Dairy Farmer Lives Life In Fast Lane As Drag Strip Owner


Keeps Engines Revving, Slicks Burning At Hagerstown Track

January 06, 1991|By Stanley C. Dillon

KEYMAR — Life is never a drag for Wayne Wachter.

The 44-year-old always ison the go, working on the family dairy farm in this northwest Carroll community or running the Mason-Dixon Dragway near Hagerstown, Washington County, on weekends.

Wayne enjoys both, farming and drag racing. He must, as he is on thego seven days a week, most of the time with less than four hours of sleep. Even now, with the drag strip closed for three months, Wayne is still hard at work planning for the 1991 season.

Wayne became involved with the track by accident 19 years ago.

He had always been involved in racing and knew the promoters at Mason-Dixon. After the track sat idle for a couple of years, he talked to the owners and ended up with it.

"I managed the track for 11 years and then turned it overto my partner because of other obligations," Wayne explained. "Whenthings started going downhill, I had to make a decision to get back in and do it right or sell it."

His love for drag racing kept him from selling and led him to consider a new partner. Wayne wanted to keepthe track going and asked an old friend, Elmer Wachter, who is not related, to join him as the new partner.

Both Wachters have a history in drag racing as drivers.

"Mine was just-for-fun racing, mostly on weekends," said Wayne, who left racing when he took over the track.

Elmer performed on a semiprofessional basis along the East Coast foreight years, managing a group exhibition cars called the "Wild Bunch."

Ever since the two men became partners, the Mason-Dixon Dragway has been growing by leaps and bounds. The two enjoyed their best year in 1990 and are planning on more improvements for 1991.

Over the past three years, the Wachters have improved the facilities with safety inmind. They have met National Hot Rod Association (NHRA) safety standards. They installed a double-beam guard rail, a new 1,100-seat grandstand, resurfaced part of the track and installed a new computerized scoreboard.

The scoreboard shows each driver's reaction time, 60-footsplit, quarter-mile time and speed.

This year they will be installing lights for nighttime racing. The dragway has traditionally been a Sunday afternoon operation.

With the lights, not only will they be able to run Sunday nights, but other nights as well. The Wachters plan to introduce some Friday and Saturday night racing on a limited scalestarting with holiday weekends.

Other planned improvements include new rest rooms and resurfacing the return track and eventually the entire strip.

It hasn't all been smooth sailing for the Wachters. They spent a lot of time battling new residents in the surrounding area whocomplained about the noise even though they moved in knowing the dragway was there.

But the Wachters never gave up and now feel the battles are behind them.

Wayne Wachter emphasizes Mason-Dixon Dragway is family oriented. The track plays host to 4-H and Sunday School groups to introduce children to the sport.

Wayne's family also is involved in the operation. His wife, Jacquelin, son Jeffery and daughter Gwen all work at the track on weekends.

A sports entertainment complex now stands on the property across from the dragway. What once was hometo a drive-in movie now features a miniature golf course, batting cages and a go-cart track, all trying to appeal to the families that attend the dragway.

Mason-Dixon is one of 26 tracks comprising the Northeast's Division I of the National Hot Rod Association. Competition is held in Super Pro, Heavy, Pro Gas, Motorcycle and Trophy divisions.

The quarter-mile track is located on a 35-acre tract off Alternate U.S. 40 east of Hagerstown. About 1,800 drivers from all over the East compete at Mason-Dixon, several of them from Carroll County.

On an average weekend, Mason-Dixon will attract 160 to 200 racing vehicles and a crowd of more than 500. For bigger events, crowds will triple.

Wachter attributes much of the turnaround at Mason-Dixon and the surprising increase in number of cars to television coverage of NHRA events.

And, Wayne said, he has seen a lot of changes in drag racing.

"Speed and the quickness of the car are the biggest changes," noted Wayne. "Everyone used to say 12 seconds was quick. Now we have severalcars in the seven- to eight-second range at the track."

He has also seen an increase in high-dollar cars, but drag racing remains attractive to all price ranges with classes for everyone.

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