Castrol Oil the cure for winning Westminster drag racer

MOTOR SPORTS

July 19, 1992|By Stanley C. Dillon

Last weekend, several Carroll countians competed at the National Hot Rod Association Summer Nationals at Englishtown, The event attracts the top drivers in each class from all over the country.

For Todd Harris of Westminster, it was a weekend he will never forget. He won the national event in the Super Comp division.

It was a weekend that every driver dreams of, and one that Harris has been working toward all his life.

Three years ago Harris made a big step forward in his career when he caught the attention of Castrol Oil. They were so impressed with his presentation and professionalism that they agreed to sponsor him. In November, Castrol asked Harris if he would consider racing full time.

"I wanted to do it," said Harris. "But I realized it was a decision I couldn't make right away. There was so much to consider. I had my business to think about, my family, everything."

It took Harris almost three months to weigh all the options. He is the type of person who does not do things half-right. If he was going to do it, he wanted to make sure he could be professional all the way.

"I wanted to do it; I knew it was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity," recalled Harris. "It's what I always wanted to do."

Not many in drag racing ever win a national event in a lifetime. Harris did it in his first full season. But Harris's success has not come as a surprise to him. He had confidence that he could do it.

Ever since Harris turned full time, his performance has improved significantly every week. Just three weeks ago, he went to the semifinals in the Le Grande National Molsum in Quebec, Canada.

"Going full time has allowed me to concentrate strictly on my racing," said the 29-year-old. "I am racing every week. I am with the car 24 hours a day. It allows me to devote all my time to my racing."

Full-time racing brings more responsibilities. In addition to racing, Harris has to make public appearances for his sponsor, Castrol. Following his win at Englishtown, he spent a lot of time with ESPN for interviews.

He came home for a day for a rare visit to restock his supplies and was back on the road Tuesday. Castrol had Harris scheduled for appearances every day throughout the Philadelphia area until his next event at Numidia, Pa.

Harris has been on the road since March, living in a specially built hauler he constructed himself for traveling. He has traveled 28,000 miles. When the season comes to an end at Pomona, Calif., in November, Harris estimates he will have logged more than 60,000 miles.

Paul Lathe of Owings Mills has been by Harris's side from the start as crew chief. After making appearances during the day, the two work on the car. Their trailer is a complete shop equipped to do all the work necessary to keep the car in tip-top shape. Harris also has an identical spare 509-cubic-inch Chevrolet engine always fresh in the trailer.

Racing full time has been easier on Harris. Last year he returned home after every event, operated his business during the week, then traveled back to the next event.

"I probably put twice the mileage on last year traveling back and forth to the races. Now I go from event to event. It was nerve-wracking,so much pressure before. Now I can concentrate racing."

Racing full time, Harris has been able to do a lot of research and development for many product manufacturers. If it doesn't work, he returns to a combination that worked.

The traveling is not all glamour. "There is no time for personal life," he said. "But you have to give up a little to get a little."

Harris realizes that his relationship with Castrol was the turning point in his career.

"I really appreciate the support and sponsorship of Castrol Oil, especially their faith in me," said Harris. "I owe it all to John Howe and Castrol Motor Sports. Without them, it wouldn't have been possible."

Harris picked the right place to take his first national. Castrol's headquarters is close by in Wayne, N.J., and the president was in attendance.

The Castrol team has won more national events than any other team ever has. They knew what they were doing when they added Harris to their team.

Dave McCarthy was another Carroll Countian who raced in the Super Comp division at Englishtown. McCarthy had a good weekend and made it through three rounds.

"We were running in the left lane all week. Then on the fourth round we got the other lane. The traction was so much better that we picked up two hundredths of a second, and I broke out at 8.88. Until that time, I was running rounds of 8.901.

"I was really excited for Todd."

McCarthy has had a good season this year. Points standings are a month behind by the time every track across the country is calculated. McCarthy has been running in the top five in the divisionals. Recently he went to the fourth round at Salem, Ohio.

During the off-season, McCarthy was able to pick up Valvoline as a major sponsor. His hauler and car proudly sport the colors of his new sponsor, and he is concentrating on the divisional level points.

This week McCarthy will race at Afco, N.J., before racing two consecutive weeks at Numidia in the nationals and divisionals.

Earlier in the season, McCarthy made it to the quarterfinals in Atlanta. In between racing and holding down a full-time job, McCarthy has worked with Valvoline in their "Say No to Drugs" campaign.

"I am pleased to be part of their team," said McCarthy. "I believe in their message and want to help get the message to the youths about the dangers of using drugs."

Other drivers who competed at Englishtown were Len Davis and Lee Howe in the Super Comp division and Rodney Combs in the Super Gas.

Once again, local drivers have proved that Carroll County drivers are among the best in the country.

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