Drag racing continues to grow in popularity. One of the main reasons for its growth is its appeal to the family. Almost everyone can participate.
Linda Dowdy watched her family become involved in drag racing one by one. First it was her oldest son, Brian, who started racing. He became interested through Mike Keefer, his vo-tech instructor at Westminster High School. Keefer told Brian about drag racing with his family at 75-80 on weekends. Eventually Brian went up to watch and it wasn't long before he was racing.
Brian began racing with a older model Chevrolet pick-up truck. Shortly after he started, his father, Jim, began to go, helping out wherever he could. The younger son, Nick, was next to go. Last year Linda decided to find out why her husband and sons were leaving her home every weekend to go to the dragstrip.
"One day I decided to go along to see what Mike Keefer was dragging them up there for," said Linda. "Once I got there the boys kept telling me to take my car down the track."
Reluctantly, Linda decided to give it a try. She pulled to the starting line in her big Lincoln Towne Car. After her first run she knew why her family was racing every weekend.
"I loved it," said Linda. "I wanted to go faster because I wanted to win."
Since that first trip, all four Dowdys have become regulars at 75-80 Dragway. Now when her husband and two teen-aged boys take off to the track, Linda is with them.
And Linda isn't there to watch the races, she is there to compete in either the trophy class or the powder puff races, which she has won.
Once Linda started racing, there weren't enough cars to go around for everyone in the family. She wanted to drive so much that she started looking for her own car within weeks after her first run.
One afternoon, she passed a small back-yard used car lot so common in Pennsylvania and saw a car like the one she wanted. After looking the car over, she called her husband and they purchased and drove it home that same day.
Linda's car is a 1974 Chevrolet Nova. Right after the Dowdys brought the car, Nick and the rest of Keefer's vo-tech class rebuilt the 350-cubic-inch motor. They must have done a good job because Linda has won a race and Nick recently won the first round of the high school competition with it.
Linda's fastest elapsed time in the Nova is 13.72 seconds for the quarter-mile or 98 mph.
"I would like to get in the 12-second range," said Linda. "But I am content with 13. It's respectable and reasonably safe."
In addition to the Nova, the Dowdys race a 1982 Chevrolet El Camino and a Chevrolet pick-up truck. But they are still short on cars to race.
Linda has not only surprised herself with what she is doing, but has caught her co-workers at Montgomery County Fire and Resource where she works as office manager by surprise.
"I really surprise them when I talk about what I did over the weekend," said Linda. "I am the last person you would expect to be racing a car. I am very mild-mannered. It is just very much out of character for me. But it is great fun for the family. We spend the whole day at the track and cook out between races with the Keefers. The boys and Jim and I have made a lot of friends at the track. Everyone is so supportive of one another.
"I knew very little when I started and I have learned quite a lot, But really I still don't know all that much. I really like it, it's just very exciting. I am totally surprised by it."
In oval track racing, Mike Walls of Taneytown continues to win wherever he races. Walls won the four-cylinder features at Trail-Way and Lincoln speedways.
In other action at Trail-Way, Brad McClelland of Westminster finished second in the micro-sprint feature after flipping at Challenger Speedway two nights earlier. Westminster brothers Jerry and David Parrish finished fifth and sixth, respectively. In the four-cylinder feature, Matt Barnes of Westminster was fourth. In the eight-cylinder feature John McDonogh of Finksburg was second and Mark Shorb of Westminster was third.
Gary Stuhler of Westminster finished fourth in the Hav-A-Tampa late-model race at Hagerstown Speedway. At Port Royal Speedway, Cris Eash of Woodbine finished ninth in the super sprint feature. Eash also had two ninth-place finishes at Williams Grove Speedway in their Twin-20's. Jesse Wentz of Manchester was seventh at the super sprint feature at Lincoln Speedway. Randy Zechman of Westminster was fourth in the semi-late feature. Randy's father Don was seventh and Howard Williams of Westminster was 10th. In the thundercar feature, John McDonough of Finksburg was sixth and Klair Stonesifer of Westminster was ninth. Matt Barnes of Westminster was fifth in the four-cylinder feature at Lincoln. Jeff Young of Westminster was ninth.
In go-kart racing at Monrovia, Patrick Sword of Mount Airy placed second in the junior sportsman class. His brother, Tom, was runner-up in the box-light division.
At Chestertown, Rick Alvarez of Westminster won the two-cylinder special 100 heavy division. Luke Dempsey of Westminster won the junior stock class in quarter-midget racing at Hagerstown.
In drag racing at 75-80, Nathan Etzler of Mount Airy won Class I. Charlie Spealman of Taneytown was semifinalist in Class II. Corey Hess of Taneytown went to the quarterfinals. In the Mustang 5.0's division, Karen Proctor, formerly of Westminster, won the class in Westminster's Paul Dutterer's Cobra.
David Smith of Mount Airy won the junior dragster division. His brother, Eric, was a semifinalist. Joe Mayne of Mount Airy was runner-up in Class I. Vicki Fenner of Eldersburg won a trophy in her first race at the Ford Meet at 75-80. She also went three rounds in the Nostalgia race.
Chuck Taylor of Westminster won first prize in the Ford Meet at Crouse Ford in Taneytown for his Ford-powered dragster.