National Dirt
Thursday, 3 February 2022


Bundy Mitchell (left) and son, Ethan Mitchell (right). Bundy Mitchell (left) and son, Ethan Mitchell (right). Rich Forman Photo


By: Richie Murray – USAC Media

Mooresville, North Carolina (February 3, 2022)………Ethan Mitchell remembers the day vividly.

December 1, 2021, just a handful of days removed from the conclusion of the USAC NOS Energy Drink Midget National Championship season, his father, Bundy Built Motorsports’ patriarch Bundy Mitchell returned to the shop after a visit to the dentist that very morning.

Shortly thereafter, Bundy began to feel pain in his chest, and expressed his sudden ailment to an employee of his.  Initially thinking he was just messing around, the situation soon became a serious matter.  A drive to the hospital followed, and moments after walking into the building, all the signs were clear, Bundy was having a heart attack.

Immediately, the medical team went to work, placing a stent in his leg, which worked momentarily, and a shock from a defibrillator was delivered in order to restore a normal heartbeat.  Shortly after, the stent clotted, and Bundy went into cardiac arrest.  An estimated 15-20 shocks were applied to Bundy, which brought him back for a second time.

Since that point in time, the struggle for Bundy has been real as he deals with the ongoing aftereffects from that day that forced him onto a ventilator for over a month while he lay in a medically induced coma.  When he came to, Bundy had no recollection of the amount of time that had passed.

After nearly two months in the hospital, Bundy was recently released to begin rehabilitation.  Now 50 pounds lighter, Bundy continues to make great daily strides, putting in the work to regain his strength and return to the Bundy that is known and loved across USAC pit areas, a place, in time, he’ll make his return to.

“He’s kind of just dealing with his body right now,” Ethan explained.  “With the battle scars and wounds he has, it’s just going to take time.”

That makes the start of the 2022 USAC season quite different for Ethan, the 20-year-old driver who hails from Mooresville, N.C.  Usually working on the car and traveling up-and-down the road with his father by his side, Ethan will be there to race without his guidance when the time arrives to begin with the season openers on February 11-12 at Bubba Raceway Park in Ocala, Fla. along with all the USAC national points races throughout year.

However, Ethan has already indicated he will be absent for the (non-points) race in March at the Southern Illinois Center in Du Quoin.  That way, he can maximize the  time he can spend with his dad and tend to his needs while he’s on the mend.

“That’ll give me another month and a half to get situated,” Ethan said.  “If my dad needs re-learning how to walk, building a railing for his house, really anything, I would like to be near him and help him out.”

The family business is racing engines.  From dirt bikes to micro sprints to midgets, that’s the name of the game for the Mitchells.  But less than a decade ago, Ethan embarked on his own racing career, following in the steps of his father who initially made his name on two wheels.

Ethan lived with his mother in Tennessee at the time when his father was making the cross country move from California to North Carolina.  Ethan stayed the summers with his dad, then got started behind the wheel of an outlaw kart at nearby Millbridge Speedway.  After that, Ethan never left North Carolina and, a couple years later, Ethan’s mom also made the move to the Tar Heel State.

After outlaw karts came the purchase of a modified.  However, after Ethan tested a midget for family friend Steve Reynolds – who his dad knew through building engines while Ethan drove Reynolds’ outlaw kart on occasion – Ethan knew the course he and his dad wanted to take moving forward.

“I came back down to North Carolina and told dad, ‘I think I want to sell the modified and go midget racing.  I think this is more up my alley and something I’d rather do than race a modified.’”

The modified was promptly sold and a midget chassis was purchased from Reynolds.  And, after weeks of research, the Mitchells decided to go with an engine style outside the norm of midget racing, but very familiar to themselves.  Bundy went with the Honda K24 platform due to his familiarity with the setup while building dirt bike engines.

Being self-starters and all, the Mitchells made theirs a Bundy Built, plugging one of their own Honda engines in it to help minimize their costs and bring it all in-house.

Ethan has been staying on top of it throughout the winter, keeping the midget operation together while his father recuperates, and admitted to growing pains with the car with the lighter motor, much different from the setup of other teams.  The setup has seen success in qualifying with fast times in each of the past four seasons with USAC but has encountered struggles when the track surface gets slick, which they attempted to remedy with weight distribution to the left side of the car, which began by leaning the engine at a 45-degree angle before bringing it back to “straight up and down,” noting that they need to get equal before they can get ahead of the competition.

Although, a top-three run in April of 2021 at Oklahoma’s Port City Raceway took the cake for Ethan and Bundy Built’s finest performance with the series thus far, gaining respect and attention from fans along with his fellow competitors in the pit area.

“We haven’t given up on it,” Ethan emphatically stated.  “We’ve come this far and, trust me, we’ve thought about quitting on it a few times with how many times we’ve blown up.  But it’s part of any engine development, I’d say.  We’re doing what we can and getting there little by little.”

Those little-by-little adjustments include making wholesale changes on the car, which got it going in the right direction during January’s Chili Bowl Midget Nationals, providing him more insight and a newfound confidence entering his fifth season on the USAC tour.

“Everybody says that first win is the hardest, then after that, it comes a little bit easier; I don’t know if that’s true or not,” Ethan admitted.  “First off, we’ve got to mark that first win off the list to even be in contention for a second and third.  The goal is to be more consistent and to put a string of top-fives and top-tens together.  If we can consistently get there, we’re one step away at that point from being in victory lane.”

Ethan Mitchell and the Bundy Built Motorsports No. 19m will begin the full 37-race series schedule begins on February 11-12 with the season opening Winter Dirt Games XIII at Bubba Raceway Park in Ocala, Fla.