Hampstead driver has success following in his father's footsteps

Motor sports

January 07, 1996|By Stanley Dillon | Stanley Dillon,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Fred Cullum, 25, of Hampstead has some big shoes to fill. His father, Walt, was a top driver in the Figure-8 division at Dorsey Speedway for 18 years. Then after Dorsey closed, the veteran driver continued racing at Lincoln Speedway in the thundercar division.

When his father retired, Fred's older brother, Allen, took over the driving. Fred, who had helped his father since he was old enough to be allowed in the competition area, was satisfied working on the cars and continued to help his brother. He never considered driving and was perfectly happy working the wrenches.

Three years ago when Allen was unable to make the last race of the year, Fred stepped in and drove the car. He finished fifth in his first race and drove like he was a veteran. It was hard for him to believe how much fun he had been missing.

With Fred's almost instant success, his parents asked him to give racing a shot the next year. He didn't hesitate with his answer. Once the decision was made, they built a new car and the Cullums became a two-car/two-driver team.

Fred's fine showing in his first race wasn't beginner's luck. He finished fifth in points in his first full season and sixth the next year. Last year he fell back to 10th in points, still not a bad year.

Fred Cullum races in the thundercar division at Lincoln Speedway in Hanover, Pa. For some drivers, the division serves as a class to gain valuable experience and track time before moving onto a more expensive and faster division. For others like the Cullum family, the division serves as a inexpensive way to go racing, a class for people who enjoy racing as a hobby. It is a good competitive sport where the entire family can be involved. It also takes a lot of work and patience as well as driving skill and chassis know-how.

The thundercar division is similar to street stock classes at other speedways. While the rules for sprint cars and late models allow a lot of modification, street stock rules are written to keep cars as close to stock as possible, thus keeping racing expenses down.

Cullum's car is a 1979 Chevrolet Malibu. Engines are limited to 350 cubic inches. Outside of a full roll-cage, cars are kept close to stock as possible. That doesn't mean drivers don't look for ways to improve the car's handling within the rules. That's where the elder Cullum comes in. His years of experience definitely has helped his sons.

"He helps me out a lot," said Fred. "He tells me what I should do and is always trying to help me improve my driving. We do all our own fabrication with his help."

Walt Cullum still hasn't lost his desire to compete even though he realizes it's time for his sons to race. He often takes the car out for warm-ups and uses the practice laps to help with the chassis set-up. There is no doubt in the boys' minds that their early success in racing can be attributed to their father's long experience behind the wheel.

The Cullums will be busy during the off-season. With the first race at Lincoln less than two months away, Fred and his family are building a new car for the new season.

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