HAMPSTEAD — Rick Fischer became interested in cars -- as did many people -- when he turned 16 and began to drive.
But ever since he started going to races at 75-80 Dragway in Monrovia, Frederick County, Fischer wanted to get involved, not as a driver, but as a mechanic and crew chief.
While attending the Keystone Nationals at the Maple Grove Racewayin Reading, Pa., last fall, Fischer was watching the Castrol GTX racing team prepare their cars.
He was talking with Castrol's Super Comp driver, fellow county resident Todd Harris of Westminster, and the two hit it off.
The two young men stayed in contact after the race and Harris later asked Fischer to work at Harris Automotive in Westminster.
A short time after he started his new job as mechanic, Fischer began to help Harris with the dragster.
The more they worked together, the more Harris respected the mechanical ability of his new employee.
The bond between the two grew and Harris eventually asked Fischer to be his crew chief two months ago.
Fischer was quick to accept, believing he could contribute to the newly formed team of Harris, an up-and-coming driver with potential.
"I was very, very honored," said Fischer. "It was something I always wanted to do."
Since the two became a team, they have worked long nights preparingfor the 1991 season.
So far Fischer and Harris have rebuilt a motor and transmission from last year and have another power train almost complete.
Jay Zumbrun of Hanover, Pa., the shop foreman, also has been helpful.
"We are working on the car every night," said Fischer. "We have just completed upgrading the computer and rewiring the whole car."
The on-board computer produces a readout of just abouteverything that happens on the car and has become a vital part of every professional team.
Fischer realizes he has a big challenge ahead of him.
Although he lacks experience as a crew chief, his intelligence and mechanical skills has made him a fast learner.
The 27-year-old is a graduate of Lincoln Technical Institute and is an ASE-certified technician.
He has been working on cars informally since he was 16 and professionally since 1983.
The crew chief's job varies by team, but for most, the crew chief is as important as the driver.
He works closely with the driver in making the decisions, but when it comes down to the final word, the crew chief normally has the final say.
For Harris, having Fischer as crew chief will relieve him of these responsibilities and allow him to concentrate on the driving and doing promotional work for his sponsor, the Castrol Oil Co.
"Rick will be an asset for the 1991 season," said Harris. "He will be responsible for everything but the driving."
Fischer will be watching the car from the start to finish of each run, watching every minute from the time they start the car to the finish line.
He willbe making the decisions about the barometer settings, timing adjustments, shift points, weight adjustments on the front end and the air pressure in the tires, just to name a few.
The car, a Super Comp dragster, has a 225-inch wheelbase, weighs about 1,400 pounds and is powered by a 454-cubic-inch Chevrolet engine.
The Super Comp class is the swiftest of the three "Super" categories, all running on a common 8.90-second standard.
"We really work well together," said Fischer. "Todd really likes driving the dragster better than the full-bodied car.
"Todd would really like to drive a Top Alcohol Dragster and I want to help him achieve that goal. I know he can do it."
Fischer has lived in Carroll County most of his life and raced at 75-80about six years ago in a 1969 Firebird.
He still has the car and is restoring it but has put any thoughts of racing aside to work withHarris.
As a member of the Castrol GTX racing team, Fischer will be traveling more than 60,000 miles this year with the team.
He assisted in the design of the new 45-foot hauler, which will provide the team with room to work on the car and carry an extra motor and transmission.
Although Fischer's responsibilities will take him away from home, his wife, Polly, and son, Brad, are supportive of his new job.
The team will begin their season March 13 at the 21st Annual Motorcraft Quality Parts Gator Nationals in Gainesville, Fla. For Rick, it will be a dream come true.