For as long as he can remember, Brad McClelland has wanted to be the fastest.
Aside from the fact that his father, Bill, got him into racing at a young age, competition has always driven the Westminster native.
So what if he wasn't going against the likes of Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson or Kevin Harvick? McClelland's Daytona was Trail-Way Speedway in Hanover, Pennsylvania, where he claimed 123 of his 133 career wins.
He also put together nine championship seasons that spanned other tracks as well.
McClelland, 48, has spent his weekends racing since he was coming out of high school. But last month, after a victory at his favorite track, the veteran driver made an important decision.
"I said I'd rather go out on top, and I won the last race there at Trail-Way, and had a real exceptional last two seasons," said McClelland, who is choosing to hang up his racing gloves. "I said that night that I said I was done. I didn't make a decision until that night. I had been thinking about it, but I sort of surprised a lot of people."
He's been through it all when it comes to the business of racing. He and his father owned their own ride for years before McClelland began driving for his most recent owner, Littlestown business owner Steve Rucker.
Regardless of who pays the bills on the car, McClelland, who spends his days working as a welder/fabricator at B&D Truck Hoist in Westminster, said the time and effort you need to put in to be successful became too much.
It's one of the main reasons he's decided to leave the sport as a driver.
"People wondered why he would give it up, a free ride," said McClelland, who is fairly cut and dried on why he's made the decision at this point in his life. "I'm just getting tired of it. I raced all my life."
McClelland started racing motocross in 1981, where he spent the first seven years of his career. He moved on to Micro Sprint cars, before taking on 358 Sprints and 410 Sprints before settling for 358 Sprints by the time his career came to a close.
His 48 wins at Trail-Way for 358 Sprints are a speedway record there, as are his 74 victories at 270 Micro Sprints.
He finished second in the 358 Super Sprints points standings this season.
His son, Tim McClelland, also found a love for racing before family responsibilities took him away from the sport.
Throughout his life, McClelland said he's loved hanging around the track — and not just because he was often the best driver there. Instead, the relationships he made over the years kept him coming back for more.
"The joy of winning, it never gets old," he said. "But the part I'm going to miss is the competition, and the people you're around."
Influenced by people like Jeff Shepard — an Upperco native who Pennlive.com named as the 16th best Central Pa sprint driver in the last 30 years — McClelland learned the nuances of being successful on and off the track.
Then there was Bill McClelland, who raced raced stock cars in the 1970s and 1980s and won area championships just like his son.
While he may have been winning multiple races a year, McClelland said he'd like to be remembered as the guy who everyone else wasn't afraid to approach, ask for some advice, or even with help on their own ride.
"I wanted to make things easier on them," he said.
While he'd like to have more time on his hands, McClelland said he's also getting out of the sport before something bad happens. He's been lucky up until this point to not have a severe injury, but with a wife of 24 years, as well as the responsibility of being a grandfather weighing on him, he didn't want to press his luck.
McClelland said he won't be staying away from the sport altogether, he'll just be out of the driver's seat. His friend Steve Owings races at Lincoln Speedway in Abbottstown, Pennsylvania, and McClelland serves as the crew chief in the pits.
He's also hoping to get his grandson, Bentley, involved in racing, though that may be another year down the road.
In his garage at home, McClelland makes sure to keep every helmet he'd ever worn over the years. Perched high on a shelf are all 15 of them lined up in a row, and he said they are more important than the countless trophies stashed away in his basement.
Thanking all the help from friends and family, sponsors, car owners and fans, McClelland said now feels like the right time to step away from the track. He and his wife aren't even sure what they're going to do with the free time, since every weekend of their lives from February to November for the last 30 or more years has been spent at the track.
"That's why, it's like, time to try to see what real life is about," McClelland said. "A lot of people really don't understand that."
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