Like father, like daughter: West and racing are a natural

Motor Sports

March 17, 1996|By Stanley Dillon | Stanley Dillon,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Theresa West is anxious to start the 1996 racing season at Mason-Dixon Dragway. The Westminster native has been working hard on her 1985 Ford Mustang GT for the past two years, getting the car ready for a full season of racing at speeds over 100 mph.

West is among the growing number of women who are involved in motorsports. With her background, it is not surprising that she is into racing in a big way. Her father is Paul Dutterer, a longtime car owner who started racing on the oval tracks in the late 1940s. Near the end of the 1960s, Dutterer switched from oval track to drag racing and his daughters, Karen Procter and Theresa, eventually followed him.

After having other drivers race his car for the past several years, Dutterer is driving again. Last year he won the trophy class championship at Mason-Dixon. When he isn't driving his car, his daughters can be found behind the wheel.

"I think it's nice to drive his car," said West. "We can discuss how it is working. I respect the car and know if I mess it up I have to face him."

West's brother-in-law, Ronnie Proctor of Harpers Ferry, W.Va., has been one of the top competitors at Mason-Dixon, winning the class I championship in 1994. His car has been featured in several national trade magazines, including "Fast Fords" and "Muscle Mustang."

Theresa started racing in 1979 with her boyfriend's 1957 Chevy. She raced regularly for a few years before she started driving her dad's 1969 Ford Mustang in 1984. She raced with him a while before taking some time off. But coming from a racing family, she never really left racing, helping her dad and her brother-in-law whenever she could.

In 1993, Theresa purchased a 1985 Ford Mustang GT with the sole purpose of having a nice car to race and drive every day as well.

"I want to take the car to the edge," said West. "I want to make it a race car, yet keeping it a legal street car within a quarter-inch."

Toward the end of last year, she began to race her dad's car again, to get back in the groove for this year. Over the winter, with the help of her father and brother-in-law, West has spent her time putting the finishing touches on her Mustang, making it the way she wants it, a fast but street-legal machine.

Theresa knows what makes a car, especially her Mustang, tick.

"The '85 Mustang has a carburetor and computer, where the '86 model has a computer and fuel injection," she said. "We began tinkering with the jets to make sure they were adjusted correctly. The timing had to be adjusted and the air-fuel mixture made just right.

"Ford had a bad bog in their carburetor in '85, so I put a Holly version on to get it right. We bored it 30 over and put on some little extras to have something to play with on the street. I believe we have all the bugs, thanks to my friends who have been helping along the way. With Dad's and Ronnie's experience I've been able to accomplish what I wanted."

Theresa expects to have her Mustang in the 14-second range come race day.

Last fall had a special meaning for Theresa. Not only did she return to racing, she also met her boyfriend, Tom Schell. The two have a lot in common except their car loyalty. Tom is a General Motors man with a 1975 Pontiac Firebird and Theresa favors the Fords.

"It's a lot of fun. We are always teasing each other," said West. "We always help one another out at the track. Since we both love racing, it dominates our conversation. . . . It is really nice that we are both into it."

Pub Date: 3/17/96

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