Mickey Kappes had one goal when the drag-racing season started. He hoped to do well enough to earn sufficient points to make the team and represent the 75-80 Dragway in the Northeast Divisional Bracket Finals at Maple Grove Raceway in Reading, Pa., in September.
So far, he is on track to achieve his goal. But he knows that the season has just begun and a lot can happen between now and the end of the points battle.
"This is my first full season at 75-80," said Kappes. "I just didn't have time to run for points before. I talked it over with my wife at the beginning of the year and decided to go for it. If we are doing real well at the beginning, we'll stay with it. It would be real neat to go there this year."
Kappes started the season by making it to the finals. In his second points race, he reached the semifinals. The next week, he won the Top Dog event when rain canceled the final runs.
He has not done as well the past couple of weeks, failing in the first round last week. But the 23-year-old driver hasn't lost his confidence.
While this is the first full year of racing, Kappes has been competing on a part-time basis since he was 17.
He started racing with a 1973 Chevrolet Chevelle. Before his first season was two months old, he had purchased a 1969 Chevrolet Camaro. It is the car he hopes will take him to Maple Grove.
The NED Bracket Finals in September is like the World Series for weekly drag racers at tracks like 75-80. Each year, the top 16 drivers in each class make up the team that represents 75-80 at the finals, where they meet the top 16 drivers from each of more than 20 other tracks located throughout the Northeast and Canada.
Making the top 16 is considered a successful season for the driver who races every week. It requires competing twice a week and sometimes three times. It requires a lot of work by the driver to keep his car consistent.
Kappes has spent the past three seasons working toward the year he would have time to race weekly. He began by replacing the 427-cubic-inch big-block engine with a 350-cubic-inch one. There is nothing fancy about his engine. It has stock cylinder heads, mild cam, solid lifters and a 750 Holly carburetor.
Kappes spent time putting together a good drive train to get the power to the wheels. Then worked with the car to get it consistent. The car's elapsed time averages between 12.95 and 13.05 seconds for the quarter-mile. His fastest time is 12.88 seconds, or 104 mph.
"I'm happy with the car, where I don't mess with it," said Kappes. "I shift the same. I don't change the jets. I keep everything basically the same. I give the motor a tune-up every six to seven weeks. I don't want to sink any more money into it to go faster. That's when you break."
Kappes is concentrating on consistency and the points; the two go hand in hand. He makes sure he has such parts around as extra plugs just in case. He doesn't want to miss a round because of some little thing going wrong.
Kappes didn't start going to 75-80 until the middle of last season. The caliber of the drivers racing there amazed him, with their near-perfect 5.0 lights. He had been racing at Capitol Raceway in Crofton and wasn't winning that often against drivers who weren't cutting good lights, so he wondered how he could win at 75-80.
But he gave the track a try, running a couple of weeks in the ETK class before moving to Class II. He went five rounds the first week and made it to the semifinals twice after that. That boosted his confidence enough that he set his sights on the points for the next year.
"I'm hoping to win a little this year to get back some of the money I've put in the car," Kappes said. "If I get to Maple Grove, it would be a real treat."
In Class I competition last weekend at 75-80 Dragway, Chuck Taylor of Westminster made it to the final round for the third time this season. In Class II, Corey Hess of Taneytown was runner-up and Steve Cavey of Westminster was the semifinalist. In the ETK Class, Linda Dowdy of Sykesville was the winner. In the motorcycles, Marvin Ford of Westminster was runner-up and Tim Lippy of New Windsor was semifinalist. Joey Smith of Mount Airy won the Junior Dragster division, while Jarrod Spicer of Woodbine was semifinalist.
In oval track racing, Cris Eash of Woodbine finished 10th in the World of Outlaws event at Grandview Speedway in Bechtelsville, Pa. At Lincoln Speedway, Don Zechman of Westminster led every lap to win his second consecutive semi-late feature at Lincoln Speedway. Gregg Messersmith of Hampstead was 10th in the thundercar main event.