Professional athletes usually get an early start in their sport of choice.
In motor sports, many of the top professional drivers started during their high school days near their hometowns.
John Moser Jr. of Westminster hopes that his early start will lead to the NASCAR Winston Cup circuit.
If an early start gives a driver an edge, the Westminster High junior will have one. The 17-year-old just completed his first full year of racing and, though it's difficult to measure potential based on one year, his performance was a step in the right direction.
Moser drives in the semi-late class atthe Lincoln Speedway in Hanover, Pa., a class with strict limits to the amount of modifications that can be done. Designed primarily for cars built mostly in the 1970s, the same type of car runs at Trail-Way Speedway (also in Hanover) in the eight-cylinder class.
Moser always wanted to race since he was a youngster. He went with his parents every week to watch the races and later helped his uncle, Randy Zechman of Westminster.
Two years ago, Zechman brought another car, and John Moser Sr. purchased the old one for his son. Since John MoserJr. was just 15 at the time, the elder Moser had another driver racethe car.
But after one race, John Moser Sr. decided not to race the car.
A year later, when the younger Moser turned 16, his fathersurprised him by giving him the car.
"Ever since I was little, itwas all I wanted to do," said John Jr. "I thought I would drive someday, but I just got a chance to drive a little earlier than I expected."
He drove in four races last year, then raced all he could this year.
"I could race every night," he said. "I love it. It's all fun."
But expenses kept his low-buck operation mostly to one nighta week.
Moser Jr. was a steady performer in his first full year.
His highest finish was a fourth and he had several top 10 finisheswhile placing ninth in the season's point standings.
This is quite a accomplishment in a class that is dominated by a few cars that have larger engines.
Moser Jr.'s 1977 Chevrolet Camaro is all stock and powered by a 350-cubic-inch Chevrolet. He said he should be more competitive next year, when the rules will allow motors up to 360 cubic inches.
Now that the point races are over, Moser Jr. is not racing every week.
"We want to start getting ready for next year," hesaid. "I want to put on a new body and maybe build a new frame."
Moser Jr. did most of the work on the car himself. During the summer,while other boys his age were playing baseball, he was working on the car.
"I worked on the car everyday. I went over everything afterevery race," he said. "At night when my father came home, he helped me a good bit. He does the things I don't know how to do yet."
Moser Jr. raced mostly at Lincoln, except for the short time they dropped the division from their schedule, when he raced at Trail-Way. Abouta month later, the semi-lates were back on Lincoln's schedule.
"Racing at Trail-Way helped me," he said. "It was more difficult to setup the car because of the sharper turns. Racing on the smaller track(one-third mile) made it easier racing back at Lincoln (half-mile)."
Racing at Trail-Way also helped Moser Jr. set up the car. One of the many ways drivers set up cars is to stagger -- use different sizetires, especially on the rear axle. The stagger is accomplished by having a tire larger in circumference on the right rear wheel. Moser Jr. found out a larger tire was needed for the shorter track.
MoserJr. came through the year in good shape. He had only one major mishap -- a car ran up over his hood -- and his car was ready to race the next day. But during warm-ups for that race, the lower ball joint come out and the car wasn't fit to race. The crew had it ready the following week.
Other helpers include girlfriend, Tanya Plunkert, Robert Stephen and Lonie Fisher. B&D Truck Hoist of Westminster is his major sponsor.
Moser Jr. plans to move up to late models. He realizeshe has a long way to go to become a professional driver, but he madea giant step toward it with his early start this year.