Buddy Wilson has been around drag racing a long time. The 45-year-old Westminster resident started racing in the '60s, then left the sport when the cost got out of hand in the '70s. He returned six years ago as a regular because he couldn't stay away.
Wilson started his drag racing on rural back roads. He traveled to Seneca, Md., and raced on deserted country roads.
As the population moved out from the city, country roads became more crowded and racing more difficult. Drag strips were built, and that's where Wilson turned to race.
Wilson started racing at 75-80 Drag-Way in Monrovia around 1967, when the car with the most money usually won. Wilson was a good driver. Best of all, he was fast. And that's what won in the early days of drag racing: The fastest car down the track won.
Wilson always seemed to get the most out of a car. It was not unusual for him to get in another person's car and be able to drive it faster than it had gone before. Because of this ability, Wilson often drove for other car owners.
In 1972, the cost of racing was skyrocketing, and the most a driver could win was a $100 bond. Finally, Wilson turned his back on the sport.
"I didn't have the money then," said Wilson. "So I stopped messing around with cars and started riding a Harley."
Instead of racing on weekends, Wilson was riding his Harley-Davidson motorcycle, touring the countryside with his wife, Dolly. But he never lost his love for drag racing.
It wasn't until the '80s that Wilson returned to the track.
"I rode my motorcycle to the track and decided to race it," recalled Wilson. "After I raced down the quarter-mile, I knew I had been away from it too long.
"I started making money about this time," added Wilson. "So I felt that I could return. Besides, the rules had changed. Bracket racing gave everyone a chance to win. At least you have a chance to win. The driver makes the car win."
He started looking for a car. He purchased a Chevrolet Vega and raced it until five years ago, when he brought a 1968 Chevrolet Camaro, a car he still races today.
Two years after he brought the Camaro, he blew the engine and decided that maybe he didn't really want to race. He sold the the car, but two months later, he brought it back and has been racing almost regularly ever since.
Wilson races in Class I, for cars with elapsed time under 12 seconds. His elapsed time is 9.3 seconds for a speed of 142 mph. That's fast for a 2,600-pound car.
Regardless of whether he makes the finals, Wilson is having fun.
"I go because I like the speed. There is nothing like leaving that starting line. That is where the fun is, and then when you see the win light at the end, hopefully on your lane, that's fun."