Harden is following in his father's tire tracks 1992 VOLLEYBALL OUTLOOK

MOTOR SPORTS

September 06, 1992|By Stanley C. Dillon

There was never any doubt in Fred Harden's mind what he was going to do when he got older.

When he watched his father race, he knew he wanted to do the same when he grew up. Ever since he could remember, he always wanted to drive a race car.

Fred Harden's father, Morris Harden Jr., better known as "Moe," was one of the top drivers in the area from the '50s through the '70s. He drove in the modified division and won the 1970 track championship at Lincoln Speedway in Hanover, Pa. His racing career came to an abrupt end when he broke his ribs in a racing accident at the Reading (Pa.) Fairgrounds Raceway.

Following the accident, he continued to maintain his car while Fred worked on it.

All along, the younger Harden was itching to drive the car, counting the days until he could race. But his parents made him wait until he graduated from high school.

In 1985, the long-awaited day arrived, and he has been racing ever since.

"I owe a lot to him," Harden said proudly about his father. "He is by my side every week. Without my parents, I wouldn't be driving."

Harden tries to race every weekend. Most of the time he races two nights, racking up more than 500 miles a weekend.

Harden races two cars. They both have his father's old number, 101, on the sides. The cars are nearly identical except for the motor under the hood.

He races one in the limited late-model division at Silver Spring Speedway in Mechanicsburg, Pa., and Susquehanna Speedway in Newberrytown, Pa.

The other car is raced in the late-model division at Winchester (Va.) Speedway, Williams Grove (Pa.) Speedway, Potomac Speedway (Budds Creek) and Delaware International Speedway in Delmar. Last week he made his first appearance at Hagerstown Speedway.

A limited late model has a 355-cubic-inch limit on the motor. The late model has no engine limit. Harden has a 451-cubic-inch motor in his late model.

Both motors are MOPAR engines, which is a rarity in dirt track racing where almost all the engines are Chevrolet.

Harden and his father do all the work on the cars, including motor work. The machine work on the engines is done by Morris Automotive in Manchester.

Having two cars allows Harden to run at more tracks. Although he prefers the speed of a late model, it cost less to race with the limiteds.

With two cars, Harden doesn't like to tie himself down to any one track to run for the track championship.

Traveling to different tracks normally puts the driver at a disadvantage. The local driver knows his track's racing surface better and knows what tires and chassis set-up to use.

The 27-year-old Hampstead resident defeats this disadvantage rather easily. He works full-time for W&W Racing Tires in Finksburg. By selling the tires (Hoosier) that most of the drivers use at area tracks, Harden knows ahead of time what compounds are working and what set-ups to use.

Traveling has its advantages as well. Drivers agree that racing at different tracks against different competitors makes a better driver. Because Harden has been doing more traveling the last couple of years, he has matured as a driver.

He is a consistent top-10 driver who is as smooth as a veteran with twice the experience. All that stands between him and the top five is a major sponsor for his motor program. Motors are the biggest expense in late-model racing.

In addition to W&W Racing Tires, Harden receives sponsorship help from Pennzoil Motor Oil, Interstate Batteries and Terry Stocksdale.

Harden plans on racing dirt late models for a while. He would like to get a little better and put together some wins like Gary Stuhler of Westminster. Maybe later he would like to try some asphalt racing.

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