Go-kart racing far from a drag for Devilbiss


December 20, 1992|By STAN DILLON

Go-karts have become an inexpensive way for people to enjoy racing. Many drivers from other types of motor sports have turned to kart racing.

Mike Devilbiss of Westminster is among a growing number of drag racers who have switched to kart racing.

"I was into drag racing for 10 years," Devilbiss said. "I got out about six years ago when I stopped enjoying it. It became too computerized and too expensive."

Devilbiss did not get the urge to race again until three years ago when he began fooling around with a go-kart in his back yard.

A short time later he went with some friends, Pat Small and Jeff and Eric Ohler, who raced regularly at the Hunterstown (Pa.) kart track. Soon he had a kart of his own.

Devilbiss adapted right away to kart racing. He finished second in points in his first season at Hunterstown.

Last year, his second season, he raced at several tracks, including Monrovia, Sandy Hook (Bel Air) and a national event in York, Pa., where he finished fourth. He finished the outdoor season with five feature wins at Hunterstown.

Last Sunday, Devilbiss competed in his first indoor event at the Maryland State Fairgrounds in Timonium. It was quite different from the longer outdoor tracks.

"I loved it," Devilbiss, 34, said. "I liked the small track, it really keeps you on your toes.

"I qualified second. In the feature event I was running second. I thought I had a chance at winning when I was tagged from behind that knocked me into the wall. The guy that hit me was disqualified later for rough driving."

Although Devilbiss has only been driving karts for a short period, it sounds like he will be in the sport for a while.

"It keeps my interest," Devilbiss said. "I feel that I improve every time I go out."

A machinist by trade for Ingersoll-Dressler Pump Company in Taneytown, he makes a lot of the parts he needs for the kart. For the indoor race, he made a special reduction shaft that saved him $200.

"I make my own parts, that's one of the main reasons I like it. It is something I can work with," he said.

Devilbiss races in the Super Stock division, a class that allows some modification to the motor. At first glance the motor looks like any five-horsepower Briggs & Stratton four-cycle lawn mower engine. But it ends there.

A special cam, enlarged carburetor and aluminum pistons enables the motor to turn out three times as much horsepower as a stock motor. It is not unusual for a kart to turn speeds of 90 mph on a eighth-mile oval.

Kart racing is serious business for drivers like Devilbiss. Different cams are selected and checked out on the dynamometer to see which one is best by Ensor's Speed Shop. After the motor is put together, Devilbiss maintains it throughout the season.

Kart racing is a lot like sprint-car and late-model racing, the driver has to pay a lot of attention to the track surface. The kart chassis is adjusted like a larger car to compensate for the change in the racing surface.

Tire compound and air pressure play an important part as well as chassis set-up. Although there is no suspension on a kart to adjust like on larger cars, the front spindles are adjusted in place of the shocks and springs to redistribute the weight for better traction.

To be competitive, Devilbiss races one night a week. He feels that if he raced more the kart's performance would not be as dependable.

Devilbiss receives sponsorship help from Pat Small of Taneytown Auto Parts, Ensor's Speed Shop and Brad McClelland of B&M Racing Products.

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