The nice thing about drag racing is you can start at almost any age. You can start as young as age 8 with the Junior Dragster program.
Although most people start racing in their late teens or early 20s, many drivers like John Ryan, 38, of Finksburg, do not start until later.
Ryan always has been interested in cars, but put his racing interest on hold as he started a family and built a new home.
Last year, at an age when others begin to wind down their racing activities, he felt he was ready to pursue his dream.
Actually 38 isn't too old in racing. Recently, Eddie Hill won the NHRA Winston Top Fuel world championship at 57.
"I was always into cars," Ryan said. "Two years ago I had finished restoring a 1978 Chevrolet Camaro and I took it up to the drag strip to try it out.
"I was shaking and very nervous when I approached the line for the first run, but when I was done, I was hooked.
"Now I wish I would have started sooner. Actually I started too late, but never could afford it until now."
Because the Camaro was primarily a show car, Ryan raced it only once a month. During that time he began to look for another car.
"I started looking in the paper for another car," he said. "I didn't want to continue racing the Camaro because I had to change it over for racing every time I went. It would take me a day to put on racing slicks and get it ready."
He found the car he was looking for last February, a 1979 Chevrolet Camaro Z-28. He spent the first part of this year rebuilding the car for racing. A machinist and certified welder for Kay-Don in Baltimore, Ryan called on his skills to refurbish the car.
"I wanted to do everything myself so if anything happened I could fix it," said Ryan. "I paid $1,000 for the car and have invested another $5,500 in it. I've done everything on my own. I don't have a sponsor. I work a lot of overtime and that money goes to my racing."
Ryan is pleased with the progress he has made in his first full year of racing.
"I had my best reaction time last week. I had a .509 time [.500 is perfect]. My reaction time has been .54 to .57. It was the best I ever had, but I outran my time."
Ryan also has improved his elapsed time from 14 seconds to 12.01, or 115 mph.
He has a 400-cubic-inch Chevrolet small block motor bored out to 406 cubic inches that produces about 500 horsepower.
Although Ryan's car runs within a second of Class I (cars with elapsed time of 11.99 or faster), he plans to remain in Class II for a while.
"I am just now getting the bugs out of the car, so I want to stay with it," Ryan said.
"I plan on tearing the car apart over the winter. I want to install a new suspension so I can get off the line better and lighten the car up 400-500 pounds by installing fiberglass parts. I want to get a better 60-foot time [amount of time require to travel the first 60 foot]. If I can bring down my 60-foot time from 1.72 seconds to 1.6 seconds, I can lower my elapsed time from 12.1 to 12 seconds flat."
John isn't the only Ryan hooked on racing. His wife, Susan, is a regular at the track as well.
Ryan plans to race for the points in 1994. With a year under his belt, he is ready to get serious.
Last weekend was a busy one for Westminster's Gary Stuhler. He returned to Pennsboro (W. Va.) Speedway for the Dirt Track World Championship, started 15th in the 28-car field and finished eighth.
Last Sunday, Stuhler returned to Hagerstown Speedway for the Big Fall Classic and won both 20-lap late-model features. Stuhler led every lap in the first feature, then started 10th in the nightcap and took the lead on lap 16 to take the win. With the two wins, his 24th and 25th of 1993, Stuhler moved into third place in career wins at Hagerstown with 61.
Charlie Schaffer of Hampstead finished eighth in the first feature. In the twin 20-lap super sprint features, Darren Eash of Woodbine had two sixth-place finishes.
In drag racing, the final Top Dog race of the year pitted Class I against Class II winners) at 75-80 Dragway. Mike Stambaugh of Union Bridge won Class II and then beat Class I winner Larry McGowan of Randallstown.
In Class I competition, Joe Mayne of Mount Airy was runner-up and Dave Buete of Mount Airy was semifinalist. Dan Householder of Sykesville, Larry Bosley Sr. and Steve Cavey of Westminster and Joe Doffmeyer of Mount Airy each went three rounds.
In Class II action, Jim Peddicord of Westminster was runner-up to Stambaugh. Scott Lowman of Woodbine and Bobby Spielman of Taneytown each went four rounds and Norman Spielman of Taneytown and Roger Jorss of Sykesville each went three rounds.
Norman Wagner of Hampstead won the motorcycle class followed by Gene Belt of Taneytown. Malcolm Ford of Westminster was semifinalist.
In the Dutch Classic at Maple Grove, Pa., Bruce Combs and his son Marc, of Westminster, each won four rounds. Bruce races Super Gas (9.90) and Marc races Super Street (10.90).
Last weekend was the final point race at 75-80. Mayne ended the season as the top driver in Class I and Corey Hess of Taneytown was the top driver in Class II.