WESTMINSTER — At an age when most drivers are retired or thinking about calling itquits, 46-year-old Dave McCarthy is shooting for rookie honors in the National Hot Rod Association Super Comp drag racing series.
Racing isn't new for McCarthy, but after sitting out 20 years, the Westminster native is driving as if he never left.
McCarthy drove in the super stock and E-stock division from 1960 to 1969. He raced at Quasco, Old Dominion and York U.S. 30, now-defunct strips in Virginia and Pennsylvania. When finances stopped him from doing things his way, he called it quits.
McCarthy did not go near a drag strip until friends Leonard Rottrell and John Speelman invited him to the Summer Nationals at Old Bridge Township Raceway in Englishtown, N.J., in 1987.
"Boy, was that an eye-opener," recalled McCarthy. "But I knew right then and there that I was going to get back into it."
Age was not a factor for McCarthy. Many of the top drivers -- Joe Amato, Kenny Bernstien and Don Garlits, to name a few -- are his age or older.
"As far as I'm concerned, I am 16," said McCarthy of his age. "I feel like I am Peter Pan. I am never going to get old."
For the rest of 1987, McCarthy helped Rottrell and Speelman on their top alcohol dragster, trying to learn about the technological advancements since he last raced.
In April of 1988, he found afront-engine dragster for sale and traveled to Cleveland to pick it up. But the 1971 car needed additional work to pass safety inspection, and the cost was substantial.
The car finally was completed a year later.
McCarthy ran the dragster the rest of 1989 and most of 1990, but in early 1990, decided he wanted to run in the faster, more competitive super comp class.
In May of 1990, McCarthy and partnerJudy Holbrook had Fabrication Inc. of Gaithersburg build a super comp dragster. Knee surgery kept McCarthy from testing the car until September.
In 1991, the McCarthy and Holbrook racing team was ready. In his first year, McCarthy captured Rookie of the Year honors on themid-Atlantic circuit, placing 10th in the 11-race series.
McCarthy plans to race the Winston Super Comp Series on the NHRA circuit. Last November, McCarthy and crew chief Jess Estrella tested their car at Mason-Dixon Dragway in Hagerstown.
The Holbrook and McCarthy team's first race will be at the Atlanta Dragway, March 14-15. That weekend will prepare them for the Gator Nationals in Gainesville, Fla., the following weekend, the first of six national and eight divisional events he plans to compete in. When the season is over, McCarthy willhave traveled 40,000 miles throughout the eastern United States and Canada.
In addition to his crew chief, McCarthy said he couldn't survive without Holbrook, the co-owner and pit boss.
"If it wasn't for her, we wouldn't be able to keep anything straight," said McCarthy. "Judy is the one who makes it all happen. She makes sure the hauler is stocked, knows where all the parts are stocked and keeps all thetrack and maintenance records."
When the team is not on the road,they plan on racing at their home track, 75-80 Dragway in Monrovia, Frederick County.
"Bill Wilcom has been a tremendous help to us, "said McCarthy of the 75-80 owner.