Mike Levitas, 55, lives in Pikesville with his wife Wende and their two college-age children, Harris and Erin, and would seem to be a regular guy—owning a business, etc.—except for his avocation, which is racing cars. Actually, it’s more than an avocation, Levitas is a professional race car driver along with owning Jessup-based TPC Racing, “the Mid-Atlantic’s premier maintenance, service, tuning and modification center dedicated solely to Porsche supporters,” according to their website.
Including Levitas, pictured, on left, with his car in front of Max's Taphouse, and his 2008 Porsche GT3, TPC Racing will send three cars into a pair of this weekend’s Grand Prix events: Saturday’s IMSA (International Motor Sports Association) GT3 Challenge, scheduled for a 1:30 p.m. start, and Sunday’s IMSA GT3 Challenge, scheduled for a 10:30 a.m. start. Keep an eye out for his No. 36 car with the Porsche of Towson and Merkle corporate sponsor logos.
Currently, Levitas ranks first in the IMSA GT3 Gold Cup Standings for the year, followed in second by teammate David Williams of Annapolis. TPC Racing is also ranked first among 11 teams in the GT3 Gold Cup team standings. With this weekend's races approaching, we shot Levitas a few questions:
Q: How did you get into auto racing?
Levitas: I went to Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, which literally backs up to Daytona Beach [and the Daytona International Speedway, home to the Daytona 500]. I was supposed to go into aviation, but fell in love with auto racing. I worked on restoring Corvette race cars through college.
Q: What was your first job out of school?
Levitas: I was a turbo-charging engineer with a Nissan racing team.
Q: What else did you do after college?
Levitas: I owned a Shell gas station and repair shop in Glen Burnie. I was entrepreneurial. We outgrew that after four years and moved to a larger space on Ritchie Highway, where we started the Turbo Performance Center. That later became TPC Racing when we moved to Jessup in ’98.
Q: When did you start racing?
Levitas: I started club racing in ’97. My first race was at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course. If you drop a pin into the middle of the state, it’s right there. It was good for me, experience-wise, but it wasn’t competitive enough. I won most of the club-level races and moved up to SCCA (Sports Car Club of America) races. I started pro races in 1999. I guess I was about 40 or 41. It was a little old to start doing it.
Q: What do you like about racing?
Levitas: I love the competition. Also, there’s a certain amount of camaraderie. On the course, it’s fierce, and I guess I like that combination. Plus, it’s a team sport; you need a good car, good set-up, chassis tuning, etc. You need good sponsors. You can’t do it alone. It takes a lot of people’s experience other than your own.
Q: How fast will you go in Baltimore?
Levitas: We’ll hit 150 miles per hour down the straightaway on Pratt Street. I’d say even above that. Close to 160 maybe. We should be close to 150 when we come back near the Maryland Science Center, too.
Q: What’s best about being in the car?
Levitas: Once you’re in the car, the whole world disappears. You’re not thinking about anything else. The focus is intense the whole time—not like baseball, where maybe you look around at the bleachers or talk to a teammate between pitches—I like that.”
Q: Any home field advantage?
Levitas: I’ve been driving the course backwards while it’s been open in the mornings—trying to find out where the bumps are. There’s got to be some home field advantage, right?