Last week marked the start of the racing season at the Lincoln Speedway in Hanover, Pa., and Howard Williams of Union Bridge couldn't wait until he got his semi-late model car on the track.
Unfortunately, he only made a few laps in warm-ups before he blew his new motor. It was not a good day for the driver, especially for opening day.
Racing can be frustrating, but Williams, 32, is like most participants in motor sports: He doesn't give up easily.
Working on a lowbudget, Williams has suffered his share of mechanical woes. But through his determination, he has become one of the top drivers in his class at Lincoln.
In three years he has gone from 13th in the seasonpoints standings to fourth. Despite his opening day problems, Williams believes he will be in the thick of the battle for the track championship.
Williams, a dump-truck driver for Re-Jo Construction Inc.in Westminster, became interested in racing while working on a friend's car in the late 1970s. In 1984, he began helping Westminster resident Don Zechman's late-model racing efforts. Two years later, Williams began to help his father-in-law, Bob Jones, with technical inspection at Lincoln.
Being around tracks boosted his desire to drive, so he tried enduro racing, which is designed to give amateur drivers an
inexpensive way to participate.
"I wanted to race and it was a place to start," said Williams. "I never did any good in (the races). I never finished, but I liked it."
Many drivers began in enduroracing and Williams knew after his first competition he wanted to pursue racing.
In 1989, Williams began racing in the semi-late division in a car owned and sponsored by Kate and Oscar Jones, owners of Kate and Oscar's East End Tavern in Westminster.
"I was scared at first," recalled Williams in comparing the semi-late race to enduro racing. "I wasn't sure how it would be. Now I got control of it and things have gotten pretty good."
The team raced every week at Susquehanna Speedway in Newberrytown, Pa., and at Lincoln and finished 13th in points at both tracks in 1989.
The following year, Williams finished 12th in points at Lincoln. Last year, it began to come togetheras he picked up more top-10 finishes, including one second-place finish, and wound up fourth in the points standings.
Now that Williams has been driving for three years, it will be hard to get him to quit.
"I like it more and more. The more I drive the more I love it,"said Williams. "It is killing me now that I can't drive until I get the motor fixed."
Williams expects to be back in a week or two. Hedisassembled the motor right after he blew it to survey the extent of the damage.
"We have to put a new sleeve in the cylinder and replace a rod and piston. It was pretty disappointing."
And expensive, too. It will cost the driver more than $600 to get the 355-cubic-inch Chevrolet motor ready.
Williams is eager to get the 1992 seasonrolling. He credits his improvement to Rick Jones of Westminster, a top winner at Lincoln. Jones has helped Williams learn the trade, especially in setting up the chassis.
In addition to Jones, Andy Sadler also helps Williams. Sadler helps out as a crew member and his business, Andy R. Sadler Painting and Construction, is a sponsor. Other sponsors include Introl Co. Inc. in Westminster.
Williams is accompanied to the races by his wife, Wanda, and 8-year-old son, Howie. Wanda Williams also works at Lincoln every week.
The results show Williams is getting closer to the right combination. This year he believes he will make that first visit to victory lane.
If hard work and determination mean anything, Williams will have that first feature win in the near future.