NORWALK, Ohio -- Return In West Virginia, coal mining is life.
>From the biggest cities to the smallest of towns, even the very people who breathe life into one of America's most naturally beautiful states, the coal industry plays a very important part in the lives of the people of the Mountain State.
But for every light bulb turned on as a result of coal-generated power, there are stories of tragedy and loss, an understanding that Martinsburg, West Virginia native and longtime racer Kevin Bealko knows all too well.
Born from that tragic accident so many years ago, Bealko and his family found healing through drag racing. And now drag racing is helping him give back to the very industry he grew up around.
Today, Bealko has turned his passion for drag racing into a successful side-venture, one that has truly blossomed over the last couple of years. Going from a single-car operation in 2007 when he bought his first Jerry Haas-built Cobalt, to the duel-car operation he heads today alongside friend and teammate John DeFlorian, Bealko is excited about the opportunities afforded him through the very sport that helped him through tough times.
"We have grown into a pretty large team. I have all four of my brothers on our team, Rob, Larry, Andy and Ben, along with so many others who make this team possible," Bealko said. "Being we are in the coal business, both of our cars represent coal mining and what it means to our country. It means cheap, affordable and clean energy while supporting jobs and financial stability for our nation."
While racing has always been in the blood of Bealko, it wasn't until 2011 when he got the itch for Mountain Motors. That year Bealko purchased a brand new Pontiac GXP from Haas and began competing in the Mountain Motor Pro Stock class with ADRL. Just one year later, Bealko met John DeFlorian, a shop foreman at the Jerry Haas race shop, and added a second team with DeFlorian at the wheel.
But still, something was missing, something that couldn't be filled by bottling up these mammoth engines in a distance of only an eighth-mile.
Bealko needed to let his cars roam free.
"I can remember watching the huge crowds of IHRA fans loving the quarter-mile Mountain Motor Pro Stock battles back in the day and I wanted to be a part of that," Bealko said. "So when I had an opportunity to get involved with my fellow racers and bring this great class back to its true home in IHRA, I jumped at the chance.
"It is our hope that the 2014 season will bring the IHRA and our MMPS class back to the forefront and create a strong future for side-by-side Pro Stock racing."
Coming off of such a successful run on the eighth-mile circuits, Bealko and DeFlorian will immediately look to establish themselves as the team to beat among the field. With such former competitors as two-time IHRA Pro Stock champion Pete Berner and other great names such as Cary and Dean Goforth, Bealko knows it will not be an easy hill to climb.
And for that reason, Bealko is excited to announce his brand new car in 2014.
"Our GXP continued to get faster and faster over the last few years, reaching a couple of semifinals and qualifying for every race, but we are ready for something new," Bealko said. "So we sold the GXP and now we are building a brand new 2014 Jerry Haas Camaro that will make its debut in Tucson in March."
Now all that is left is to put rubber to pavement and see where the 2014 season takes Bealko and these 220 mph rocket rides.
"Our Black Diamond crew is thrilled to be racing with IHRA," Bealko said. "We all feel that the IHRA represents a great future for our Pro Stock class. The 2014 schedule is awesome and we can't wait to visit and interact with fans all over the country. Race day can't get here soon enough!"
Bealko and the Mountain Motor Pro Stock class will compete at every IHRA Nitro Jam Drag Racing Series event in the United States in 2014 with the first IHRA Pro Stock champion since 2009 crowned at the IHRA Summit Racing Equipment World Finals at Memphis International Raceway in October.