DAYTONA BEACH, FLA. — His Daytona dream has yet to be realized, but he's getting closer every year.
Frank Fleming of Taneytown was 15 when his father began taking him to races, and four years later he began driving mini-stocks on asphalt at the old Beltsville Speedway in Prince George's County. Two years later he built his first car to race at Old Dominion Speedway in Manassas, Va.
In the early 1980s, Fleming switched to dirt and began to run street stocks at Dorsey Speedway in Howard County before it closed in 1985, then switched to the limited late model class at Hagerstown Speedway. Two years later he moved to the late model class, which he says was a mistake.
In 1988, he decided to return to asphalt and ran late models at Concord Speedway near Charlotte, N.C., and Jennerstown Speedway in western Pennsylvania. Fleming did better than he ever had on dirt and won a late model feature at Jennerstown last year.
"I don't know why I do better on asphalt," said the self-employed mechanic. "The speeds are greater on asphalt than on dirt. I like to be able to run all out. I was just unable to hook the car up on dirt."
Because he has no major sponsors, Fleming, 32, is unable to race everyweek. He carefully picks his races and builds all his own equipment,something few drivers do.
Last year, Fleming decided he was readyto fulfill his dream of racing at Daytona. He built a car for the new Sportsman division in NASCAR, a division to give drivers super speedway experience.
Fleming failed to qualify for the Sportsman race at Charlotte, and ultimately for Daytona, but later qualified 14th atthe first Sportsman event at the New Hampshire Speedway. Fleming hadrun as high as sixth when he had to retire because of overheating problems.
His plans this year include the NASCAR Sportsman race at Richmond (Va.) International Speedway in March and the Sportsman show at Charlotte. Then he hopes to have a motor ready for ARCA races at Pocono (Pa.) International Speedway and Atlanta Speedway.
He still has his dirt car and may run that a couple of times at Hagerstown, but will concentrate on running his third car at Concord and Jennerstown speedways.
In the meantime, Fleming will continue to work towardracing at Daytona and on the NASCAR Winston Cup Circuit.
* What are the differences between ARCA cars, similar to the one Fleming drove here in an unsuccessful attempt to qualify for the ARCA 200 field,and the more popular NASCAR Cup cars?
* ARCA: Body styles from 1986 to 1991; minimum weight of 3,400 pounds; V-6 or V-8 engines; tire tread width between 59 and 62.5 inches.
* NASCAR: Body styles from1989 to 1991; minimum weight of 3,500 pounds; V-8 engines; tire tread width of 60.5 inches only.