Wilson regroups after disappointing year


January 14, 1996|By Stanley Dillon | Stanley Dillon,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Dave Wilson is looking forward to the racing season. Since he started racing 16 years ago, the 34-year-old Woodbine resident has been a top driver in points at Capitol Raceway in Crofton.

After a somewhat disappointing season in 1995 when engine problems kept him on the sidelines more than he wanted, Wilson is ready to put the heartaches behind him.

"I had major engine problems last year. I broke a rod bolt and

really destroyed my engine. The only part I could salvage was the intake manifold and left-side cylinder head," said Wilson. "It was a mess. It set me back a couple thousand and I sit back at times and wonder why do I do it."

Wilson started racing by accident. He began working on a 1970 Chevelle SS that needed a lot of work. After spending a couple years restoring the car, Wilson took the car to Capitol and raced in the trophy class.

"It was my first time racing," Wilson said. "I went down to where there were only four cars left before I lost. I found out that night that I had racing in my blood. I have been going ever since."

Wilson started in the street class and finished fourth in points in his first season. He later moved on to the Heavy Eliminator class or Class II and continued his winning ways. In 10 years with the Chevelle, Wilson finished in the points and qualified for the bracket finals in nine of 10 years.

In 1986, Wilson finished second in points and went seven rounds to win his class in the bracket finals. In 1988, his racing slowed a bit as he moved to Woodbine from Baltimore.

In 1989 he raced at Mason-Dixon Dragway in Hagerstown on Sundays so he could work on his new house on Saturdays. A different track didn't keep Wilson from winning, he finished first in the points.

Like many drag racers, Wilson wanted to go faster, but he knew to go faster meant more money and it wasn't there. He knew he could make his Chevelle go faster, but to race in the faster class he would have to install a roll cage and make changes that would destroy the value of the car as a collectible.

In 1990, he purchased a 1973 Chevrolet Vega. The next year he didn't race much as he spent most of his spare time on a new house. It was also a year of getting the feel of a new and faster car.

Switching cars always takes some time to adapt, especially moving into another class at the same time. Cars in Class I have a lot of electronic equipment that tends to give drivers a rough time at first. One of the new pieces of equipment was the `D transbrake, which drivers start the car by pushing a button to release the car at the line instead of taking their foot off the brake.

"It was real frustrating at first," Wilson said. "I knew there would be a period where it would take time to adapt, but it was still frustrating. I knew I had an above-average race car and had a lot of money tied up in it, but I wasn't doing well. It was more the driver than the car. Once I settled down and realized that the hand didn't work the same as the feet, then I was fine."

In 1992, he returned with the Vega to race for points and finished fourth at Capitol in a close battle for the championship that was up for grabs until the final week. In 1993, he didn't join points, then last year he had nothing but engine problems that kept him out of the point chase.

Wilson has not regretted switching to the faster Vega.

"I really like the car. Most of all it is a really safe race car, much safer than the Chevelle," he said. "But the cost is twice as much, that is the biggest downfall. My motors cost me about $1,200 for my Chevelle, which was a 12-second car. Now they cost me over $5,000 to go 9.3 seconds."

This year, Wilson will have two motors, a 355-cubic-inch small block and a 377-cubic-inch one that will be his regular power plant. He expects to turn the quarter-mile in the 9.20-second range.

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