Messersmith steers career on right track

MOTOR SPORTS

November 01, 1992|By STAN DILLON

Greg Messersmith was born to race. In only his fourth year of competition, the Westminster resident recently won the eight-cylinder track championship at the Trail-Way Speedway in Hanover, Pa.

As a rookie four years ago, Messersmith entered the local racing scene like an experienced professional by finishing second in points. The next year, he proved he was for real by finishing third in the point standings.

Last year, he finished third again, picking up six feature wins, a career high. This year, he only won one race, but his consistent top-five finishes earned him the track title.

Overall, in four years Messersmith has won 11 races, including one in his only visit to Lincoln Speedway in Hanover.

It is hard for Messersmith to pick out his most satisfying season. All have been successful.

"It's a toss-up," said Messersmith. "I don't know which season has been the most rewarding. I won more last year, but won the track championship this year. There were more quality cars and better competition this year."

What makes the accomplishment even more impressive is that Messersmith has become a top driver without spending large sums of money.

The eight-cylinder class at Trail-Way is similar to the street stock and thundercar divisions at other speedways. It is promoted as an inexpensive way to race on the local clay ovals.

Like every other form of motor sports, there are drivers who still spend loads of money to win re

gardless of the rules that attempt to keep the expense as low as possible.

"We run junkyard stuff," said Messersmith. "My dad builds all the motors and does most of the work."

Messersmith's dad brings more than mechanical experience to the team. He also brings racing experience. Ray Messersmith raced in the '50s and '60s at the defunct Beltsville Speedway and at Lincoln Speedway.

"I don't remember watching him race," said Messersmith. "He knows how to set a car up and he tells me what I am doing wrong. I couldn't have done it without him."

Greg's father is a co-owner of Smith Brothers Auto Parts in Westminster, which helps out a lot when the Messersmiths need parts to keep their car going.

Messersmith raced the same car until the middle of this year, proving that you don't need a new car every year to win.

"I finally had to replace the car," said Messersmith. "We had to completely rebuild the roll cage at the end of last year when the car was nearly totaled in a championship

race. The car never came back to handle as well."

With a championship on the line, he replaced the old 1979 Chevrolet Malibu with a 1980 model that he had been building in his spare time. Messersmith knew changing cars would be risky, but his old car was suffering from fatigue after three years of competition.

With his smooth driving style, he managed to keep finishing in the top five while working out the bugs.

After being on top of the points most of the season, Messersmith, 26, dropped to third with four races remaining near the end of the year.

"I still felt I had a good chance to win," he said. "We had two double-point races left and the new car was consistent and was beginning to handle good."

Winning the championship was not an easy task. It required working on the car every night, going over every part to make sure noth

ing would break. It also meant dedication, making every race and finishing in the top five consistently.

With the championship behind him, Messersmith plans to take it easy next year and not race every week. He wants to spend more time with his wife, Leslie, their daughter, Amanda, and another one on the way.

Messersmith knows that he didn't win the championship by himself. In addition to his father, a neighbor, Bob Brown, helped with the car.

Sponsors include Messersmith's employer, Evans B&H Tire Service in Finksburg, Reisterstown Auto Parts, Chuck's Video in Westminster, Gary's Radiator of Westminster, Barry and Mark Shorb of S&M Performance and Kenny Roberts.

No one knows what the future holds for Messersmith. With four good years under his belt, his potential is unlimited.

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