Mike Stull of Westminster has always enjoyed racing.
He started going to races with his best friend, Brad McClelland, to watch Brad's father race stock cars at Lincoln Speedway in Hanover, Pa.
It wasn't long before Stull wanted to race himself. He began racing motorcycles in the 125-B class motorcross at Trail-Way Speedway inHanover.
Four years ago, Stull injured his knee while riding his motorcycle near his house. Realizing the injury could have been worse, Stull decided it would be in his best interest to give up riding bikes in competition. It was a tough decision for someone who had been around racing all of his life.
Stull began to look for an alternative to bike racing. It was doing this time that micro-sprint racing began to grow in popularity.
Since the cars are powered by motorcycle engines, it was a natural switch for Stull to make. He was able tocarry his bike-racing experience over to the new class, especially in the engines. Since Stull could never live without racing, he decided to make the move.
"It was something that was affordable," said Stull. "The cost was within reach, and it looked like something I could do. Besides, I always wanted to race sprint cars, and this was the next thing to it."
Now in his fourth year, Stull has become a top competitor in micro-sprint racing. Like any motorsport, it takes a lot of time and effort to do well. He spends most weeknights working onthe car.
"You have to work on the cars to go fast, especially themotor," he said. "You can have the best car, but if you don't have agood motor, you won't go."
Micro-sprints are powered by two-cyclemotorcycle motors. Their engines are limited to 250 cubic centimeters, but can be bored out to 265 cc. Inspectors at the track keep closewatch on the engines to make sure that they are legal, which in turnresults in a very competitive and evenly matched division of racing.
"We work on the engine and the car all the time," added Stull. "We fine-tune the engine, but we don't experiment too much. Some racerswill take their engine to the edge to go fast, but sometimes it is too close to the limit, and many times the engine will blow before therace is completed."
Stull said he prefers to finish and prepares his car to achieve that goal. Dave Dyson of Westminster does the motor work, while Stull does the chassis work.
"I couldn't do it without Dave," Stull said. "Dave rebuilds the crank on the motors himself and keeps the engines fresh."
Stull liked motorcycles, but said hewould never go back.
"Motorcross was great, but you can really bust yourself up," he said. "I've seen some pretty bad crashes on bikes.
"There is a big difference between the two. You have a lot more protection in micros. You have a full cage around you, where you don't have that protection on a cycle. When you flip or roll, the chancesof getting hurt in a micro is not that great."
Stull said he alsolikes the excitement of racing micros.
"I like running wheel-to-wheel," he said. "The thrill of being able to hold something wide openand not having to let off going into the turns is something else."
Stull purchased a used micro-sprint when he began racing. He purchased a more updated, but still used, car in 1990.
This year, he went with McClelland and purchased a new chassis, the first one he ever had. Stull said he has noticed a big difference after three races with the new chassis.
"There is a lot of difference with the car," said Stull. "It feels the same every time when you go into the turn. You know what the car is going to do. When you make adjustments to the car, you can tell. The car handles so much better."
Mike has nearly $10,000 invested in his new car. It takes about $7,000 for a complete rolling chassis and another $3,000 for parts and the engines. So far this season, Mike has two Top 5 finishes in three races.
Stull didn't race too much last year because he often found it difficult torace Friday nights because of his job. He spent most of the season helping McClelland more than he raced.
"I could see myself wanting to have my car along," said Stull. "This year, Trail-Way will be racing micro-sprints on Sunday night and it fits in right for me."
Right now the 23-year-old is satisfied running micros one night a week. Working six days a week makes it difficult to prepare a car to race more.