Spielman drags himself back into the thrill of racing


June 19, 1994|By STAN DILLON

For years, Norman Spielman was one of the top money winners on the local drag racing scene. Six years ago, he walked away from drag racing shortly after he survived a violent crash. Now he is back to see if he still has it, to go to Maple Grove for the NED Nationals one more time.

The Spielman name is widely recognized in drag racing in Carroll County. Norman's brother, Charlie, owns and operates a machine shop in Taneytown that has turned out winning motors for years.

With Charlie as a brother, it didn't come as a surprise when Norman wanted to race. He started as soon as he was 16 years old with a 1967 Ford Fairlane.

"My brother Charlie taught me a lot," said Spielman. "He taught me what I needed to know, but not everything he knew. He's been the backbone of my career."

Charlie helped him with parts and motors and it wasn't long before Spielman was one of the better competitors at 75-80 Dragway in Monrovia.

In 1979, Spielman hooked up with Mike Garber and began driving his 1972 Ford Maverick. The two men hit it off. They NTC began to travel from track to track winning wherever they raced.

They traveled to where the money was, three times a week t places like Manassas, Va., Capitol Raceway in Crofton and 75-80. The two pushed themselves and began to feel the pressure. They began to feel that if they didn't win any money the night was not a good one.

July 1984, Spielman came close to having his last race at 75-80. He passed the quarter-mile mark at 120 mph. As he approached the hill at the end of the track he began to apply the brakes. But the brakes did not work. He totaled the car and was rushed to the hospital with internal injuries and lacerations that required 150 stitches. He hospitalized for a week.

With the Maverick junked, he and Garber took a 1974 Ford Mustang that Spielman had been working on and finished the car. The two continued racing the next year.

In 1985 the new car had constant motor problems and they were unable to get in the winning groove they had with the Fairlane. They needed another motor and to save money they purchased a 351-cubic-inch Ford motor into the car that they purchased at a local junkyard for $35. All they did to the engine was to put new heads on it.

The motor turned out to be the best money they spent. The team began to win again, and Spielman had his best year in racing.

"1986 was my year," said Spielman. "I couldn't believe how the motor performed. It ran the numbers and stayed together. It was phenomenal. It was so consistent we won the overall track championship that year."

In 1987, Spielman qualified again for the Northeast Divisional Division Bracket Finals. He had won the first two rounds, but his motor let loose on the third round. Spielman and his partner sold everything and retired from racing.

His decision wasn't a spur of the moment one. It was one that he began to think about when he was recuperating in the hospital. He left racing and became an active member of the Church of the Open Door in Westminster.

Spielman continued to visit 75-80 after his retirement and raced a couple of times the past few years. He knew that racing the way he did was over, that racing would never dominate his life again, but he did want to compete again.

"Laying in the hospital was the turning point in my career," he said. "I saw that racing wasn't everything."

Last year he told his brother to look for an old clunker for him to race. They found an 1988 Ford Fairlane with 88,000 miles on it. Spielman did body work on it and has the car almost completely restored.

He decided to come back to racing this year for one more try.

"My children are older now," Spielman said. "I like to give it one more shot, see if I still have it in me."

While Spielman's current Fairlane runs the quarter-mile with elapsed time of 18 seconds compared to 12 seconds before, he knows more than anyone that it is consistency that wins in bracket racing.

"It gives me plenty time to think," Spielman jokes about the slower time. "I just let them 11- to 12-second boys come get me. I am having more fun now, I am really enjoying myself. If I win, fine.

If I don't, I am still having fun."

Last weekend's results

Every time Bedford (Pa.) Speedway has a special event, Gary Stuhler of Westminster takes home the money. Last Sunday night Stuhler started fourth and made a dramatic wide outside move in turn three and took the lead on lap 11. Stuhler ran unchallenged the rest of the way to win the 25-lap late-model event. At Hagerstown Speedway last Saturday night, Stuhler finished fifth.

At Winchester (Va.) Speedway last Saturday night, Ernie Jones of Westminster finished second in the late-model feature. It was his best finish of the year. Cris Eash of Woodbine finished fifth in the super sprint feature at Williams Grove (Pa.) Speedway.

Jesse Wentz of Manchester placed seventh in the super sprint feature at Lincoln (Pa.) Speedway. Kenny Angell of Taneytown was runner-up in the semi-late feature at Lincoln. John Moser of Westminster was 10th. Greg Messersmith of Hampstead finished third in the thundercar feature, and Brad Green of Westminster won the four-cylinder qualifying heat. Matt Barnes of Westminster was 10th in the feature.

At Trail-Way (Pa.) Speedway, Brad McClelland of Westminster placed third in the micro-sprint feature followed by Steve Owings in fourth. Messersmith was second in the thundercar feature, Corky Stull of Westminster was third, Mark Shorb of Westminster was seventh. In the four-cylinder feature, Jeff Young of Westminster finished third.

In a Nostalgia Race at 75-80, Martin Spalding of Owings Mills won Class I. David Mail of Mount Airy went four rounds.

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