ELDERSBURG — Did you know there once were two speedways in Carroll County?
Didyou know Maryland has had nearly oval 30 tracks, but only two remain?
One man knows all this and more, and he lives in South Carroll. When someone wants information about area auto racing from the past, they call Larry Jendras.
Jendras, a draftsman for Bechtel Corp. in Gaithersburg, has perhaps the largest collection of racing photos, programs and newspaper clippings in Maryland.
He has more than 50 albums crammed with racing photos from the early days, including memorabilia from speedways that most of us never knew existed.
Jendras started going to the races in the mid-1950s, when he was 4 years old. His father, Larry Jendras Sr., owned an old Ford Coupe that raced mostly at Westport Stadium in southwest Baltimore.
"Everyone owned a car in those days," recalled Jendras. "My Dad only owned a car for five years, but we continued to go to the races after he sold the car."
They continued to follow the drivers who lived near their home inDundalk, Baltimore County. After Westport closed, they began to travel to the Pennsylvania tracks such as Lincoln and Williams Grove.
Instead of going into racing as a driver, mechanic or car owner, Jendras ended up collecting memorabilia.
"I ran go-carts for a few years," he explained. "I still have the cart. I guess truthfully I nevergot the calling. Running go-carts was all I did."
Jendras did nothave any real interest in racing history until 1979, when he went tothe Williams Grove Oldtimers Annual Convention at the speedway in Mechanicsburg, Pa. Wanting to learn more about racing in Maryland, Jendras began to search for old memorabilia.
It wasn't long that he realized that there wasn't much around. He found that few drivers had kept any of their old photos or newspaper clippings.
That's where Jendras comes in. Little by little, he is finding photos and clippingsthat many drivers wished they had kept. He has spent hours tracking down photographers from the old days and has spoken with drivers, fans and pit crews of the 1950s looking for leads.
"It gets to be frustrating at times," he said. "Sometimes I feel like I am wasting my time. But something new comes along and I get all pumped up again."
Jendras said his most prized possessions include two racing programsfrom the old Baltimore Stadium, where they raced midgets around the ball field in 1940-1941.
He values his black-and-white photos fromWestport Stadium and the Ritchie Raceway, now the site of a Sears store in Glen Burnie, Anne Arundel County. He also has a photo of MarioAndretti when he raced with the United Racing Club at the Marlboro Speedway in Southern Maryland in 1963.
His oldest program is from Prospect Park in Laurel, Prince George's County, in 1924. He also has 1920s photos from the Baltimore-Washington Speedway in Laurel, a 1 -mile track built of wood.
Jendras has become the unofficial historian of Maryland auto racing and was instrumental in getting Johnny Roberts, a NASCAR modified champion of the 1950s, inducted into Maryland's Athletic Hall of Fame in 1989.
He has submitted articles to a book, "History of the American Speedways," by Alan Brown and often hashis photos published in national magazines like Stock Car and Open Wheels.
Despite many false leads and setbacks, Jendras keeps looking for photos and articles of the years gone by. Now many drivers are restoring old Ford coupes they raced in the 1950s using photos Jendras has on file.
Ever since he moved to Carroll in 1978, Jendras hasbeen interested in finding more information about the two dirt tracks in the county, Condon (in Eldersburg) and Taneytown.
Taneytown was a half-mile track, and Condon was a one-third mile oval. Unfortunately, information is scarce, but Jendras plans to keep studying the tracks' history.
Someday, Jendras would like to publish a book on the history of Maryland racing. But for now, he wants to find the champion of every track. So far, he has a complete history of Beltsville(Prince George's) and Westport.
He is now working on Dorsey Speedway in Howard County. Jendras was a major contributor to the 35th Anniversary Dorsey Yearbook published in 1985, Dorsey's final year.
"There are still a lot of loose ends out there," Jendras said.