Two weeks ago, Luke Dempsey pulled off the biggest win of his career. He set fast time and won his feature in the eastern quarter-midget regionals.
Dempsey, 7, has won several races at his weekly track.
Dempsey races in the junior stock division at the Hagerstown quarter-midget track every week. The second grader at Manchester Elementary is in his third year of racing. He keeps moving up through the classes and continues to capture his share of races.
He finished last year with three consecutive wins. This year, in seven feature races at Hagerstown, Dempsey has won three, finished second three times and fourth once.
Two weeks ago, Dempsey went to the eastern regionals held by the Blackbird Quarter-Midget club at the Airport Speedway in New Castle, Del.
There were youngsters from quarter-midget clubs in New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware and Maryland. It was the first time for Dempsey on the one-tenth-mile oval. Not only was he unfamiliar with the track, but the track surface was different from what he was accustomed to.
"The car was really hooked up; it was working real good," said his father Bob. "We normally race at night. But it didn't seem to bother him. He really did a good job. He just ran a good smooth line."
With the top six inverted for the feature, Dempsey started fourth. By the second lap, he had the lead.
With five laps remaining in the 30-lap event, a caution was waved. On the restart, Dempsey lost the lead. He was all over the leader the rest of the race, but was unable to make the winning pass. The Dempseys were pleased with his finish, but a post-race inspection found the head on the motor of the winning car illegal, giving Dempsey the win.
With the victory, he is eligible to compete in the dirt grand nationals that will be held in Springfield, Ill., over the Labor Day weekend. It is something he is looking forward to.
Quarter-midget racing is like Little League baseball. There are quarter-midget clubs all over the country for children 5 to 15 years of age. The nationals in Indiana are equivalent to the Little League World Series in Williamsport, Pa.
The cars are similar in style to open-wheel sprint or midget cars. They are powered by three-horsepower stock Briggs & Stratton engines similar to those on go-karts and junior dragsters. Strict rules keep parents from altering the engines for an advantage on the track.
Recently Bob and his wife, Tammy, purchased another car for Luke for asphalt racing. With not many dirt tracks in the area, Bob wants to get Luke as much driving time as he can.
Many of the top drivers in NASCAR Winston Cup racing like Terry Labonte started in quarter-midget racing.
Last weekend, Rick Jones of Westminster won his second late model feature at the Winchester Speedway. Starting in the third spot, Jones took the lead on the eighth lap and never looked back.
Gary Stuhler of Westminster finished second in the late model feature at Bedford Speedway in a special holiday show. Stuhler was ninth in time trials at Pittsburgh's Pennsylvania Motor Speedway last Saturday, but dropped out with mechanical problems early in the race. Stuhler won the race last year.
In sprint car racing, Cris Eash of Woodbine was ninth at Williams Grove Speedway. Dave Haight, formerly of Reisterstown, was second in the super sprint feature at Lincoln Speedway. Jesse Wentz was seventh and Eash 10th. Judd Shepard of Finksburg was third in the limited sprint feature at Williams Grove on Friday night and repeated his performance on Saturday at Port Royal Speedway.
In other action at Lincoln, Don Zechman of Westminster was third in the semi-late feature.
At Hagerstown Speedway, Ray Kable Jr. of Owings Mills was 10th in the late model feature. Mike Walls of Taneytown placed fifth in the 4-cylinder pure stocks. Kenny Dillon of Owings Mills was seventh in the pure stock feature and third in the enduro dash.
At Trail-Way Speedway, Walls took the lead from Westminster's Steve Barnes on the eighth lap and went unchallenged the rest of the way to capture his seventh win in the 4-cylinder stock division. Barnes settled for second, with brother Matt fourth. In micro-sprint racing, David Parrish and Steve Owings of Westminster placed fourth and fifth, respectively, with Jerry Parrish in seventh. Butch Harvey of Westminster was seventh in DTC the 8-cylinder stock feature and Mark Shorb was 10th. Jason Smith of Westminster was second in the street stock feature and Steve Pollard of Westminster was ninth.
In drag racing at 75-80 Dragway, Joe Mayne of Mt. Airy won Class I and Frank Gugliotta of Mt. Airy was a semifinalist. Steve Hoff of Sykesville won Class II. In the Top Dog race, Mayne defeated Hoff. Marion Ford of Hampstead won the motorcycle division. In the junior dragster championships, Jarrod Spicer of Westminster was runner-up in Class I, Joe Smith of Mt. Airy was a semifinalist in Class II.