The sporting life leads this Carroll couple into some cold, hard cash


Allan Palmer and his wife, Patti, are very busy when the weekends roll around. Allan drag races every weekend, and Patti spends her weekends bowling.

Patti would like to be with her husband, but she is a professional duckpin bowler. Her competitions, like his, are on weekends.

"Our hobbies conflict," said Allan. "We try to go with each other as often as we can. But we can't always do that."

The nice thing about their hobbies is that they are both making money doing what they enjoy. Last weekend, Patti competed in a tournament at Southside Fair Lanes in Baltimore while Allan was at 75-80 Dragway in Monrovia.

Allan, 35, is very serious about drag racing.

"I've been racing for about 10 or 12 years," said the Hampstead resident. "I used to race for the fun of it. Now I race for the money. I have won more money this year than I ever had."

Some of his success can be attributed to the consistency of his car and his ability to get off the line. He drives a 1966 Ford Mustang GT that he finished rebuilding in July last year. Palmer races the car in the Class I Super Pro division.

"Everyone wants to go faster," said Palmer, explaining his move to Class I. "When you are doing the quarter-mile in 13 seconds, you say you will be happy if you ever get to 11 seconds. It just doesn't work that way. You always want to go faster."

It took Palmer over a year to rebuild the blue Mustang. He found the car partially finished and redid it himself.

"I buy all good parts," he said. "I feel that once you get good equipment and don't skimp on it, you don't have to worry as much about breaking down. It cuts maintenance costs."

Palmer also emphasizes safety. Although the car was partially finished, he redid it to ensure that it exceeded the safety specifications required by the National Hot Rod Association. He estimates that, in addition to his labor, he has more than $20,000 invested in the car.

Although Palmer has never had a serious accident, he once lost his brakes and that was enough to convince him of the importance of safety.

"It was weird," he recalled. "The cotter pin broke and I kept pushing the brakes. At first I thought I was pushing the clutch or gas pedal. I ended up in a corn field. I was scared to death."

The crash didn't damage his car, but his nervous system took a beating.

Palmer learned the hard way that drag racing isn't for the highway. When he was 17, he lost his license for two years when he was caught racing. "Believe me, it's no fun not having your license," he said. "I learned a lesson in a hurry. My mother made my stepfather drive me to the now-defunct U.S. 30 Dragway in York, Pa., every week to race. I was glad to get my license back."

To help pay for the GT, Palmer sold his '72 Mustang to Marion Hare, who gave up dirt track racing for drag racing. Palmer also sold a street rod that he displayed in car shows across the country.

Palmer's Mustang, powered by a 460-cubic-inch Ford Motor bored out to 477 cubic inches, does the quarter-mile in the range of 9.40 to 9.50 seconds. His motor work is done by 70-year-old Paul Hogue of Racing Parts and Equipment in Bel Air. He has been taking his motors to Hogue for 16 years.

Palmer does not run for points. He likes to go to different tracks in the Pennsylvania-Maryland area. From experience, he believes the stiffest competition comes from the drivers at the 75-80 track.

Palmer works for C. J. Miller Construction during the week. He would like to race in some NHRA divisional meets, but it is difficult for him to take the time off.

His sponsors include J&P; Pizza and Pearson Signs of Hampstead, NAPA Auto Parts in Eldersburg and Bills' Custom Sandblasting in Greenmount.

Some day, Palmer would like to race Super Gas on the NHRA circuit. For now, he enjoys going fast and winning in his Mustang GT.

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