Devotion to racing pays off for micro-sprinter McClelland


January 21, 1996|By Stanley Dillon | Stanley Dillon,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Last night, Brad McClelland of Westminster capped off a record-breaking season when he was crowned the micro-sprint champion at the Trail-Way Speedway awards banquet in Spring Grove, Pa.

En route to the track championship, McClelland, 26, led all micro-sprint drivers with 20 feature wins. It was a year that most drivers dream of, but very few achieve.

In addition to winning the track championship at Trail-Way, McClelland's performance at Challenger Raceway in Indiana, Pa., earned him the Cochran Automotive Cavalcade of Champions title, a regional award for the Eastern Ohio and Western Pennsylvania drivers.

McClelland won nine races at Challenger and finished fourth in points. He would have had a good shot at that championship as well, but he raced some events closer to home during the year.

McClelland started out the season with plans to race only at Trail-Way every Friday and a few select shows on Saturday nights. But when he won the first race of the year at Trail-Way and followed that with an opening win the next night at Challenger, McClelland ended up racing both nights most of the year.

"I guess racing is in my blood," said McClelland. "If you have a good night Friday, you don't want to stay home Saturday. I don't like standing around, I want to race when I can."

Brad comes from a racing family. His father, Bill McClelland, was one of the finest late-model drivers in the area in the late '70s and early '80s. He won track championships at Lincoln Speedway in Hanover, Pa., in 1978 and 1981 and the 1979 Keystone Auto Racing Series late-model championship while racing at the Hagerstown and Williams Grove speedways.

Brad started racing motorcycles at Trail-Way when he was 14. Soon after he graduated from Westminster High, he was persuaded by two buddies, Steve Owings and Mike Stull, to switch to micro-sprints.

Last year, McClelland won just about everywhere he raced. In addition to his wins at Trail-Way and Challenger speedways, he won three of the four special micro-sprint races at Winchester (Va.) Speedway and the only micro-sprint race at the Ebensburgh (Pa.) Speedway.

For most of the year, McClelland was the leading feature winner in oval track racing in the Northeast, but the wins became less frequent at the end of the season. Racing more than one night a week takes a toll on equipment, personnel and the pocketbook.

While the equipment may have shown some wear, the handicap systems in use at most tracks put McClelland 12th or higher in a 24-car starting field. At some tracks, McClelland had to start last the week after every feature win. But that didn't always stop him, he still won.

"The car was worn out because of the number of races," said McClelland. "I raced in 54 races this year, that's a lot. One night is all most people can afford. But I want to race. I couldn't have done it without my crew, Andy Baird of Littlestown and Shawn Shadle of Gettysburg."

Winning has been a big boost to McClelland's own business, B&M Racing Products. McClelland supplies everything you need to go micro-sprint racing. He is the area dealer for Stallard chassis and McCreary tires and also supplies motors and components for the chassis. He also is more than willing to share his racing knowledge with his customers.

"Business really picked up," he said. "The other drivers wanted what I was racing. I love helping people. I want to treat everyone right. I don't hold back. I didn't have anyone helping me when I started and I remember all the time and money I wasted getting the right set-up. I sold one guy a complete new car, he never raced before. I had to tell him everything. He went out and finished third in his first race and I felt real proud."

McClelland plans on defending his championship this year, but is undecided how much he will race. He would like to spend more time with his 5-year-old son, Timmy, and his wife, Tammy. But he is the first to admit once the season gets under way in March, it may be hard to miss racing every night.

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