Thornton revving up racing career

On Motor Sports

November 02, 1997|By Stan Dillon | Stan Dillon,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Like many people involved in motorsports, there won't be any off-season for John Thornton during the winter months. He will be working extra hours preparing his recently purchased 1986 Ford Mustang for the 1998 season.

After competing for the past six years in bracket racing and autocross events when time permitted, Thornton is preparing to race weekly next year. His goal is to compete in the True Street Class that will take him to several eastern tracks.

"I definitely want to do more racing," said the Westminster resident. "I always wanted to do more since I started, but the financial resources weren't always there, nor did I have the time."

It isn't surprising that Thornton is involved in drag racing. His father, John Sr., raced weekly and started taking his son to the track when he was 10. But younger Thornton didn't rush into racing when he turned 16.

"I got out of racing and drifted away after high school," said Thornton. "I just couldn't afford to do it on my own."

Thornton, like everyone with racing in his blood, couldn't stay away long. After spending a couple of years in college, he started racing in 1991 on a part-time basis in the street class with a 1986 Ford Mustang.

Two years later, he traded the Ford for a 1989 Pontiac Trans Am Formula GTA and raced it until 1995. During this period, Thornton started his own construction business, which cut into his free time even more.

In 1995, Thornton purchased a new Mustang and began racing more often with a group of other Carroll County Mustang owners at 75-80 Dragway. As his business grew, Thornton began to have more time to go racing. Last spring, he felt he was finally at the point where he could afford to do more serious racing, so he purchased two more Mustangs, a 1985 and 1986.

"I am going to make the '86 a full race car to run the True Street Class and keep the '87 as a daily car. I am going to keep the '95 to race autocross once in a while," said Thornton, 26. "I have been working on the '86 since last spring. It's taken a lot of time and a lot of money. I am doing all the work myself except for the engine. I have installed a full roll cage in the car and I am having the engine built by Second Street Performance in Perkasie, Pa. The engine will be a stroker 351 Windsor."

To ensure that these cars are street legal and eligible to race in the True Street event, the cars run a 30-mile road course at slower speeds before they race on the drag strip. Then they make three back-to-back runs and the car with the fastest average wins. All the driver is allowed to do after driving the road course is to change the tires.

Because the road course is generally a secondary road, the slow speeds that include stopping for traffic lights on the road test eliminates any cars that are built strictly for drag racing.

"I always had a pretty quick car," said Thornton. "I always wanted a real fast car, but I couldn't do it until this year. I am really looking forward to racing this year."

He will be joined on the circuit by another Westminster resident, Ray Whittington.

Weekend results

Jesse Wentz of Manchester finished fourth in the super sprint feature at Delaware International Speedway in the only action last weekend. Carroll County residents fared well at 75-80 Dragway the week before as George Milstead of Westminster won top honors. George Hoff of Westminster was semifinalist. Roger Jorss of Westminster was runner-up in Class II and Robert Pare' of Union Bridge was semifinalist. Al Keefer of Sykesville won the ETK Trophy class over Mike Keefer and Lisa Dustin of Westminster. Phil Doonis of Westminster won the street class over James Durr of Woodbine.

Pub Date: 11/02/97

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