Ed Talbert of New Windsor took home all the money in Class II competition at the Mason-Dixon Dragway near Hagerstown, Washington County, last Sunday.
It's not the first time the 36-year-old has gone homewith all the marbles. He does it so often, he expects to win every time he races.
Talbert comes to the track the way a pool shark invades a billiards hall -- he has confidence and is ready to take on the competition.He comes to win.
He finishes in the money in about 40 percent of his races every year. This year, he was first in points in Class II (cars that run the quarter-mile track in 12 to 19.99 seconds) at Mason-Dixon.
He represented the track in the bracket finals at Maple Grove Raceway near Reading, Pa., last fall, racing against champions from 18 other tracks around the northeast and Canada in the Race of Champions -- and won.
Last Sunday was the last date on the area drag-racing schedule, and Talbert rose to the occasion.
"There is something about the last race of the year," said the young driver. "I knowit's the last race, so I have to get serious. I won the last race last year."
Talbert is considered the man to beat by other drivers in his class, which usually works in his favor. When the other driversare at the starting line waiting for the light to turn green, Talbert has a psychological advantage.
The goal in bracket racing is to get the perfect jump from the start and to finish as closely to the predicted time as possible.
"They know I can run the time that I dial," said Talbert. "It puts the pressure on them. They know they can't dial the way I do."
Many times a driver hoping to get the edge on Talbert will red light -- come off the line too soon.
Talbert got the racing bug in 1982 when he went to 75-80 dragway in Monrovia, Frederick County.
"My friend had a pretty quick car, and we took itup there and tried it out," recalled Talbert. "The next week I racedmy 1967 Olds station wagon."
He hasn't stopped since.
Two years later, in 1984, Talbert qualified for the bracket finals and in 1986 was the champion in the street eliminator class at 75-80. The following year, he was the track champion, picking up the most points of any driver.
In 1989, like so many drivers, Talbert decided he wanted to go faster and began to entertain the idea of moving up to Class I. He went the route that many racers choose, buying a motor home anda trailer to haul his new 1968 Corvette.
He won the first time out at Capital Raceway in Crofton, Anne Arundel County. But as the season progressed, Talbert realized that he was not comfortable with the class.
By the middle of the 1989 season, he sold everything and went back racing his 1972 El Camino in Class II.
"I have more fun inClass II," said Talbert, who prefers the class' simplicity. "I can drive my car to the track. All I have to do is jump in the car and go."
Many drivers like to get to the track early and make as many runs as they can before they select their dial-in time, but Talbert seldom needs more than one run.
"On Easter, I had dinner with the family, jumped in the car and got to the track just in time to race," said Talbert. " I often arrive late and only take one practice."
His formula for winning is simple.
"The most important thing is consistency," Talbert said. "I stage the same, I burn out the same. It is crucial to burn-out the same every time. Everything has to be precise."
A burn-out is when the driver spins his wheels to get his tires hot for better traction at the starting line.
And precise is Talbert's trademark. He keeps meticulous records of everything in each event. He writes down why he lost or why he won.
A brother earns somemoney at the track, too. Jamie Talbert, who lives in Westminster, drives a 1972 Vega.
"This year was strange," said Ed Talbert. "When one of us wins, the other does not do good. (Two weeks ago) I lost onthe first round, and he got second. Sunday I won, and he lost on thefirst round."
Last month, both Talberts won on the same weekend -- Ed at Mason-Dixon and Jamie at 75-80.
Ed Talbert has been running his current car -- a 1978 Chevrolet Chevelle -- since May 1990. He plans on selling the car and is working on a 1967 Camaro for next year.
Ed Talbert credits much of his success to his wife, Ruth.
"She's my support, it's good to have someone like her," Ed Talbert said. "She makes me think. She makes sure that I don't forget about things."
Ed Talbert works during the week for AARID Enterprise Moving &Storage Co. as a mechanic. On weekends, he drives his car to the track, then parks the car until the following week.
For a person who enjoys the competition, the next three months without racing will be hard on him. The countdown for the 1992 season has begun.