Brad Kerr of Mount Airy loves cars. He has always been fascinated by their speed and power since he started reading car magazines when he was a teen-ager. While most people become involved in racing through family and friends, Kerr was influenced by drag racing trade magazines.
Kerr raced go-karts at first, but switched to cars as soon as he was old enough to drive. He preferred to feel the power of a V-8.
His first car was a Ford Mustang. When he was 17 he began to race at 75-80 a couple times a month.
The drag strip became popular because of drivers like Kerr. The quarter-mile gave Kerr a place to experience the thrill of speed. Drag strips give drivers of all ages a place to try out their car in a safe place rather than on the streets. During the week, Kerr works on his car trying new things. Then on the weekend, he tries the car at the track.
Kerr started this year with a 1983 Ford Thunderbird. The car served two purposes. It was a sharp-looking customized passenger car during the week and a race car on weekends. The engine was equipped with a larger cam for better performance, but midway through the season, Kerr sold the car to a driver who wanted it as a race car when it was unable to pass emissions tests.
At 22, Kerr is at the stage of his life where he can't afford a separate car for racing. So he does the next best thing -- he puts together a fast car that he drives and races. In order to do both, he replaced the Thunderbird with a 1967 Ford Mustang, a car old enough that he could improve the performance for the track and still drive it on the road.
Kerr competes in Class II, for cars with elapsed times of 12 seconds or more. He started racing a couple times a month, but is looking forward to the day he has a car just for racing so he can compete weekly for points. Racing at 75-80 has grown on him so much that he attends the track even if he isn't racing.
"I just feel like something is missing if I don't go to the track," said Kerr.
Kerr drives his Mustang to the track with his girlfriend, Amy Reed, then replaces the rear street tires with racing slicks. He removes the mufflers and bumps up the timing. The Mustang is powered by a 302-cubic-inch motor with gears, carburetor and transmission modified for performance.
The lighter Mustang is faster than the Thunderbird by almost three seconds. He does the quarter-mile in 13 seconds, faster if he uses nitrous oxide.
"I have two fuel pumps," said Kerr. "The car will go about a half-second faster with nitrous, but it isn't all that consistent, so I don't use it all the time."
Kerr works for his dad in the family-owned business, the Redland Exxon in Derwood. And his parents, Rudy and Carolyn, have become interested in racing after watching their son race.
Last weekend, Gary Stuhler of Westminster finished third at Winchester Speedway in the late-model feature. Mike Walls of Taneytown placed seventh in the four-cylinder main event. At Hagerstown, Stuhler placed second with Charlie Schaffer of Hampstead fifth.
In the season finale at Lincoln Speedway, Jesse Wentz of Manchester finished seventh in the super sprint feature. Kenny Mirfin of Union Mills was second in the thundercar feature, and Corky Stull of Westminster third.
In micro-sprint action last Saturday, Steve Owings of Westminster he won his second feature of the year at Challenger Raceway in Jacksonville, Pa. Owings also won his qualifying heat. On Sunday, Owings placed sixth at Path Valley Speedway in Spring Run, Pa.
Last Friday night, Brad McClelland of Westminster was runner-up in the micro-sprint feature at Trail-Way Speedway. Mike Stull of Westminster was fourth, Dave Parrish of Westminster was ninth and Wayne Karcher of Upperco 10th.
Greg Messersmith of Hampstead had his work cut out for him as he battled with two other drivers before taking the lead two laps from the end to win the thundercar feature at Trail-Way. Corkey Stull was seventh. Westminster's Steve Barnes won the four-cylinder feature with Matt Barnes and Craig Mann of Westminster fifth and sixth, respectively.
Jamie Talbert of Taneytown went to the semifinals in the semi-pro division at Mason-Dixon Dragway. Brian Fandel of Mount Airy was the runner-up in the motorcycle competition with Robert McGraw of Sykesville going to the semifinals. Karen Proctor, formerly of Westminster, won the ETK division.
At 75-80 Dragway, Archie Davis of Woodbine went to the final round in the street car class Saturday. On Sunday, Sev Tingle of Mount Airy won Class I competition. Mount Airy's Joe Henry and Richard Cooke both went four rounds. Ray Lewis of Woodbine and Dan Householder of Sykesville both went three rounds.
Scott Lowman of Woodbine was runner-up in Class II action. Mike Stambaugh of Union Bridge, Chris Hruska of Mount Airy and Corey Hess of Taneytown all went four rounds. Jarrod Spicer won the junior dragster division. In the motorcycle division, Gene Belt of Taneytown was the winner with Narman Wagner of Hampstead a runner-up and Marion Ford of Hampstead a semifinalist.
In quarter-midget action, Luke Dempsey of Westminster won the junior stock division for the second week in a row at Hagerstown Speedway.