A local drag race driver gives mud racing a spin


March 30, 1997|By Stan Dillon | Stan Dillon,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Mike Hoff has been around drag racing since he was 13. He began going to the races with his uncle, Larry Hoff of Westminster. Like so many other young drivers, in getting started, Mike also received a lot of assistance from his uncle.

When Mike Hoff turned 16, he purchased from his uncle a 1965 Ford Mustang that he has raced now, at 35, for almost 20 years. Only once did he race another car, when he was running for points and borrowed Chuck Taylor's Mustang while the motor in his own car was being repaired.

Always a consistent driver, the younger Hoff won the Class II championship in 1993, his last full year of drag racing. Since, Hoff has been mud racing with a high school friend, Rodney Covington of Sykesville, traveling from Michigan to Vermont to Georgia, competing in national televised events.

"Rodney talked me into going with him a few years ago, and after a couple of times, I said, 'Man, this is fun' and started helping [Rodney]," said Hoff. "I still raced at 75-80, but only when we weren't mud racing."

Together, the two men built a new mud-racing car and raced whenever they could, which didn't leave Hoff much time for drag racing.

Mud racing is similar to drag racing, but the course or track is only 200 feet long rather than a quarter-mile. And like the name implies, the racing is done in six to 18 inches of mud rather than on asphalt.

The team has set several course records and normally races through the mud in a little over two seconds.

The mud-racing vehicle is similar to a front-engine, altered drag car with a tube chassis, but it has four-wheel drive. Covington's car is powered by a 499-cubic inch Chrysler Donavan engine from a Funny Car that had a time of 6.2seconds for a quarter-mile. The 1,800 horsepower motor has 1,600 pounds of torque at 5,500 rpm. The purpose is to go fast enough to glide across the top of the mud. If the motor slows, the car sinks deeper into the mud, which in turn slows the car considerably.

Mud racing, like other motor sports, has its anxious moments. Covington once rolled his mud-racer three times but escaped injury. Last year, the team set the track record in winning the Georgia National Mud Racing event.

"We set two track records last year," said Hoff. "When it runs, we really do good. We do the motor and transmission ourselves."

Hoff has done some mud racing himself but now mostly works on the car. "It took me a while to get used to it," said Hoff. "It is very different from drag racing. The set-up -- it is all so different."

The mud racing season begins in South Carolina on April 18. The nearest national event will be in Bloomsburg, Pa. Regional events are held several times in Kingsdale, Pa., near Littlestown, just north of the Carroll County line.

Hoff is working on a 1979 Ford Mustang, another car that he purchased from his uncle. Because he will only be going to monthly national events this year with Covington, Hoff plans on racing three weeks of each month at 75-80.

Chuck Taylor of Westminster is working on the motor, and Charlie Spealman of Taneytown is doing the heads.

Hoff, a Westminster native, hopes to have everything together to do some drag racing before the first mud national. He plans to keep his 1966 Mustang as a classic street car.

Weekend results

Racing action is almost in full gear as more and more tracks begin their 1997 seasons.

NTC Lincoln Speedway: Brad McClelland of Westminster is still the one to beat in the micro-sprint division. He beat out more than 60 other micros in the feature March 22.

Cris Eash of Woodbine was fourth in the super sprint.

Trail-Way Speedway: The day after his win at Lincoln, young McClelland turned around and beat another large field in Trail-Way's micro-sprint feature last Sunday. Jerry Parrish of Westminster was fourth, following an 11th-place finish at Lincoln.

Westminster's Butch Harvey and Matt Barnes were third and fourth in the four-cylinder feature, and Earl Meadowcroft of Westminster was seventh. John McDonogh of Finksburg was second in the eight-cylinder stock feature, and Mark Shorb of Westminster was 10th. Jason Smith of Westminster was sixth in the street-stock main event.

Williams Grove Speedway: In super sprint action, Dave Haight of Reisterstown was eighth.

Hagerstown Speedway: Gary Stuhler of Westminster was third in the late-model feature, and Charlie Schaffer of Hampstead was eighth. Westminster's Don Zechman was eighth in the sportsman main event, and Kenny Dillon of Owings Mills was second in the pure stock feature.

Mason-Dixon Dragway: Karen Proctor won the Street division, and Jennifer Proctor was runner-up. Both are former Westminster residents.

Pub Date: 3/30/97

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