Finksburg Man Runs Athletic Program At Beth Tfiloh


September 23, 1990|By Stanley C. Dillon

Every participant in motor sports dreams of landing that one major sponsor, but the odds of landing one are astronomical.

For every person that lands a deal, many are rejected over and over again.

Last January, Todd Harris of Westminster was one driver fortunate enough to realize his dream when he became a member of the Castrol GTX Racing Team.

Harris is the all-American boy, the Cinderella story that people like to read about, a rag-to-riches tale.

It was not easy for Harris to obtain the sponsorship, just as life has not been easy for him. Harris is not one to sit and merely hope that it will happen. He is a person that makes things happen.

Ever since he could play with Matchbox cars on the floor, Harris wanted to be a drag racer.

Todd was a high school dropout. He quit school at the age of 16 to help support his mother and younger brother and applied for a job at a Honda dealership.

His first job was to put together a motor that was in bits and pieces, left unfinished by a mechanic that had just been fired. By lunchtime, he had the motor running and had his first job. He later finished third-highest in his class at mechanic's school.

While working, he obtained his GED diploma at night. To support his racing, he worked two jobs.

He worked in the day at Brooks Buick in Towson, Baltimore County, first as a mechanic and later as a foreman. At night he repaired cars. His soon opened his own shop and continued to work his daytime job.

Four years ago, Harris made one of the most important decisions in his life -- he left a well-paying, secure job to go full-time in his own business, Harris Automotive. His mother, Judith, left her job with Miller Asphalt to handle the office duties. His business has grown -- he now has a new shop and seven full-time employees.

Todd's success did not go to his head. Instead of spending money on fancy cars, he put his younger brother, Jeff, through college.

Jeff attended University of Schiller in Strasbourg, France, for two years and graduated with honors from Johnson & Wales University in Providence, R.I., with a degree in marketing.

Jeff's major has been important in Todd's sponsorship proposal, and the younger brother continues to assist in the promotion.

Like every other motor sports competitor that seeks sponsorships, Harris had the door closed in his face again and again, but he never gave up.

One day, Harris noticed the cleanliness of an oil company's delivery truck when it delivered some products to his store. He sent a letter to that oil company, Castrol Oil, requesting an interview, followed by numerous phone calls.

"I told them that I wouldn't stop calling until I got an interview," Harris recalled. "I called every day. It was the 37th call that they agreed to give me a 15-minute interview with its motor sports director. He told me I had 15 minutes and not to be late."

The 15-minute interview last January stretched into two hours, and Harris was able to sell himself and his new dragster to the Castrol director. Though the Castrol team was complete with six drivers and the budget was set, the sports director made room to include Todd.

In February, Harris rolled his car out of the shop and transported it to New Jersey, where the Castrol people had their familiar green, black and red colors applied. By March, his car was ready.

And he has done well thus far.

He placed third in a race at Columbus, Ohio, and was fourth at the Summer Nationals at Englishtown, N.J. He is currently first in points in the Competition Photo class in the Maryland-Pennsylvania-New Jersey area.

He has made the finals in the Pro-Free Nationals at Maryland International Raceway in Budds Creek and reached the semifinals at the National Hot Rod Association National Open at Beaver Springs, Pa.

He won the Super Comp class during the Fourth Annual Mason-Dixon Super Chevy Sunday at the U.S. 13 Dragway 27th Anniversary Program in Delmar, Del.

Last weekend at the Keystone Nationals at Maple Grove Dragway in Reading, Pa., Harris met and raced with the rest of the Castrol team.

Becoming part of the Castrol team meant more than just racing -- Harris became a marketing representative. Harris recently had to take his car to Veterans Stadium in Philadelphia to have a photo taken with the Philadelphia Eagles cheerleaders.

Harris plans on going on the road next year to national meets throughout the country.

"I am at the bottom of the rack," explained Harris. "I still have a long way to go. I want to go to Top Alcohol next."

His ultimate goal is to reach the Top Fuel class.

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