Dan Householder, a household name in drag racing, has been a consistent top runner in the area for several years.
Householder's car can be spotted easily at the track. In a sport that seems to be dominated by Fords and Chevrolets, he has a yellow and red 1972 Plymouth Duster appropriately named the "Dustbuster" for dusting off the competition.
The 46-year-old Marriottsville native always was interested in cars and took auto repair classes at vocational school.
He began drag racing when he was 18 in a 1956 Ford. He raced when drag racing was an all-out grudge race and the most powerful car won. It was money-type racing, where the driver who spent the most money normally won.
Drag racing has come a long way, and so has Householder. He set the National Hot Rod Association's national record for the Formula IF Sportsman division in 1964 and has been a consistent top driver since. He prefers the handicapping system that drag racing has today that makes racing more competitive.
In 1969, he purchased his first MOPAR automobile, a 1969 Plymouth Roadrunner. Five years ago, he purchased the Duster he has now.
He recently purchased a new car, another MOPAR, a 1982 Dodge Aries, and plans to have it ready for the first race next year.
"The Duster was good to me," said Householder. "But I wanted a change, something different. I have run basically the same car for 20 years."
The new car is race ready without the drive train. Householder will install his 440 cubic-inch, 600-horsepower engine from his Duster in the Aries. The transmission is a Chevrolet Powerglide, an automatic that is preferred by most drivers for its lighter weight and reliability.
Unlike most drivers, Householder isn't switching cars to go faster. But the new car, which is 300 pounds lighter, will cut his elapsed time by at least three-tenths of a second. While the Duster ran the quarter-mile in 9.51 seconds, the lighter Aries with the same power train will cut that down to 9.2 seconds, an improvement from 141 mph to 145 mph.
"It is a fairly new car." said Householder. "It was built in 1982. It has four-wheel disk brakes, a round tube Austin chassis and a new body style. It's a little different from what I've been racing."
Householder had great success with the Duster. He races regularly at area tracks and tried to make big events as much as time permits. He never decides where he will compete regularly until after the season has started. Wherever he has started well in the points, that track becomes his home track for the season.
He has made the bracket finals at all area tracks, including 75-80 Dragway in Monrovia and Mason-Dixon in Hagerstown. He finished first in points at Mason-Dixon in 1988.
This year he raced regularly at Capital Raceway in Crofton, where he finished 16th in points.
During the year, he traveled to many of the big-money shows, sometimes as far west as Michigan. He likes going to the special meets for the challenge of running against the professionals, the guys that race full time for a living.
Over the past four years, Householder has done well enough in the Duster that it has paid its way.
"The car is bulletproof," said Householder about the dependability of his Duster's drive train. "A combination of top-quality parts combined with proper maintenance keeps the car running almost trouble-free."
He attributes his success to buying quality parts and performing routine maintenance. After 300 runs, he tears down the motor and replaces the aluminum rods, bearings and rings.
A salesman, Householder plans to continue racing for a while. Drag racing is his weekly entertainment.
He will finish this season in the Duster, but next year he will have his new car ready. He is eagerly looking forward to the new car's debut and losing his competition at the line.