No one enjoys the thrills of auto racing more than John McDonough. A 28-year-old native of Finksburg, he has been racing only three years, but he already is wrapped up in a tight points battle in the 8-cylinder division at Trail-Way Speedway in Hanover, Pa.
McDonough always has been ac- tive in sports, but auto racing was not one of them. McDonough never had been to a track until five years ago.
"I went with some friends to a NASCAR race in Talladega, Ala.," McDonough said. "Close to the big track was a short dirt track that we went to one night. I liked what I saw and said to my friend, that was something I wanted to do, that it was something we could do."
McDonough didn't rush home and build his car right away. He was busy working toward his appraiser's license and did not have the time for racing. But that night at Talladega would not leave his mind.
McDonough started to attend the races at Trail-Way Speedway and began making plans for racing. When vacationing in Ocean City, he spent nearly $100 a night racing go-carts.
Two years later, McDonough, along with his best friend, Bub "Choc" Frush, decided they were ready to race. They weren't going to let lack of experience stop them. They built their first car, a Chevrolet Camaro, and finished it in time to race a few events at the end of the 1991 season.
"I was scared, nervous," McDonough recalled. "At first, I wondered, 'What am I doing out here?' "
But before the night was over, the rookie driver knew it was what he wanted to do.
"It's a whole new world," he said. "There is nothing like it. I played tennis, soccer, baseball, football -- none of them compare to racing. It is unbelievable. Racing with 20 other cars, you can't match it."
They learned the hard way, through trial and error, but they also got some valuable assistance from other drivers.
"We met a few guys, like Greg Messersmith of Manchester, who were a lot of help to us," McDonough said. "Greg shared some racing secrets with us that really helped us."
Ron Spencer of Westminster also has been a lot of help.
Although McDonough races only one night a week, he approaches it as a professional. He has the support of more than 30 sponsors from the Reisterstown-Glyndon-Finksburg area.
McDonough keeps them posted on his progress with newsletters that are sent out by crew members Beth Lawson and Sara Warfield.
Although he is in only his second full season of racing, McDonough has been finishing regularly in the top 10 and stands fifth in points as the 1993 season approaches its final weeks.
The racing team already is building a new Camaro for next year. It plans on expanding its racing by running two nights each week. McDonough will race the new car at Trail-Way and the old one at Lincoln Speedway.
"We raced at Lincoln once this year," McDonough said. "There is a lot more room there than at Trail-Way. I enjoyed it. They say if you can race at Trail-Way, you can race anywhere else."
Trail-Way is a one-third-mile clay oval with sharp, tight turns. Racing with 20 or more cars at the same time requires complete concentration at Trail-Way where Lincoln's larger three-eighths-mile oval is much wider and is more forgiving.
Other members of McDonough's team include Wayne "Willy" Ambrose, the fabricator and jackman, and Iceum Farhat, the assistant crew chief and sponsor.
During the week, McDonough works for his father as a real estate appraiser and operates C & J Supply Co., a small automotive store in Reisterstown.
Charlie Schaffer of Hampstead accomplished last weekend what he had set out to do when the season started, winning the late-model championship at Winchester (Va.) Speedway. Driving a conservative race, he finished sixth, good enough to gain the track title.
Westminster's Rick Jones was fifth and Ernie Jones 10th.
Gary Stuhler finished fifth at Hagerstown Speedway in the 44-lap Ronnie McBee Memorial.
On Sunday, Stuhler and Schaffer traveled to Pennsboro Speedway in West Virginia for the Hillbilly 100. Schaffer finished eighth in the consolation, and Stuhler was 14th in the 100-lap event. More than 75 cars competed in the qualifications.
In sprint cars, Cris Eash of Woodbine had a great weekend. He finished second in the 40-lap Miller Bros. Chevrolet Pennsylvania Sprint Car Championship at Lincoln Speedway. Jesse Wentz of Manchester finished fifth, his best of the year.
Last Sunday, Eash led every lap to win the 25-lap feature at Susquehanna (Pa.) Speedway, finished fourth in the 25-lap Labor Day Classic at Port Royal Speedway and won his 11th feature of the year at Selinsgrove Speedway in the Jack Gunn Memorial Monday night. His brother Darren was fifth at Susque
hanna and fourth at Port Royal.
Also at Lincoln Speedway, Randy Zechman of Westminster placed fourth in the semi-late feature, with Westminster's Ken Angell and John Moser Jr. seventh and eighth. Westminster's Corky Stull claimed fourth in the thunder-car feature and Kenny Mirfin of Union Mills was 10th.
In 4-cylinder action at Potomac Speedway, Westminster's Brad Green was eighth.
In drag racing last weekend at 75-80 Dragway, Danny Householder of Mount Airy was runner-up in Class I competition Saturday. Larry Mayne of Mount Airy went four rounds of eliminations. Russell Barefoot of Mount Airy was a semifinalist, going five rounds Sunday. George Hoff of Westminster went four rounds. In Class II, Cory Hess of Taneytown and Larry Hoff of Westminster went three rounds Saturday. On Sunday, Jeff Davis went four rounds and Chris Hruska and Greg Etzler of Mount Airy and Veronica Chasen of Taneytown went three rounds of eliminations.
Norman Wagner of Hampstead won the motorcycle division Saturday, followed by Malcolm Ford of Westminster. Scott Chasen of Taneytown was a semifinalist. On Sunday, Marion Ford of Hampstead was second and Taneytown's Dave Belt went to the semis.
Westminster drivers were well-represented at the U.S. Nationals Indianapolis. Bruce Combs went five rounds of eliminations in the Super Gas division for cars dialing 9.90 seconds in the quarter-mile. Combs competed against 158 cars from throughout North America. Len Davis, Dave McCarthy and Todd Harris competed in the Super Comp class.
At Mason-Dixon Dragway last Sunday, Nathan Etzler of Mount Airy went to the fourth round in Class I competition.