Motor sports have become an expensive hobby to many Carroll countians.
But Rick Alvarez is satisfying his lust for speed without spending enormous amounts of money. He races go-carts at the Hunterstown cart track in Pennsylvania and the Sandy Hook Speedway in Harford County.
Alvarez said he has spent about $2,000 on his racing hobby.
"It's a poor man's racing sport," said Alvarez. "Where else can you go fast for so little?
"I am real satisfied with it. It is a great weekend racing sport."
It is also a family sport.
Last Sunday, Rick's son, Jesse, joined him for the first time. The cost: about $500.For less than $3,000, the Alvarez family is racing together and looking forward to many more weeks of competition.
Racing isn't just for the youngsters. Rick Alvarez, a 36-year-old Finksburg resident, races in the senior light division for men 16 and older. The combined weight of the driver and car may not exceed 300 pounds.
Heavier drivers must compete in the senior heavy class.
Alvarez is in his second year of racing carts.
"I always had a passion for speed," saidAlvarez. "I always had a motocross bike or a go-cart to race around in when I was a kid. I raced on the street with cars.
"I have always been fascinated by motors. Carting was an inexpensive way to enjoyspeed."
Carting, like any other motor sport, has more to it than meets the eye. You just can't hop behind the wheel and expect to go out and win the first time out.
You have to learn to read the track, make the correct adjustments to the chassis and keep the motor running to perfection.
Alvarez has learned fast. In less than two years he is on top of the points standings at Sandy Hook.
He has threefeature wins and placed third last Sunday. He had one feature win his first year -- quite an accomplishment.
"It takes a little bit oftime. I have just been fortunate to be around people who know about racing who have helped me out," said Alvarez. "It helped me cut down on the trial and error a little bit."
Alvarez said he is more excited about racing than ever, since Jesse started racing.
Rick's cart has a piston port, two-cycle, 100cc Yamaha motor, which develops about 17 horsepower.
Jesse, 8, is running in the junior beginner class. His cart is powered by a stock five-horsepower, four-cycle engine. His class has a 225-pound weight limit.
With the help of Jim Wainwright of Westminster Kart Supply Inc. in Finksburg, Rick Alvarez has learned to do all the motor work, which saves money.
The carts race on asphalt and clay ovals. The Sandy Hook track, Alvarez's favorite, is asphalt.
"It's cleaner, nicer and faster on asphalt," said Alvarez.
He has two carts -- one for dirt, the other for asphalt.
At first, he had trouble reading the track and setting up the chassis for best handling. Hot weather also has made it more difficult tosecure the right setup, he said.
Like a larger race car, a cart can be too loose or too tight. If the cart is too loose, the back end slides out in the corners. To help eliminate the problem, the rear wheels are brought closer together.
During the week, Alvarez operates an office furniture business, Installs All Inc., which he started three years ago.
Alvarez and Jesse will be going to Sandy Hook today for Jesse's second week of racing. This time, Rick Alvarez's wife, Michelle, will go along -- to watch nervously.
Alvarez's oldest son, 14-year-old Lawrence, could be the next one to race regularly. Lawrence has run the carts in a couple of races and says he likes it.
For the time being, though, baseball will remain the primary sport for the Westminster High catcher. Jesse also played Little League baseball over the summer, and his team, the Brewers, won their instructional league title.
Between baseball and motor sports, summer has been a busy time for the Alvarez family.
The family watched Lawrenceplay in the Babe Ruth League and Jesse play Little League during theweek; on weekends, they go cart racing.