Among the bright race cars touting beer and snack companies, there will be an outlier Saturday at the Daytona International Speedway.
The No. 4 car will be wrapped in blues and blacks, with a swirling hurricane engulfing its sides. On top of the massive storm will be the all-too-familiar red hurricane symbol pasted underneath the passenger and driver doors.
The name of the vehicle is the Mike’s Weather Page Hurricane Awareness Machine.
That’s right, NASCAR and weather are coming together. What could be more Florida?
“It just makes sense to have a car in Florida and have a little bit of hurricane flair on it,” Mike Boylan, 49, of Mike’s Weather Page, said. “And it’s kind of a way of giving back a little bit to NASCAR and thanking them for supporting me.”
Boylan, Tampa Bay’s very own local weather celebrity, said the goal of the race car is to raise awareness about the danger of hurricanes, especially in the South. The car is the brainchild of JD Motorsports and Mike’s Weather Page and will feature storm-related companies, like power and insurance businesses, along with a sticker from the Florida Division of Emergency Management.
Bayley Currey will be the racer behind the wheel of the car’s entry on Saturday in the NASCAR Xfinity series called the Beef. It’s What’s For Dinner. 300 (yes, that really is the name) in Daytona at the Speedway.
Boylan, who lives in Oldsmar, created Mike’s Weather Page in 2004 during a tumultuous tropical season when four hurricanes made landfall in Florida within six weeks.
“I got tired of looking all over the internet for spaghetti models and forecasts and satellite imagery,” Boylan said. “I thought it’d be cool to have a page that was all in one place, and it slowly just compounded to what it is today.”
Boylan has some difficulty defining his role. He threw out words like website designer, blogger, influencer. Wikipedia settles on blogger. However, Boylan is not a meteorologist, and he doesn’t claim to be. Even his Twitter profile defines him as a media personality.
Mike’s Weather Page has 1.3 million likes on Facebook and nearly 200,000 followers between Instagram and Twitter. The page has gone beyond just tropics and models, and has shifted to a place to go for commentary and storm chasing.
Famous Weather Channel meteorologist Jim Cantore (the man you don’t want reporting near you in a storm) once called the page a one-stop shop for the tropics, Boylan said.
“It’s opened up a ton of doors for me, including this NASCAR gig,” Boylan said.
As much as weather is in the driver’s seat of Boylan’s life now, NASCAR has always had one hand on the steering wheel.
Since he was a child, Boylan has had a love of cars. In Pinellas County, Boylan raced radio-control cars in a local shop. When he graduated from college, Boylan began a yearly radio-controlled car racing competition called the Snowbird Nationals. The competition has grown to include people from all over the United States and across the globe, even some involved in NASCAR.
The more Boylan became entrenched in the auto racing and weather worlds, the more the two began to mingle.
Last year, Boylan put his logo on a race car in Atlanta. This year, the idea snowballed into an entire NASCAR race car.
“I’ve always had this connection with NASCAR,” Boylan said.
His father lived in Daytona Beach in the ‘50s and Boylan’s parents took him there when he was a kid.
Each year, Boylan’s family goes to Talladega, Alabama, and camps in the infield. Boylan’s oldest daughter is 17, and she has been to Talladega every year.
Over the years, as social media has grown and Boylan has taken to storm chasing, he has become more engaged with those that follow him. He has spent time in places where hurricanes have hit people heaviest, like near Mexico Beach, where Hurricane Michael landed in 2018.
“Just listening to these stories, how communities come together, I just feel like I’ve been able to really connect to people with storms,” Boylan said.
This hurricane awareness machine is another way to find that connection, Boylan said.
NASCAR and weather go hand in hand. In Florida, weather is king and can dictate the outcome of entire races. Rain delays can halt races and sometimes cause race officials to declare a winner if more than half the race has been completed, or cause a race to be moved to a different day, according to Rookie Road, an industry website.
Outside of the actual races, heavy rains and hurricanes can flood race sites, like when Hurricane Ian submerged the Daytona International Speedway in late September.
More than that, though, Boylan said he has found there is an overlap in NASCAR lovers and weather lovers. He has had plenty of recognition during races, from fans coming up to say hello, to race officials jokingly asking how the weather would be that day.
“It kind of goes back to this car thing, you know, my love of NASCAR,” Boylan said. “I want to reach out to those fans that don’t even know who I am and say you might really appreciate our little weather world and know that we got your back.”