Back in 1989, few, if any, knew who Mike Ashley was.

The rookie doorslammer racer from New York’s Long Island had purchased Bob Losordo’s neat Top Sportsman Thunderbird, and when the car didn’t turn heads the way he hoped, he went to veteran chassis builder Jerry Haas to purchase a new Trans-Am. He went to engine builder Scott Shafiroff and purchased a large-displacement nitrous-injected engine.

In those days, long before the internet, much less social media, Ashley’s bold moves barely made a ripple in the growing sea of the doorslammer world.

Pro Modified hadn’t been announced, but it was about to explode under the barrage of fan support and media exposure.

Duane Nichols created a traveling doorslammer show known as the United States Super Circuit. The USSC was a handpicked show of doorslammers running as the old Funny Car match race series’ of days gone by.

Just days before the first event in Budds Creek, Md., Nichols had told Ashley earlier in the week he couldn’t run the series because he already had enough cars.

“Yeah, I told him that I would just enter the bracket portion of the events and embarrass all of his cars,” said Ashley, who admitted he didn’t have a reputation in the class yet.

Ashley was given a place in the show due to breakage among the regulars.

Nichols admits he witnessed a star being born, and the new kid provided a tremendous promotional shot in the arm for his fledgling series. The brash, confident and talented 23-year-old from Long Island had more of an entourage than a proven reputation.

“I will never forget the first time he showed up,” recalled Nichols. “He pulled in there with his whole family. They had this unbelievable truck and trailer. They set up tables and put the tablecloths down; brought out the beers and champagne. His parents and family arrived in fur coats dressed to the tilt. That put him on the map overnight, that event.”

The rest of the story is in this Storytellers episode.