From watching karts go to competing


August 21, 1994|By STAN DILLON

Eric Ohler, 19, has been racing go-karts for seven years. Whether he races on asphalt or dirt, the Taneytown native has become one of the top drivers on the kart circuit in Maryland and Pennsylvania.

The Ohler family was not involved in motor sports when they first visited the kart track in Hunterstown, Pa., to watch the races. They were impressed with what they saw and returned several times.

They enjoyed the races so much that Eric and his father, Jeff, decided to try competing. They purchased a used kart and have been racing weekly ever since.

Ohler started racing on the dirt oval at Hunterstown. For the past four years, he has competed on dirt and asphalt tracks throughout the area.

"I enjoy both types of tracks," said Ohler. "I don't prefer one over the other. Dirt track is slower, but there is more passing and the tracks are wider. If you want speed, you can go all out on asphalt. They are both a lot of fun."

Ohler uses the same kart on both surfaces, but the similarity ends there. He uses a completely different chassis set-up, engine and tires for the asphalt. Even in kart racing, different tire compounds are used. A harder tire compound is used for asphalt with less stagger.

Ohler uses different engines as well. He runs a stock engine on dirt and a limited modified engine on the asphalt. In kart racing, everyone starts out with the basic Briggs & Stratton five-horsepower motor. It looks like any lawn-mower motor. But when the engines are modified, they become quite different internally.

Ohler's modified motors have a different cam, Holoway rods and pistons and the cylinder is bored out -- all to produce more horsepower and speed.

Ohler has been very successful in kart racing. He won the junior super stock championship in his first year and the senior class modified title two years later. This year, he has three wins at Hunterstown and another win at Shippensburg (Pa.) Speedway.

In addition to building motors for his son, Jeff Ohler builds motors for junior dragsters who compete at dragways such as 75-80 and Mason-Dixon. More than 15 junior dragsters in the area use his motors. The third-fastest dragster in the country has a Ohler-built Briggs & Stratton motor in it.

Racing go-karts is relatively inexpensive compared to other motor sports. A new chassis race-ready costs about $1,400. A stock motor will cost another $700.

A chassis in kart racing lasts about four years. Ohler and his father overhaul their engines after five races. They replace the rings and lap the valves so they don't leak. Then go over the rest of the engine, thoroughly checking the piston, crankshaft and rest of the parts.

Ohler plans to race a couple more years in karts. Then he hopes to move up to micro or mini sprints.

The Ohler team has been successful in kart racing, thanks to Eric's driving and Jeff's mechanical ability.

Weekend results

Last weekend was a big one at Trail-Way Speedway for John McDonogh of Finksburg, who claimed his first career win in the thundercar feature. Greg Messersmith of Hampstead placed second and Mark Shorb of Westminster was ninth. In other action at Trail-Way, Mike Stull of Westminster was third in the micro-sprint feature, Dave Parris of Westminster was fifth, Brad McCleeland of Westminster was seventh and Wayne Karcher of Upperco 10th. Steve Barnes of Westminster won the four-cylinder feature, and Mike Walls of Taneytown was third.

In late-model action, Gary Stuhler of Westminster continued his success at Winchester Speedway as he raced to a win in the 72-lap Paul Johnson Memorial. It was the second year in a row that Stuhler has won this event and his fifth win in six starts at the Virginia track. Westminster's Rick and Ernie Jones placed ninth and 10th in the event.

At Hagerstown Speedway, Paul Crowl of Upperco won his qualifying heat and finished third in the 25-lap late-model feature. Mike Harrison of Mount Airy won a qualifying event.

In 75-80 drag racing action last Friday, Paul Yerger of Sykesville won the Class I competition. Ray Lewis of Woodbine went to the semifinals, Ron Leonard of Mount Airy went five rounds and Alan Palmer of Hampstead, Dan Householder and Joe Mayne, both of Mount Airy, went three rounds. In Class II, Steve Hoff of Sykesville returned to his winning ways and continues to lead in points. George Hoff of Westminster went three rounds. Saturday action at 75-80 was rained out.

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