One of the hottest drivers in Carroll County is Mike Walls of Taneytown. With only half of the season completed, he has won five of his last six races at Trail-Way Speedway in Hanover, Pa.
What makes the feat so amazing is that Walls does not have his driver's license yet. That won't last long -- he just turned 16 and plans on getting his driving permit as soon as he starts drivers education when school resumes in the fall.
Walls competes in the four-cylinder stock class at Trail-Way Speedway every Friday night. Raised in a family of racers, he started racing less than three years ago.
Right from the first race Walls looked more like a veteran than a boy who had just turned 13. By the end of his first year, he won his first feature.
In 1994, Walls began to race at tracks throughout the mid-East. He raced regularly at Potomac Speedway in Southern Maryland and won five features. He also won two at Trail-Way. Not only did Walls race on local dirt tracks, he raced on the asphalt at Jennerstown (Pa.) Speedway and at Concord Motor Speedway in North Carolina.
In just a short time, Walls had raced on over 10 tracks, more than many drivers in his class will do in a lifetime.
"I have raced at Selinsgrove, Lincoln and Path Valley speedways in Pennsylvania, Saluda and Winchester speedways in Virginia and Hagerstown and Potomac speedways in Maryland to get the experience and track time," said Walls. "But I consider Trail-Way Speedway my home track. It is close to home and the car is real consistent there."
This year, in addition to racing Trail-Way every Friday night, he has been racing at Hagerstown Speedway on Saturday night.
Not many drivers race more than one track because the rules are so different. But that didn't stop Walls. His father, Frank, wanted to run Hagerstown so they built another car to run there.
Racing one car is a lot of work, but two requires a good crew. Mike's father, who raced at Dorsey Speedway in Howard County until it closed, concentrates on the four-cylinder Ford Mustang that they race at Hagerstown. Because this is their first year at that track, they still are working on getting the right set-up on the car.
"The car's got a pretty bad push in it right now and we can't get it out," said Walls. "We're getting faster. Last week we stayed with the feature winner on the straightaway, but had problems in the turns.
"It won't be long. We'll have the car handling pretty good. I've talked to [Gary] Stuhler about how to run the track. He told me not to let up on the gas so fast going into the turn, just roll through and ease on the gas to slowly get out of the turns. It has helped me."
Still, Walls has managed several top five finishes and currently stands 11th in points even though he missed a couple of races. One of the nights he missed at Hagerstown was to race at Lincoln Speedway. He won the feature there and earlier set a track record in a qualifying event.
"I like racing at different tracks," said Walls. "It gives me a lot of seat time. I think Hagerstown makes me a better driver at Trail-Way because it is so much faster while Trail-Way sharpens my reflexes since it is much smaller and there is more contact."
In addition to his father, Mike has three brothers helping him. Brothers Frank Jr., Dennis and Chaz, who have all been behind the wheel, are taking time out to help their youngest brother.
While the team is still learning the track at Hagerstown, the past experience at Trail-Way is showing as the Ford Pinto he races there is handling pretty well.
Although Walls is still a teen-ager, he has his sights on racing professionally one day. He wants to get into asphalt racing in the near future and then work his way through the ranks.
Rain wiped out most of the racing last weekend.
But Rick Jones of Westminster returned to racing in a big way, leading every lap to pick up his first win in the 25-lap feature at Winchester Speedway. Jones dedicated the win to his son who died last winter. His brother, Ernie, was sixth.
Gary Stuhler of Westminster took the lead on the fifth lap and led the rest of the way to win the North East Winners Series late-model race at Hagerstown Speedway. The win was Stuhler's fifth of the year and 72nd career win at Hagerstown.