At age 5, Westminster youngster is off to accelerated start on his racing career


January 30, 1994|By STAN DILLON

Luke Dempsey of Westminster has come a long way in his first year of racing.

He finished fifth in points, won nine trophies, landed corporate support from Kodak Film and had his car on display at the Miller Motorsports trade show in King of Prussia, Pa.

Luke isn't your ordinary driver. He is in kindergarten at Manchester Elementary School. Next month the 3-foot-6 youngster turns 6. He has a year of racing experience.

And he can't wait until the 1994 season starts. Last year, he raced quarter-midgets weekly at the Norlebco Quarter-Midget Club in Jonestown, Pa.

Luke always has been around racing. His father, Bob, was a drag racer until 1986 when he took time out to build a house and start a family. He returned to racing as a tech inspector at Lincoln Speedway in Hanover, Pa.

Luke went to races with his father every week and it wasn't long before he became a big sprint car fan. Before he was 3, Luke was riding a four-wheeler.

Bob stepped down from his job as tech inspector in the early '90s, but continued going to the races. He missed being part of racing and began looking for a way that the whole family could be involved.

One weekend two years ago, Bob and his wife, Tammy, visited the Linda Speedway in Jonestown to watch the quarter-midgets.

"I fell in love with them right away," said Bob. "It was something for the entire family. So I began to look into the cars through the trade paper and got hooked up with Butler Chassis. He built a car to fit Luke that was ready to hit the track."

Luke took to racing right away. The 5-year-old couldn't wait for Saturday to come so he could race and play with his matchbox race cars with his friends.

Quarter-midget racing is like Little League baseball. There are quarter-midget clubs all over the country for children 5 to 15 years of age.

The cars are similar in style to open-wheel sprint or midget cars. They are powered by Briggs & Stratton engines similar to those used on go-karts and junior dragsters.

Luke races in the novice division and because of his age he races a three-horsepower stock engine with a 3/8 -inch restrictor plate. As he grows older and become more experienced, the motor can be modified to make the car faster.

The car can be purchased in kit form or race ready. The car cost approximately $3,000 complete with motor. The only maintenance on the car is cleaning it and changing the oil.

Luke races with over a dozen boys and girls his age on a one-tenth of a mile oval.

As soon as Luke began racing, his mother started looking for a sponsor. Luke's uncle, Eddie, who works for Maryland Public Television as a producer of "Motorweek," had been subscribing to "Motorsports Sponsorship Marketing News" from Saxton Communications of Langhorne, Pa.

With information from the monthly newsletter, Eddie helped prepare a proposal and Luke's mother sent it to Kodak. Luke received permission to use Kodak colors on his car last year. The car is painted like the #4 Winston Cup car driven by Sterling Marlin.

Last October, Tammy followed up the first proposal with another one. In December, the Dempseys received word from Kodak Film that they would contribute support for their racing efforts. It was a natural marriage for the two because Kodak Film is in Winston Cup racing and family pictures.

In addition to support from Kodak Film, other sponsors include Peters Body Shop and Chris Grim Signs of Reisterstown. Luke's grandfather, Richard Dempsey of R. D. Flooring of Reisterstown, also supports the family racing efforts and attends most of the races.

Smith wins pageant title

Summer Smith of Taneytown won the ninth annual Ms. Miller Motorsports Beauty Pageant at the Valley Forge Convention Center in King of Prussia, Pa. last Saturday night.

One of more than 40 contestants, she represented Hagerstown Speedway and Smith Racing. She finished second last year.

A junior at Towson State University, she is the sister of Stevie Smith, a World of Outlaw sprint driver. Her father, Steve Smith, holds the career record for the most wins at Lincoln Speedway in

Hanover, Pa.

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