While most participants start at an early age, Tom Higgs did not get into drag racing until later in life. But once he made that first trip down the quarter-mile stretch, he was hooked.
They say life begins at 40. In Higgs' case it was three years later at 43. That's when he made his first run down the quarter-mile drag strip. Now, five years later, Higgs is still going strong.
Higgs had never been around drag racing until his friend Joe Bounds of Woodstock convinced him to go with him to the track one weekend. A couple of trips was all that Higgs needed before he decided to give it a try.
"I always liked cars. I guess once you are a motorhead always a motorhead," said Higgs. "I started out just playing around with a street car, then I was bitten by the bug and went all out with it. Then I moved up to Class II, then Class I. I just kept building up. Each time I moved up I would get a better car, then a better motor."
Higgs has been racing in Class I, for cars with elapsed times of 12 seconds or less, for three years. His current car, the fourth since he started racing, is a 1966 Chevrolet Chevelle. He purchased the car over a year ago as a rolling chassis without a motor. He installed a 427-cubic-inch motor and customized the car to fit him so he would feel comfortable in it.
When it was time to put a better motor in his car, Higgs turned to a 454-cubic-inch motor that he had. Because he had blown the engine four times before, he decided to rebuild the motor himself using the best parts that money could buy. He had Mancini Machine Shop do the machine work and had the engine bored from 454 to 468 cubic inches.
So far this season, Higgs has been very pleased with the engine. The car's performance has improved remarkably. As for speed, the car can do a quarter-mile in 9.46 seconds reaching 140 mph.
Higgs is not sure he will continue to change cars as often as he has in his first five years of racing, but he hopes to buy a newer Chevrolet Camaro in the next year or two. He also would like to keep his Chevelle because there aren't many cars like it.
Higgs has missed a few races earlier in the year while building a new shop for his car. But he is ready to tackle the long season and chase the points at 75-80 Dragway, hoping tomake the top 16 so he can compete at the bracket finals in the fall.
Although he lost some ground in the point race, he feels a couple of wins can take care of that.
"I have never won a whole lot," said Higgs, who has been very competitive over the years, making the quarterfinals and semifinals several times. "I'll just keep trying, one day I am going to win some.
"I am just a racer who wants to have a good time. I have lost races every way there is to lose them. But I have won them every way there is to win them, too."
Westminster drivers Brad McClelland and Gary Stuhler each picked up two victories last weekend. McClelland is red hot in the micro-sprint ranks as he recorded feature wins at Trail-Way and Winchester speedways. Stuhler won both ends of twin 20-lap features at Hagerstown Speedway.
At Trail-Way Speedway, McClelland started 11th and worked his way to second on Lap 17. On the final lap he edged in front of Brian Gobrecht for his fourth win. David Parrish of Westminster was sixth and brother Jerry was ninth. McClelland had an easier time at Winchester, leading every lap for his second win.
In late-model action at Winchester, Ernie Jones of Westminster placed seventh. Paul Crowl of Upperco placed 10th and 12th in the late-model features at Hagerstown.
In other action at Trail-Way, Mike Walls of Taneytown continued his hot streak, winning his fifth straight feature in the four-cylinder division. Walls started 16th and worked his way through the field for the win. Matt Barnes of Westminster was fifth and Jeff Young of Westminster was ninth. Mark Shorb of Westminster was third in the eight-cylinder feature. Butch Harvey placed fifth.
In super sprint racing, Cris Eash of Woodbine was sixth and his brother Darren 10th at Williams Grove Speedway and second at Lincoln Speedway. Jesse Wentz of Manchester was ninth. Howard Williams of Westminster was fourth in the semi-late feature at Lincoln, and Kenny Angell of Taneytown was 10th. Greg Messersmith of Hampstead was second in the thundercar feature and Gary Warehime of Hampstead was 10th.
Luke Dempsey of Westminster was third in the Jr. Stock quarter-midget race at Hagerstown.
At the Spring Ford Spectacular at 75-80 last Saturday, Robert Morris of Mount Airy was runner-up and Joe Duffmeyer of Mount Airy was a semifinalist. In Class II, Mike Stambaugh of Union Bridge was a semifinalist. Brian Koons of Taneytown won the Mustang 5.0 shootout. At Capitol Raceway, Joe Mayne of Mount Airy went four rounds in Class I.