Paul Crowl has just completed a season of ups and downs on the dirt late-model circuit.
While not pleased with his 1991 performance, the season did end on a high note.
Once the bugs had been worked out of his new equipment, Crowl finished the year with several good showings. Along with some new sponsors and the promise of more support, the Crowl racing team can't help but be excited about the prospects for 1992.
Although Crowl did not race every week this year, he showed consistency. He raced at Potomac Speedway in Budds Creek (Charles County) on Friday nights, and at Winchester (Va.) Speedway on Saturdays. He finished in the top five in all but four races.
He qualified seventh in time trials at the Winchester 200, a two-day event that attracts more than 50 drivers, including many full-time professional drivers from all over the East Coast.
The addition of sponsors gave Crowl a needed boost. He had a new motor and chassis for the first time in his racing career. By theend of the year, new sponsors were helping buy tires.
"Normally, I brought used tires," Crowl said. "With new tires, I did a lot better."
The new chassis and motor also made a big difference, althoughit took the crew some time to become familiar with it.
"We had a lot of trouble with the car at first," said Crowl. "We had clutch problems, couldn't find the right setup; it was all new stuff."
His new motor -- a 430-cubic-inch aluminum block Chevrolet -- made a big difference too, especially at the bigger half-mile tracks like Hagerstown Speedway in Washington County.
"The engine is a good one," said Crowl. "I worked with Graig Leister of Hampstead and Morris Automotive in Manchester in putting it together and selecting the cam. It has all good parts.
"The other engines I had gave me too much power coming out of the turn. This motor picks up power all the way down the chute. It makes it a whole lot easier to hook up the car."
The 33-year-old Upperco resident started racing in the street stock division right out of high school in 1976. He raced several times that yearbut did not return for six years.
In between, he started a familyand built a house. In 1982, he returned to racing in the more powerful late-model division.
Crowl began going to the races at the Dorsey Speedway in Howard County at age 3. He comes from a racing family that includes his stepbrother, Charlie Schaffer of Hampstead.
"I love the sport," said Crowl. "I like working on the car as much as driving. To save cost we do the sheet metal, we do everything but the motors. I used to do them, too."
Crowl does not overlook the fact that it takes a good crew to be competitive. He has had the same crew since he started racing.
They include his uncle John Stickles, along with Eddie Markel, Mike Hughes, Keith LaMotte and Dean Stickles. When he is not racing, Crowl and the crew go to the races and help Schaffer.
Although Crowl loves racing, he keeps everything in perspective. Motorsports can be addictive to a point where enthusiasts spend every cent they have. Crowl only goes racing when he can afford to.
When finances allow, Crowl tries to race twice a week. Sunday is family day, which he spends with his wife, Sherry, and their three daughters, Tracey, 13, Christy, 8, and Lauren, 13 months.
During the week, Crowl works as a general superintendent with Monumental Paving, one of his sponsors.
He doesn't have one big sponsor but several smaller ones, including McCall Trucking, Neil's Signs, Crane-Kirby Tire & Auto, Rhodes Repair & Gradall Rental and Dryden Motor Oil of Baltimore, Dr. Stephen Schaffer of Hampstead and Maryland Recycling & Rehandling of Manchester.
Crowl's best year was in 1989, when he finished third in points at Potomac Speedway. He also won a feature that year at Lincoln Speedway in Hanover, Pa. It was his best year becausehe was able to race regularly.
With his sponsor support, Crowl expects to race every week next year. He has confidence that he will have the best year of his career.
With good equipment and sponsor support, Crowl should give his stepbrother good competition.