Enduro dash gives Johns, 19, the racing bug

MOTOR SPORTS

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

Last Saturday, 19-year-old Chad Johns had his first experience driving a race car. He raced in the enduro dash at the Hagerstown Speedway, an event for amateur drivers who want to see what it is like to compete in a race on a half-mile clay oval without spending a large amount of money. Now, the 19-year-old Woodbine resident appears to be hooked.

"It was fun. I can't wait till the next one," said Johns. "I had a little problem with the car, so I didn't get up to speed like I wanted. So I drove around the track trying to find the right groove to race."

There are entry-level classes in all types of motorsports. In dirt track racing, the enduro race was started about 15 years ago to give fans a chance to race inexpensively. The idea was to get people into the cars and let the excitement turn them into racers who would later move up to the faster and more expensive divisions.

While the interest in enduros has leveled off, there are tracks in the area that regularly schedule the events. Rules are strictly enforced to keep the cost as low as possible and make it easy for almost anyone with a strong heart to enter. All it takes is finding an old car that is ready for the salvage yard but still has a few laps left.

While this was the first race for Johns, he didn't go into it without any experience. Last October, he helped on the crew for his uncle, Dale Ashwell, who raced in a 150-lap enduro. That's when Johns decided he wanted to try. He was going to race the same car his uncle raced, but the car overheated and it ruined the engine. Then he found another car that was just right for the enduro.

"I saw the car sitting in a neighbor's yard and found out they wanted to get rid of it. It hadn't been running for a year," said Johns. "We towed it home and it started right up. We started on the car last November stripping the car down. Then in February my friend welded the roll cage in for me."

Enduro racing is meant to be cheap. If you are lucky, you can get a car for under a couple hundred dollars. A roll cage will add another $150. While the car and the roll cage were free for Johns, he spent $300 on a helmet, $200 on four new tires and another $200 to $300 on parts.

Johns started 27th in the 30-car field, and although the car didn't perform the way he had wanted, he got a lot of valuable track time and finished 18th.

Although Johns will make the next race at Williams Grove on May 5, he will miss the next one at Hagerstown on May 11. One of his uncles, Joe Fiorio of Mt. Airy, will probably take his turn and make his driving debut.

A member of the Mt. Airy Players Group, Johns enjoys acting as much as racing. He will miss the May 11 race because he will be performing in the play "You Can't Take It With You".

Johns is already looking forward to moving up a class. He is interested in racing in either the street stock or thundercar division next.

Results

Cris Eash of Woodbine started fourth and stormed to the front to take the lead on the second lap, then led the rest of the way to claim his first win of the year in the super sprint feature at Lincoln Speedway last Saturday night. Jesse Wentz of Manchester was fifth. Eash had an eighth-place finish the night before at Williams Grove Speedway. In the semi-late feature, Randy Zechman of Westminster finished seventh and his brother Mickey was fourth in the thundercar main event.

Brad McClelland of Westminster made it two straight in micro-sprint action at the Trail-Way Speedway. Jerry Parrish of Westminster was sixth. Mike Walls of Taneytown was eighth in the 4-cylinder stock feature, Bill Brown of Westminster ninth in the semi-late feature, and Westminster's Jason Smith sixth in the street stock main event.

In the late-model feature at Hagerstown Speedway, Gary Stuhler of Westminster was fourth and Charlie Schaffer of Hampstead ** was sixth. Mike Walls of Taneytown was third in the 4-cylinder pure stock feature, and Kenny Dillon of Owings Mills was sixth in the enduro dash.

In drag racing on March 31, Jeff Meleo of Keymar won Class II.

Pub Date: 4/14/96

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