Westminster's Walls, 13, gets head start


Three weeks ago, Westminster's Mike Walls won his first feature in the four-cylinder division at Trail-Way Speedway near Hanover, Pa.

A feature win in oval track racing is a feat many drivers never experience. But Walls did it as a rookie, 16 races after his first start.

What makes it even more impressive is that Walls is only 13, and he won two weeks after he had broken his leg in a bike accident.

"I was riding my dirt bike in my father's salvage yard," he said. "I was coming down one of the aisles and I fell off. The doctor told me I shouldn't race until the cast was removed, but I wanted to race."

If the cast bothered Walls, he didn't show it. He jumped to an early lead and led the entire race.

"I was nervous," Walls said. "I was determined to hold on to it [the lead]. I was afraid I would have a flat tire or something. It felt good when I crossed the finish line."

After the race, Walls was surrounded by family members and pit crew. They all figured his day would come, but not so soon.

Most kids his age never have been behind the wheel, but Walls has competed in more than 20 races, even though he doesn't have a driver's license. He has raced at five dirt tracks in the Maryland-Virginia-Pennsylvania area.

Walls has been around racing most of his life. Two of his three brothers, Chaz and Frank, raced for a while, then returned to racing this year in the limited late-model division at Hagerstown Speedway.

When he went to Trail-Way earlier this year, he watched the four-cylinders race and decided he wanted to do it. Because he was not old enough to drive, he checked with speedway management.

When he discovered that he could race, he and a family friend, Frank Fleming, started to build a car.

Fleming, a Taneytown native, has built and raced cars on dirt tracks at Dorsey, Hagerstown, Lincoln and Potomac speedways. also has raced on the asphalt tracks at Jennerstown (Pa.) Speedway.

In 1991, Fleming built a late-model car from the ground up to race at Daytona International Speedway in the Auto Racing Club of America race during Speed Week. He barely missed qualifying for the race in a backup motor after his larger, more powerful one blew in practice at speeds near 150 mph on the super speedway.

Together, the two built the Ford Pinto in four weeks, and Walls was on the track midway through the season.

"I was scared the first time out," said Walls. "I was scared of the turns, but Frankie told me to stick it in the turns. I finished eighth the first time out."

Walls had his share of racer's luck along the way.

A couple of times his tires came off the rim while he led a race. The week after he won, he almost made it two straight but lost a tire near the end of the race.

Wall's family is behind him. At first his mother wasn't too happy about it, but after she saw how he handled the car like a pro, she gave her approval.

Sponsorship help comes from the family's salvage yard, Martell Auto Parts of Taneytown, North Point Recycling and Aero Motors of Baltimore.

A student at Westminster Middle School, Walls plans on racing in the four-cylinder division a couple more years, then switching to asphalt. But now he is concentrating on the final race of the year at Trail-Way, the fourth annual National Open next weekend.

Weekend results

Racing action last weekend was cut short again by the weather. Rain canceled shows at 75-80 Dragway and Hagerstown Speedway.

But Lincoln Speedway in Hanover, Pa., was able to get its program in the books. Randy Zechman of Westminster finished sixth in the semi-late feature, and Corky Stull of Westminster placed third in the thundercar main event.

The super sprint cars made their annual visit to the Delaware International Speedway. Cris Eash of Woodbine finished second Fred Rahmer in the 25-lap event.

In micro-sprint action at Greenwood Val ley (Pa.) Speedway, Steve Owings of Westminster won his qualifying heat and placed fourth in the wingless micro-feature.

Gary Stuhler of Westminster joined 123 other cars in the Dirt Track World Championship at Pennsboro (W. Va.) Speedway over the weekend. The richest dirt track race in the country was postponed to this weekend after rain settled in just as time trails were completed. Stuhler was the 33rd fastest car.

In Junior Dragster action at Mason-Dixon Dragway, David Smith of Mount Airy was a semifinalist.

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