricator “a genius with anything aerodynamic and a camera . . . one of the smartest men I’ve ever met. He said, “Mike has helped me for 20 years stay out on the NHRA tour. He invested his own time and money to keep us going. What a huge loss to the world. . . . I will miss the conversations we have. He was truly a genius, and it was a privilege to have him as a friend. RIP, Mike Magiera.”
Lagana, a mainstay for the two-car Torrence Racing/Capco Construction Dragster team, said online, “We were completely in shock this morning to hear of the sudden passing of our great friend Mike Magiera. Mike, known as simply just “Magiera,” contributed numerous innovations to the aerodynamic side of drag racing and worked with some of the most iconic names. He always kept our cars hooked up and going fast with his front and rear wings.
“He had many passions also, photography being one of them,” he said. “We’ve spent so much time together over the years. He became a part of our crazy racing family. Magiera was such a hard-working and downright great human being and has left a giant impact on not only the sport but on so many of us. We will miss him very much. Godspeed, Brother!”