About 10 years ago, enduro racing became popular as an inexpensive way for older fans to get into racing. It has become so popular that it has replaced the demolition derbies in popularity at many area tracks.
Last Saturday, Nathan Entlar, 18, of Mount Airy made his first start in the 100-lap enduro at Hagerstown Speedway.
He has been a race fan all his life. He enjoys attending NASCAR races at speedways in Dover, Del., and Charlotte, N.C., with his family. But he never had been to local short tracks like Hagerstown.
"I heard about the enduro from a friend of my uncle who has raced in them," said Entlar. "When he told me about this one I went out and brought an old car. I took the tags off of it and began to strip it down for racing."
Strict rules keep the costs to a minimum so anyone, male or female, young or old, can get a car and race without a lot of start-up expenses. It also is limited to amateur drivers, giving the inexperienced the chance to see what it is like to drive in a race with equal competition.
The enduro race, which consists of 100 or more laps, is more of an endurance race than one of speed. Normally, more than 80 cars are on the track at the start of the race. Thirty to 40 rows of cars three abreast take the green together.
There are no caution laps, and cars that become disabled are left on the track. The stalled cars turn the race oval into more of an obstacle course as the laps wind down. Occasionally a car does get upside down. Only then is the race red-flagged.
Driving in an enduro is not for the faint of heart. The Baltimore Beltway during rush hour is like a Sunday drive compared with the traffic in anenduro.
The car Entlar purchased was a 1969 Plymouth Fury, perfect for enduro racing. Safety modifications had to be made to the car while the rest of the car had to remain stock.
"It took us about a month to get the car ready," said Entlar. "Installing the roll bar took the most time. A friend, Rick Corum, did all the welding."
Entlar said he had butterflies before the race as his father, Jack, and uncle, Jim, served as crew members.
"I plan on taking it easy at first," said Entlar beforehand. "I never have been in one. I sort of expect it to be like a demolition derby."
Entlar started 52nd in a field of more than 90.
The cars were all from the '60s and '70s. Most have been saved from the salvage yard for one last run. The cars were all stock. Any change to the drive train was illegal.
It is not hard to imagine what 90 cars starting three abreast at one time looks like. Many drop out early, but Entlar followed his game plan.
The young driver handled himself like a pro. He paced himself and drove a straight line through the outside groove of the track. A couple of times he got banged around, but not enough to damage the car. His steady pace was easy on the tires.
It paid off. He finished the race, something that 30 drivers did not do, and he turned in a fine performance, finishing 23rd out of 90 cars.
"That's the most fun I ever had," said Entlar as he climbed out of the car with a smile from ear to ear. "I was nervous at first, but felt better as the race went on."
Because the car came through the 100-lap grind with hardly a scratch, the Entlars are looking forward to the next enduro at Hagerstown on Aug. 4.