When Chris Hruska was a teen-ager, he watched cars o trailers go by his house every weekend to the races at 75-80 Dragway. It aroused his curiosity so that when he was old enough, he rode his bicycle to the track to watch. He has been going ever since.
When he turned 16, Hruska started racing. Although he enjoyed it, he was never serious enough to be a consistent competitor. There were long periods when Hruska didn't race at all, but he still attended the races.
As time passed and the young driver matured, he began to set goals for himself. About eight years ago he began to look at racing more seriously.
"I went to the races to learn," said the Mount Airy resident. "I talked to the drivers a lot. I asked a lot of questions, I bugged them all the time."
All along Hruska was preparing himself to be more then a part-time racer, he was preparing to return to racing as a winner.
"I made a commitment to myself if I got back in racing I would win once in a while," said the 38-year-old. "I didn't just want to race. I wanted to win, too."
Six years ago, Hruska felt he was ready. He found a 1979 Ford Mustang without a motor for $75 sitting in an elderly woman's yard. He rebuilt the car from scratch.
It took Hruska a couple of years of regular racing to put together all that he had learned, but gradually all of his commitment and dedication paid off.
In the last four years, he has finished no lower than seventh in points. He has won at least one "Top Dog" race (a race conducted once a month where the top winner in one class races against the top driver in another class) each year since 1989.
Last year, he finished second in a points battle that went down to the final night. Hruska won the race the final night, but was edged by a few points.
"Last year was my best year," said Hruska. "I purchased a 1965 Mustang with a 351-cubic-inch Ford Windsor ready to race at the beginning of the season. I only made a few changes to the cam and fuel system. The car works good and is easy on parts. The car leaves the starting line real good. It leaves real hard for a Class II car."
Hruska races in Class II, in which cars run the quarter-mile in 12 seconds or more. His car runs at the "bottom of the class," between 12 seconds flat and 12.10 seconds.
In bracket racing, everyone dials in a predicted time for the quarter mile. The slower cars will leave the line earlier and the faster are handicapped to leave later. In a perfect race with identical reaction times, the cars should cross the finish line a quarter-mile away at the same time.
"I like leaving second and catching the other driver," said Hruska. "I tried it both ways, but like it this way better."
Hruska has carried his success and knowledge to his job as manager at ProStart Performance in Monrovia, a half-mile from the track.
ProStart is also his major sponsor along with Green Valley Citgo. Hruska also gives credit to Don Leonard, who has helped him make his car competitive and consistent.
Hruska has a simple goal.
"I want to do good," said Hruska. "I want to do good and I hope someday that someone will take notice and I will be able to pick up a ride in a faster car."
Like many drag racers, Hruska would like to tour the national events. He feels if he keeps improving, there is always the chance that someone will give him a ride.
The young boy has come a long way since he watched the cars go by to the track.