Uncut: Yellow Bullet’s Monty Mikho Interviewed
Anyone who’s spent more than an hour on the internet has been shocked and surprised by something they’ve found, but when you visit a website with the motto, “Where the weak are killed and eaten,” you’ve been fairly warned. That’s the tagline for Yellowbullet.com, the brainchild of Monty Mikho, and one of the most active drag racing message boards online. With more than 30,000 registered users, Yellowbullet is the 24-hour, 7-day hub for racers from as far away as Australia and the Middle East, and if it’s happening in the world of straight-line competition, it’s being talked about in the forums.
Intentionally advertising-free, Yellowbullet is about more than just tech, news, and bench racing (though there’s a constant flood of both good information and trash talk) – politics, guns, hunting, and even cooking all have their own sections. But as you might guess from the tagline, it’s a rough-and-tumble environment where nobody pulls any punches, and everyone’s free to have their own opinion, as long as they’re ready to be told exactly how wrong they are.
We sat down with Mikho to find out how a hobby site grew over just a few short years into one of the most influential gathering places for drag racing on the web.
powerTV: If somebody who’s never heard of Yellowbullet.com asks you what in the hell is going on, what would you say?
Monty Mikho: “I would tell everyone to keep away, to be honest to you (laughs). I think the word is out on the Yellow Bullet. I think the community has built up itself. People coming around now are probably just there to post up that they are angry with a manufacturer, they got screwed, or got robbed. We see that more and more frequently; that is why I closed it for awhile. We started getting idiots that would come on and register with multiple names and create all sorts of problems. The idea of the site was to be responsible for you own actions. You don’t run into a court room and yell at the judge – you have common sense not to do that. But if you are going to bash someone, make sure your name is on it or underneath it so they know who to come to. Then I started getting a crazy amount of emails from people that genuinely wanted to contribute, and that is why I opened it back up.”
powerTV: So how did you create Yellowbullet.com, and why?
Monty Mikho: “Yellowbullet started out as a car website. Like any other racer that you know, we started out just having a car site, trying to get sponsors and just seeing what was going on. My personal reason for starting the site was visiting the other message boards and mixing it up and having a lot of fun. Sometimes a little bit of contradiction or a disagreement would happen, tempers would flare, and someone would tell me to go get lost and share my opinion somewhere else. Some guy from one website even told me if I thought it was so easy, ‘start your own website.’ Being the computer dummy that I am, I had no idea how to do that but I started looking around and sure enough there was an icon in Windows for [Microsoft web creation application] Front Page. I double clicked on it, and holy shit, it started a website! Then the bulletin board was added and we were on our way from there.”
powerTV: How do you get from a little web page about your car to a monstrous message board with a thousand or so people looking at it at any given moment?
Monty Mikho: “We’ve never really asked for people to come aboard. I know a couple of people that went out and solicited the site. But after a little while the word got out and it grew quickly after that.”
powerTV: Where did the name Yellowbullet come from?
Monty Mikho: That’s the darndest thing. One of the members on the website had a site name that I wanted, smallblockpower.com. I was asking him for the name because he wasn’t really doing anything with it, but I knew there was no way he was going to do that. I just started looking for names and Yellowbullet popped up. It was the name I was using for my car at the time and it stuck when we got the bulletin board up. After being the site address for a while it just stayed.
powerTV: The forums are a pretty vigorous free-speech zone, and users can’t delete their own posts, or even edit them after more than a couple minutes elapse. Moderation is kept to a bare minimum, and people really have to work at it to get their username banned. That’s gotta lead to some interesting situations… What sticks out in your mind?
Monty Mikho: “I actually did get served with papers about three years ago. It gets you out of your shoes and shakes you up a bit. It wasn’t even a member of the site; it was a eBay seller that sold a lot of product. What happened was someone bashed him, but the bash wasn’t that bad. But since the board got pretty popular, when you searched the guy’s name in the search engines, that thread came up at the top every time. It would come up as ‘Don ____ is a *&@#ing crook.’ He obviously wanted to get that removed and hired an attorney to do so, though it took him a year to get the paperwork served. I basically got a letter that said I had 14 days to comply, and we did. The funny thing is, it had still even been there for a year.”
powerTV: Who were some of the original members of the site?
Monty Mikho: “Jimmy Biggs was there from the beginning. Ray, who posts as 7DMach1, was another one. There were several of them and I’m sure I’m leaving out several important people but everybody that has been part of the site has really helped. The site isn’t really from me starting it; it’s from people liking it and pushing it forward.”
powerTV: When you go out to the races, do people actually recognize you and come up to you like you’re a celebrity?
Monty Mikho: “I don’t know about all that (laughs). You get that sometimes, though it is kind of embarrassing – I just want to fit in with the crowd. The members have just made the board what it is, and I have nothing to do with that. You know, there was a concern. I am putting this race together now with [Pro Mod racer Jim] Halsey and there was some concern that people were going to come and burn the place down. What I explained to them is that the people on the internet are like the beer drinkers – they become assholes when they drink beer. Well, the internet is the beer for these guys, though when you go the dragstrip, these guys are overly nice. You know, I met Jeremy Glass, probably the most hated guy on the internet. He really a super nice guy – but behind the keyboard he becomes an asshole.”
powerTV: Speaking of putting on races, do you really hate eighth mile racing or is it all a ploy?
Monty Mikho: “(laughs) I love racing altogether, I really do. If it comes down to racing, I would race eighth mile. But if it comes down to watching, I want quarter mile. The NMCA tried to go to an eighth mile format a number of years ago and it was just a flop up north. From a racer’s perspective, you would have to be an idiot to say you wanted to go the extra distance. You save the parts and its definitely scary getting down the back half. I know a lot of people say that you’re just driving the back half of the track – the people that say that have never driven down a race track. The back half is where your brain is thinking the most and where it goes wrong, and I know that’s is where it goes wrong for me (laughs).”
powerTV: Back to Jim Halsey for a second, if you don’t mind. How did you end up with that big Yellowbullet sticker on the side of his Pro Mod Camaro in 2008?
Monty Mikho: “A lot of people were under the impression that I paid him to do it. It’s really odd. I got a call from Jim Halsey out of the blue – I did not even know the guy or have a direct relationship with him. I knew he ran Cecil County Dragway and had seen his Pro Mod Camaro on the internet. That’s all I knew of him. Jim calls out of the blue and asks me where he could buy a really big Yellowbullet sticker. I asked him what he needed it for and he said he wanted to put it on the side of his car. I said that I can’t really afford that, and he told me he wasn’t asking for nothing and he actually wanted to buy the sticker. I told him if he was going to stick it on the side of the car for nothing I would buy it. So we argued back and forth and I went to a local printer and had two big stickers made the size he wanted. I met him down at Milan Dragway and it was a phenomenal experience. It’s heart moving to actually see your stickers go on the side of a Pro Modified car. At that time he was number one in the Pro Mod points. So he put them on originally for one race here in my hometown of Detroit, and after that plans were to remove them. We’ll, after putting the stickers on he was seeing more and more Yellowbullet members walking up to the car and talking. He had never had that many people walk up and introduce themselves. He decided to leave them on for the rest of the year. After that, several Pro Mod guys started emailing me for sponsorship. In reality, there was never any money in the deal.”
powerTV: There are some users on the board with thousands of posts, and of course new people joining all the time, and they’re not always the kind of hardcore racers that first filled out the ranks. How do you make sure Yellowbullet caters to both groups?
powerTV: Yellowbullet has become a hub for information and news about heads-up racing, and it seems like you’ve been doing a lot to help promote the growth of the sport at a grassroots level.
Monty Mikho: “Having done it for a couple of years, we are all about promoting heads-up racing. I have not done it as of late but the site has always been about people promoting themselves and the series they race in. That’s what the whole concept of the site is. The whole drag racing community has always been about helping one another out. We’re not a very, very big bunch, so any resource we can have and use is beneficial for everybody.”
powerTV: There’s always a bit of a divide in the real world between heads-up drag racers, and the guys who run index classes or brackets. Do you feel like that’s an issue on the board, too?
Monty Mikho: “We’re really open to any type of racer that wants to participate on the site. While heads-up racing is popular, I’ve street raced and bracket raced and I’m open to anybody that’s racing and having fun. Who cares what they are doing or what they are driving or how fast they are going? We are open to everybody. I know on the board some of the heads-up racers kinda look down on the bracket racers and the bracket racers look down on the heads-up racers. I really enjoy having the bracket racers out there [at the track] because it gives us a little more time to get prepared for the next round. If you talk to the bracket racers at the track you can get a good read on how good the track is so there is a lot we can learn off them as well. The heads-up stuff is rather expensive, so when i can’t afford that I just take my little truck and go bracket racing.”
powerTV: If you had unlimited funds, what racing class would you run?
Monty Mikho: “If I had unlimited funds I would have a big fishing boat (laughs). For a racing class, I always wanted to run Top Fuel. The adrenaline rush driving a Top Fuel car would exceed what I have experienced so far. If funds were unlimited, it would be a Top Fuel car and I’d be choking up on the nitromethane.”
powerTV: Who were some of the drag racers you followed back when you were getting started in the sport?
Monty Mikho: “My favorite racers growing up were the C.A.R.S., Inc. guys like Rick Dyer and Danny Scott. I have a friend that works for C.A.R.S., Inc. so I’ve always been attached to their cars. Those guys are what got me to the track, rather than being a young punk racing his 15-second car on the street. The car I built was modeled after one of their cars. By the time I got it done it was a 9-second car, and that streetable set-up became a thing of the past. I thought it was the coolest thing in the world to get it done, and when I hit the track everyone else was running in the 8-second zone.”
powerTV: So what does the future hold for Yellowbullet and its users?
Monty Mikho: “My plans are to make it as beneficial as I can for the racers. Make it a site where they can promote themselves. That’s the reason the site was started in the first place. I don’t charge anybody any money to post their company name and banner on their signature. If they want to look for sponsorship through the site, that’s great. A lot of people have been successful in that. I get a lot of ‘thank you’ letters as well as some ‘screw you’ letters. The racer resource side of the site I’d like to harness so people can benefit from being a member, either by sponsorships or classified ads. What better time than right now with the economy to have a site where the racer can sell themselves and help themselves out? It would make me happy. The front page, a lot of people ask what I’m going to do with that. I’m just not talented or smart enough to really move that forward. I’d like to use that front page to try and move racers forward with their programs. We’ll see what happens to the front page.”
powerTV: Did you ever think the site would get this big in general?
Monty Mikho: “Never. As a matter of fact, I only started the site to say a few things and shut it down, but then it just kept growing. It is the freedom – the ability to express yourself there. People knew me from all around the net for posting on message boards and that I have been pretty outspoken, getting banned from one place to another. People see that and they think they can have the same freedom here.”
powerTV: With so much web traffic, there has to be the temptation to cash in, but you’ve steadfastly stayed away from selling ad space. You will take donations but you aren’t about the banner ads, and you pretty much let people promote themselves and their businesses without much interference. What’s the deal there?
Monty Mikho: “I am a small business owner as well, and I think everybody should be given the opportunity. And then there is the small guy that might not always have the budget. I have a lot of members that have started businesses and been successful with them, knowing they always have the freedom to post up what they want free of charge. There is some good and bad that goes with that. I have seen some sites that have gone bad by governing what is being posted because a sponsor might not be happy with it.”
powerTV: With as big as it’s gotten, how has managing the site affected your “real life” and business?
Monty Mikho: “It becomes more and more work and less enjoyment for me than when the original site started. In the beginning, I got to enjoy the site along with everybody else, but now it becomes more of a job. There is always a middle point with the site, and it has gone past the middle point with me because now it’s more work than enjoyment. I can still post my garbage just like everybody else, but other areas of the site consume a lot of time. I never really let it interfere with my business, and I work on the site when I can.”
powerTV: With the popularity of Twitter and Facebook, what effect do you think those social media sites will have on the traditional message board?
Monty Mikho: “I wish I could tell you about Twitter and Facebook. I know they exist but I have no idea how they work. With Facebook, the guys I went to high school with ask if I have an account. I’m just not into that thing. The message board always seems to work for me and that’s what I stick to.”
powerTV: How do you feel the site has changed since you first started it?
Monty Mikho: “Obviously things have changed over the years. The overall thing is that it’s more popular. It’s probably the same amount of idiots there percentage-wise; just the numbers are bigger now, so the idiots are more apparent.”
powerTV: Has anyone tried to buy you out and run YB themselves?
Monty Mikho: “Yeah, I actually had a bunch of people that came in about 1.5 years ago that wanted to buy it. Though what it comes down to is, will you be happy with that? The members have been buying the site [with donations], so why not let them keep the place they built?”