What type of motor sports enthusiast would you expect to say the following?
"I love the thrill of racing, the feel of acceleration. It is impossible to describe. Even if I lose a race, I still feel high."
These weren't the words of a drag racer or sprint car driver, but the feelings of snowmobile racer Mike Haga of Gamber.
Around this time of the year, most motorsports are winding down. But one is just beginning -- drag racing with snowmobiles. The first race of the year was run last Sunday on the grounds at the Kingsdale, Pa., Volunteer Fire Company just over the state line from Taneytown.
Grass dragging is a family outing for Bill Haga and his brothers, Don, Mike and Tim. And they don't wait until it snows to race.
Grass dragging is just what the name implies, drag racing snowmobiles on grass. Sometimes, like Sunday, the track is mostly mud. Later in the year, it could be on snow.
The Hagas will race their sleds whenever they can from fall until spring and travel throughout Pennsylvania and New York to get their fun and thrills.
The Hagas aren't the only ones who enjoy the sport, as more than 115 sleds raced Sunday. Two sleds in the same class race a 500-foot course in the double-elimination competition.
The classes in sled racing are determined by the horsepower-to-weight ratio of the machines. In addition to their own class, sleds can be raced in a higher class as long as the driver pays the extra entry fee.
Sunday, Bill, the youngest of four brothers at 35, raced his Yamaha 340 SRX sled in Stock B class and in the advanced Super Stock class. Bill finished out of the money in his own class, a class that he has won regularly over the last five years, but won the super stock class racing the 500 feet strip in 7.35 seconds.
"I just beat myself in my own class," explained Bill. "I was faster, but the other man had a better take-off."
But Bill made up for it in the super stock event. Not everyone is willing to race in a higher class, but that doesn't bother Bill.
"I figure I went there to race and besides, I get more racing time entering more than one class," Bill added.
Because of the muddy track conditions Sunday, the elapsed times were slow. It is not unusual for the stock sleds to reach speeds of 70 miles an hour on a fast surface.
Overall, the Hagas had a good day. Mike ran third in A-stock and his 18-year-old son Chuck won on a Scorpion sled in E-Stock. The other two brothers, Don and Tim, helped out.
"Every good racer needs a good pit crew," added Mike. "Whoever is not racing will have a wrench in his hand."
The Hagas have always liked racing. Tim, the oldest brother at 50, used to race a '55 Chevy at Lincoln Speedway in Hanover, Pa., in the early 1960s and later switched to drag racing cars.
Mike also did quite a bit of drag racing cars before he was drafted in the early 1970s and picked it up again before he got married.
Natives of Reisterstown, the Hagas moved one by one to Gamber in the 1970s. Tim was the first to make the move to Carroll County and the first to have a snowmobile. It wasn't long before the rest of the family had them.
"After Tim had his, the rest of us followed," said Bill. "We started racing among ourselves; it just seemed like the natural thing to do."
There were no organized events in the 1970s, but at a field in Gettysburg, Pa., snowmobile drivers like the Hagas got together and raced for the fun of it. Eventually, snowmobile racing evolved into the type of events they have today.
Bill works as an elevator mechanic with Otis Elevator Co. and Mike, 44, does the same for General Elevator. Don, 49, has his own Custom Wood Cabinet Shop in Westminster, Capital Structures, and Jim is a superintendent for the business.
The Hagas like snowmobile racing for the competition and the fun. They are always buying and selling sleds, and have more than 10 between them.
Although they don't spend a lot of money on their hobby, the modified sleds in grass drags can run as fast as 85 mph in a 500-foot stretch. But the Hagas plan to stay in the stock classes.
Maintenance on the machines vary. After running in the mud Sunday, they plan to do a closer check on their equipment.
Their first stop Sunday night after the races was at the car wash to clean their sleds. For the next couple of weeks, they will pull the suspension out, set the studding on the track and go over the clutch on their sleds.
The grass drags will turn into snow drags before spring arrives. The Haga brothers are looking forward to their next race on Nov. 18 at Kingsdale. After that, they will be racing in Pennsylvania and parts of New York.
"It gives me something to do in the fall", said Mike. "We'll be racing 'til spring."