If you ask Marvin Ford of Westminster the best way to go drag racing, his reply would be, "On two wheels."
Ford is one of many Carroll Countians who enjoy drag racing on motorcycles at 75-80 Dragway in Monrovia. Like most two-wheel competitors, he started his drag-racing career behind the wheel of a passenger car.
Ford began racing in 1979 with his brothers, Marion and Malcolm. His first car was a 1957 Chevrolet. He also owned a motorcycle that he rode during the summer. Satisfied with the car, he never gave any thought to racing his bike.
In 1984, his older brother Marion took his bike to the track and decided to race it to see how fast it would go.
"We thought he was nuts," said Marvin. "Two weeks later we tried it. We parked our cars and have been racing motorcycles ever since. Now we just use the cars to get to the track. Malcolm and I have Marion to thank for all of this."
Marvin raced his street bike for three years before he decided to race weekly for the points. Once the decision was made, he purchased a regular drag-racing bike.
The bike is a sleek 1989 Kawasaki with a 1428-cc. motor. When he started racing bikes, his elapsed time in the quarter-mile was near the 13-second mark.
Ford kept working on the equipment to make it perform better. Today, the bike, which weighs only 415 pounds, takes him down the track in 8.72 seconds -- 145 mph by the end of the quarter-mile. If you think that is fast in a car, you can imagine how fast it seems on a bike.
But it is that feeling that makes motorcycle racing appealing to Ford and the rest of the bike riders.
"It's a lot more interesting than racing cars," said Ford. "You have more of a feel of what's going on.
"You really don't notice how fast you are going when you are tucked down on the bike. But when you start the season out
after a couple of months of inactivity, you can really tell it."
Riding a bike at 145 mph requires concentration. No one wants a bike to get away from them at any speed, let alone at speeds like Ford races.
Although motorcycle racing is cheaper than car racing, it still takes money to go fast. Most of the money is spent on racing heads for the motor. Ford has his motor work done at Tri-State Cycle in Funkstown. His motor crank and transmission work is done by Paul Gast of Fast by Gast in Grand Rapids, N.Y.
Racing has been in the Ford family for years. Now Ford's 12-year-old son, Michael, is racing every week in his first year in the Junior Dragster division. Michael plans on racing motorcycles with his father as soon as he is old enough.
Since they started racing, Ford and his brothers have become top riders in their class and have represented the 75-80 dragway annually at the Northeast Division Bracket finals at Maple Grove Speedway in Reading.
After finishing fourth last year in points, Ford won the track championship. It was his first title. His brother, Malcolm, has won the title three times.
"It really surprised me," said Ford about his championship. "I had a bad start, but things came together and I came on strong at the end."
Like all riders who switched to racing bikes, the 32-year-old doesn't have any plans to return to racing cars.
"I don't won't want to quit living on that edge," said Ford. "But if I ever leave bikes for a car, it would have to be an awfully fast one."
Last weekend was a big weekend for late models and sprint cars. The late models had extra distance races at the Hagerstown and Winchester (Va.) speedways, and the super sprints had a World of Outlaws event at the Williams Grove (Pa.) Speedway.
Rain last Saturday night forced all three speedways to run their show last Sunday, forcing drivers to choose which event to run.
In the late models, Gary Stuhler of Westminster and Charlie Schaffer of Hampstead started the Octoberfest 250 at Hagerstown, but dropped out before the 100-lapper was over to make the Winchester 200. Both drivers made the event in time as Stuhler followed Rodney Franklin for 100 laps to earn second spot. Schaffer came from the 16th starting spot to take sixth and Rick Jones of Westminster finished 16th.
Last Friday night, Stuhler was fifth fastest in time trials for 58 cars. Schaffer was credited with 20th spot and Stuhler 26th at Hagerstown Speedway. There were 78 late models from 12 states who tried to qualify for the 100-lap event at Hagerstown.
Darren Eash of Woodbine placed third in the super-sprint portion of the Octoberfest 250. His brother, Cris, won qualifying heats last Friday and Sunday in the Williams Grove Nationals World of Outlaws show.
Brad McClelland of Westminster placed second in the micro-sprint feature at the Trail-Way (Pa.) Speedway. Joe Brown of Westminster won the eight-cylinder feature followed by John McDonald of Finksburg in fourth and Charlie Calp of Hampstead fifth. Corky Stull of Westminster was ninth and Bobby Feezer of Millers rounded out the top 10. In four-cylinder action, Westminster's Jeff Young was fourth and Matt Barnes finished 10th.
In the Division I Bracket Finals at Maple Grove Raceway in Reading, Pa., Dan Householder of Sykesville made it to the final round in his Dodge Aries in Class I competition. Ray Lewis of Woodbine went six rounds. The 75-80 team was fourth in competition with teams from 20 other tracks. Team 75-80 missed third place by only one point. Maple Grove finished first for the second year followed by Cecil County Dragway, Island Dragway and 75-80.
In drag racing last week, Nathan Etzler and Sev Tingle of Mount Airy and Tom Higgs of Sykesville went all three rounds of eliminations in Class I competition at 75-80 Dragway. Jim Peddicord of Westminster won Class II competition. Westminster's Rick Waxter went four rounds and Jeff Davis went five rounds.
At Mason Dixon Dragway, David Smith of Mount Airy was runner-up in the Junior Dragster division.