You don't have to ask Kenny Murfin how important a pit crew is.
The Union Bridge resident knows how difficult it is to race without a crew -- he raced all last year without one.
All that has changed this year. Now Murfin has a strong pit crew of Carroll residents called the "Junk Yard Dogs," and he's looking forward to the 1992 season.
Last year Murfin started racing in the Thundercar Division at the Lincoln Speedway in Hanover, Pa. At most ofthe races, he was the pit crew, mechanic, tire man and driver.
Murfin had to sit out a few races because he was not able to have minorrepairs made in time to return to the races. Still, he raced week after week.
Now, instead of doing all the work himself, Murfin will can concentrate on the driving and let the crew handle the work on the car.
The crew was not formed overnight. It came together gradually, through a common association with Ray's Auto Parts in Detour.
Murfin's acquaintance with Ray's Auto Parts grew from his need for parts and their mutual love for auto racing. Murfin made almost weekly visits to the store to keep his racing venture going. It wasn't long before a friendship was formed.
"I got a lot of parts there," saidMurfin. "After a while, Ray (Fanning, owner of the auto parts store)began helping me along as much as he could."
It wasn't long before Fanning's friends began to help and a team was formed. And because Fanning's business was the common bond, they began to call themselvesthe "Junk Yard Dogs."
The man behind the new team is no stranger to auto racing. Fanning was a dominant driver on the short-track circuit in the '60s and '70s.
The other "Dogs" are Spike Spielman, Eddie Edmonds, Jim Osborne, Bill Stambaugh and Sam Northrup.
Murfin is tickled to have the men helping him. They bring experience to the team, the one thing that Murfin did not have.
"They are a lot of help to me," he said. "It is great to get hooked up with the right people. I believe we are going to be very competitive this year."
Withthe new team, Murfin will not only be competitive at Lincoln, but heplans to race at Trail Way Speedway, also in Hanover, on Friday nights.
"Its a whole lot simpler now," said Murfin. "Everyone works well together. They have everything ready for me to race. They are a good group."
Murfin has been going to races since he was 14, but the33-year-old driver didn't become involved until he began helping Cotton Smith of Taneytown on his sprint car a couple of years ago.
"He got me started," said Murfin. "He talked me into trying it."
Murfin purchased a Camaro, added a roll cage and safety equipment, and went racing.
"After the first time out, I was hooked," he added.
But he also found out like so many before him, that it wasn't as easy as it looked, especially with no pit crew.
"I just kept pluggingat it," he said. "If things got bad, Keith Walsh of Westminster and his crew helped me out. I just kept going, learning as much as I could and hoping that nothing would break."
But things do break in racing. It was frustrating at times, but Murfin loved driving and no matter how the night turned out, he was back the following week.
Withthe new team, Murfin feels fortunate. He has better equipment, including a new chassis and a new engine. The engine work on the 350-cubic-inch Chevrolet motor was done by May's Auto Repair in Emmitsburg, Frederick County, one of Murfin's major sponsors.
Other sponsors include C&O Distributors in Westminster, Cross Roads Inn in Keymar and Tollgate Inn in Silver Run.
Murfin's three children -- Kristy, 14, Lura, 13, and Dwayne, 10 -- enjoy watching their father race. During the week he works as a bricklayer for Carroll Masonry.
Murfin has high expectations for the coming season. He has changed his car number from 89 to 19, which happens to be the number Fanning drove into victory lane many times.
That number, Fanning's expertise, and the "Junk Yard Dogs" could put Murfin in Victory Lane.