Drag racing is a sport that grows on you. When a person experiences the thrill of competition, he enjoys it so much that his enthusiasm rubs off on his family and friends around them.
That is what has happened to Brian Dowdy, 17, and his family. Until two years ago, he wasn't involved in drag racing. Today, he can't wait for the season to open.
After two weeks of postponements, the South Carroll High School student and Mount Airy resident is hoping to open the 1994 racing season at the 75-80 Dragway in Monrovia.
He races in the ETK or Trophy class, a division for cars with elapsed times of 12 seconds or slower in the quarter-mile.
The trophy class is ideal for drivers such as Dowdy. It provides a place for a novice to race without spending any extra money, because a person can drive his car to the track and race it. It gives the beginner an opportunity to try racing and see if he likes it before spending any money.
It allows a driver to gain experience at the starting grid with the starting lights before moving up to the next more expensive class. It also provides the fan the chance to race and have fun without the pressures a more advance division can have.
Dowdy, was interested in cars and enrolled in the auto mechanics class taught by Mike Keifer of Sykesville, who races with his family at 75-80 and often invites students to the dragway.
"I went to watch Mr. Keifer a couple of times," Dowdy said. "The more I talked to him about racing the more I wanted to try it."
Then next time, Dowdy took his father, Jim, and younger brother, Nick. They were as impressed as Brian and wanted to give it a shot. A couple of weeks later they returned to the track with a 1967 Chevrolet pickup.
"I took it up to see what it would do and got hooked on it," Dowdy said.
"I won a trophy the first time out. I was pretty excited."
It wasn't long before the boys and their father were regulars. Eventually, Dowdy's mother, Linda, started going to the track to be with the rest of the family. And because drag racing is a family sport, Linda got a chance to race.
"She raced the Lincoln town car in the Powder Puff race," Brian said. "She was nervous at first. She didn't know how to do the lights and all that. But Sandy Keifer, Mike's wife, told her how to do it. So she decided to go ahead."
Like her husband and sons she became hooked.
The family has enjoyed racing so much that it purchased a Chevy Nova to race with the pickup.
"The Nova was purchased in Pennsylvania, and we're going to race it the way it is. Then next winter we'll rebuild the motor. We'll just see what it does right now," Brian said.
With Keifer's help, Brian is rebuilding a 350-cubic-inch Chevrolet engine to replace the smaller 327 one in his truck. He hopes to get the pickup up to 100-110 mph with the larger motor.
Because he has the most experience, Brian will race the pickup, and the rest of the family will race the Nova. His brother is awaiting his 16th birthday so he can get behind the wheel.
Brian plans to gain more experience in the Trophy class before moving up to the faster Class I.
The Hagerstown and Lincoln speedways finally got their 1994 seasons under way last weekend after three postponements.
At Hagerstown Speedway, Gary Stuhler of Westminster finished third in the 35-lap late-model feature. Charlie Schaffer of Hampstead was 14th, and Paul Crowl of Upperco was 19th.
In the 25-lap super-sprint feature at Lincoln Speedway in Hanover, Pa., Jesse Wentz of Manchester was eighth, Cris Eash of Woodbine was ninth. Corky Stull of Westminster finished second in the thundercar feature, and Kenny Mirfin of Union Bridge placed 12th.