Young Smith brothers uncommonly good in Jr. Dragsters Program

MOTOR SPORTS

January 16, 1994|By STAN DILLON

Two years ago, the National Hot Rod Association started the Jr. Dragster Program for youths 8 to 16. Thousands of youths throughout the country have joined the program, which is equivalent to recreation baseball or football.

Two Mount Airy brothers, David and Joey Smith, race in the Jr. Dragster program at 75-80 Dragway in Monrovia and at Mason-Dixon Dragway in Hagerstown.

Next weekend, they will attend the Mason-Dixon Dragway Banquet, where they finished in the top eight in the point standings. Although the brothers did not start racing until May, they rallied at the end of the season with several wins and runner-up finishes.

David, 13, and Joey, 11, aren't new to drag racing. They have been around it all their lives. Their father, Dave Sr., had been racing since the early '80s and was a top Class I competitor. He raced a 1979 Monza with elapsed times of 9.40 seconds or 145 mph in the quarter-mile.

"I was going every weekend," said Dave Sr. "I was running three times a weekend. I think I just got burned out. It was about that time that the Jr. Dragster Program was introduced, so we decided to let the kids do it for a while."

"The kids always liked helping their dad at the track," added Patti, the boys' mother. "They were always with him when he raced and always wanted to race."

So rather than waiting until they were 16, the Jr. Dragster program allowed them to get an early start and prepare them for the bigger and faster cars.

David and Joey started out racing one car. They took turns racing every other week. In September, Richard Higley, a part-time chassis builder with Fabrication Inc. in Montgomery County, offered David a ride in his car. This gave the boys a chance to race every week in their own car.

The extra time behind the wheel gave the boys more track time and they responded to the experience with immediate results. They became consistent off the line and ended up being the hottest Jr. Dragster drivers in the area the last three months of the year.

"I like the speed," said Joey, a sixth-grade student at Windsor Knolls Middle School.

"I like winning," said David, who is in the seventh grade.

Winning was what the young drivers did a lot of at the end of the season. In October, David turned in a weekend that any driver dreams of. He journeyed to Old Bridge Township Raceway Park in Englishtown, N.J., for the Jr. Dragster Fall Nationals and won the Jr. Competition Division for cars 11.99 seconds or quicker. He followed with a second-place finish at Mason-Dixon and another win at 75-80.

Overall, Joey had three wins, and David had four.

The brothers' cars are identical except that David's motor has been modified while Joey's motor is basically stock. The cars are powered by a five-horsepower Briggs & Stratton motor. Although the motors look like lawn-mower engines, the internal parts like the piston, rod, cam and carburetor have been modified. Both cars use alcohol and cost between $3,000 and $4,000.

The cars are small replicas of the large dragster. They race an eighth of a mile instead of quarter-mile. David's elapsed time averages 11.44 seconds or 56 mph. Joey is about 7 mph slower with his stock motor.

"When we first started, we used parts and gears similar to those used by go-carts," said Dave Sr. "But we found out that didn't work as well. We want to leave the line hard, get to the finish line as quick as we can."

The Smith boys are preparing for the season opener in March. They received a practice tree for Christmas to help their reaction time with the starting lights. Their father is also practicing, just in case.

While David and Joey will race the same dragsters again, their father is contemplating returning to racing with a regular dragster.

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