Mark Winterbottom first came through the gate at New England Dragway in 1984 in his daily driver, a Ford Fairlane. Mark was curious about the track, but had no intention of racing. The next thing he knew someone has written “603” on his window and he found himself in the staging lanes for a run quarter-mile. The experience began Mark’s love affair with the sport of drag racing and the people involved in it.
Mark raced the Fairlane for several years, but in 1989 Mark arrived at opening day with a 1969 Mustang, the same Mustang he is still racing today. Mark knew the Mustang was special the first day he raced it, because, despite getting stuck in the mud, a dead battery, and having to race seasoned veterans like Johnny Williams, he won that race.
Mark Winterbottom is the epitome of a true bracket racer. He has raced primarily at New England Dragway on a weekly basis for more than 35 years. He has raced the same Mustang for 31 of those years. He has built countless friendships at the track that have stood the test of time. Mark’s Mustang has gone through some modifications over the years, but it was destined to be a race car when Mark found out that one piece of chrome for the rear window was $80, and being a Yankee farmer he was not paying that kind of money to restore a car.
Mark and the Mustang soon proved their mettle when, in 1990, Mark won his first track championship. When the rules changed a few years later Mark switched classes to Super Pro rather than rewire his car. In short order, Mark had won another track Championship in the Super Pro category. Mark says that winning the Super Pro Championship was one of the most stressful seasons he has had, but he came out on top, running 11.50s in the Mustang against all types of faster cars and dragsters.
In the late 1990s, Mark took a season off and rebuilt the Mustang into its current configuration. Upgrades were made to improve both performance and safety. The Mustang’s current powerplant was built with the same engine block he originally ran in his Ford Fairlane back in 1984 when he first drove through the gates of New England Dragway. The new engine now propels the Mustang to ETs in the high 9-second range.
Mark has won ten Track Championships at New England Dragway over the course of those 35-plus years. For someone who had no intention of racing when he first arrived, that is an unbelievable accomplishment. And he has done it the way the racers did it when drag racing started in the 50s. He has worked hard, overcome obstacles, and he drives two hours each way, to the track and back home, uphill both ways of course.
Mark especially recalls the 2014 championship. On the last day of points, he had little chance to win. There was a mathematical possibility, but everything would have to go perfectly, which was highly unlikely given the competition. Mark is still amazed that he came out on top that day and won the Championship once again.
Mark will tell you it’s the laughter and comradery among his fellow racers that keeps him coming back year after year. He will also tell you it’s all business when he crosses the top of staging, where he applies the skills he has been practicing during the week. That’s what makes Mark such a great racer and human being.
And if Tom Boucher is ever looking for a backup driver for his Super Stock Camaro, Mark is ready. Yes, he said he would drive a Chevy.
The Orientals Hot Rod Club is proud to honor Mark Winterbottom with induction into the 2018 class of the New England Hot Rod Hall of Fame.