Not many drivers have a wife who wants her husband to race as much as Tom Blanton does. When he had a great opportunity to start racing, his wife borrowed the money to help him out.
Obviously, both Blanton and his wife, Terry, enjoy auto racing.
Blanton races in the four-cylinder division at Trail-Way Speedwayin Hanover, Pa., every Friday night.
Until last weekend, the 2-month-old season had been a frustrating. Now, after finding a minor fuel problem that had caused him to lose two motors already this year, he feels he is back on the right track.
He ran last weekend with noengine problems (though he did hook another car's bumper and got a flat tire), and expects to pick up a win in the near future -- hopefully around the 4th of July.
Why July 4th? It seems Blanton always does things around then -- like when he was born that day 33 years ago.
And it was just before July last year that he decided he wanted to get back onto the race track.
Before moving to Sykesville, Blanton had raced for two years and worked in a pit crew for a half-dozenmore years in the Grand Stock division at Old Dominion Speedway, a one-third mile asphalt track in Manassas, Va.
"I got a bug up my tail that I wanted to go racing" shortly after moving to Carroll, explained Blanton. "So I put the car, a Dodge Challenger with a 2.6 liter motor, together in a week."
Even after running two years on asphalt, it didn't take Blanton long to adapt to dirt. He won a feature in only his sixth time out at Trail-Way.
"It was really alien at first," explained Blanton about the switch from asphalt to dirt. "You need a loose car to be fast on asphalt. On dirt you throw the car into the turn and use the throttle to get out. If you let up going into thecorner, you are going into the wall."
"You have to be more alert on dirt," added Tom. "Everyone is an amateur and we are all sliding going into the turns. The track changes, it dries out, turns slick. I wouldn't know what to do if it wasn't for Bill Brown and John Sellner. Without them I wouldn't have been able to make the change."
His motor problems began when the 1990 season ended, while Blanton and his crew looked forward to a new year. But things didn't pick up where they left off.
Blanton had installed a smaller, lighter gas tank during the off-season. Little did he know what trouble it would cause.The motor would gasp for gas every time he gained speed. But everything checked out all right -- fuel pump, fuel line and carburetor. Finally the trouble was traced to a piece of Teflon tape over the line in the tank. By the time the problem was solved, Blanton had ruined two motors.
Blanton is a newcomer to Carroll County. Three and a half years ago he was reading the business opportunity ads in The Washington Post and came across an ad for a salvage yard.
"I am like everyone that works on cars, I always wanted a junk yard. So on a whim Icalled," said Blanton. "I sold my house in Virginia and quit my job as a mechanic to buy a junk yard in Maryland. I haven't made money yet, but I am having fun racing."
When Blanton purchased the salvageyard on Gaither Road in Sykesville, it was an eyesore. It required more than eight months to clean out in order to get started. Now Blanton believes he has everything in order to be a good businessman and neighbor.
"I am an environmentalist myself," explains Tom about thecare he takes in running his business, Sykesville Auto Parts. "I have a 3-year-old and I want her to have a place to live as good as the one I had when I was growing up.
"It's been hard. We used all the money we had. We've been scratching and clawing, but I think we are gaining."
Blanton's salvage yard is a good place to find a car to get started in racing. He gets all the parts he needs from the salvageyard.
"All my motors are junk motors out of the junk yard." he said. "I just take the choke out of the carburetor; that allows the gasto flow faster. I was going to number my car 99.9 because I have 99.9% recycled parts on the car -- even the tires come out of the junk yard."
Not only is Tom having fun in racing, his whole family is with him 100 percent.
"My wife loves it," said Blanton of Terry, whoattends races with their 3-year-old daughter, Kimberly Ann.
"I amvery, very lucky. I was on a crew for a car at Manassas when I had an opportunity to buy the car. She gave me a check for my birthday to buy the car to go racing."
And yes, it was right before the Fourthof July.
In addition to his wife and daughter, who attend every race, Blanton says crew chief Jimmy Brown is the one other person he cannot do without.
Blanton plans on remaining in the four-cylinder class a while, and is preparing another Dodge Challenger for competition. After that, he'd like to race late models.
"I wouldn't say noto a sprint ride, but I really want to drive a late model. But firstI have my business to get off the ground."