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Busy Keefer races on, off track


Michele Keefer of Sykesville keeps a busy schedule.

The 19-year-old is working toward an associate of arts degree in mathematics at Carroll County Community College, is a job supervisor at Roy Rogers restaurant in Eldersburg, and plays piano and teaches Sunday school at the Gaither United Methodist Church.

In between, she races a 1972 Chevrolet Nova at the 75-80 Dragway in Monrovia.

It's not any accident that she is into racing. Racing has been a part of her family's life for some time. Her father Mike attended Dorsey Speedway in Howard County regularly until it closed, then Hagerstown Speedway and other oval tracks. The family went with him regularly.

He always wanted to race, but never had the opportunity until last year when he and his daughter started.

"He wanted to put this car together that had been sitting around after his father died," said Keefer. "He kept talking about fixing it up and racing it just for fun, and he wanted me to drive it. I thought he was kidding at first."

When the car was completed last year, the entire Keefer family went to watch Michele's father race. The following week, he told her she was going to drive.

"I didn't believe it when he told me I was going to do it," she recalled. "I still thought he was joking around.

"The first time I was really nervous. I was shaking really bad. But after the first run I wanted to do it again."

Since that time, Keefer has made a lot more trips down the quarter-mile track. She has done well, too. She won the Powder Puff Derby last September, and this year she won the ET class on Mother's Day and placed second in the Powder Puff Derby.

Keefer and her father races in the Trophy Class. Because of her schedule, she cannot make it every week. When she can't drive, her father takes the car.

The two keep comparing their times, especially reaction times.

She remembers her first reaction time at 1.1 seconds (.5000 is perfect), but has improved significantly since her inaugural run. Her best run was .5052, and she comes near it in almost every run.

"I am always afraid I am going to red-light [leave the starting grid before the green light]," she said. "I just want to go when I get up there at the line."

Like most drivers, she is nervous when she approaches the line. At the same time, it is exciting to her.

"The anticipation is great. It gets your adrenalin flowing waiting for that light to go down. Everything just stops," she said. "When I come to the line, I put one foot on the brake and one on the gas. When the last yellow light comes on, I just floor it."

Along with her improvement in reaction time, her car has shown steady progress as well. She does the quarter-mile consistently in the 12.77-second range.

Keefer's father teaches auto mechanics at South Carroll High School, and the race car has helped him in his classes. When other cars weren't available for instruction, he used the Nova. A lot of the work on the car, including some motor work, was done by students at the school.

Racing at 75-80 is a family outing for the Keefers. In addition to Michele and her father, Michele's mother, Sandy, and siblings Michael Jr., Marsha and Melissa go to the races to help out.

The way Keefer has been performing, she probably will move up to Class II next year. She plans on continuing her education and wants to be a teacher, but doesn't expect that to interfere with her favorite hobby -- racing.

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