They say that when racing gets in your blood, it never leaves. Mark Royston is proof of that. After a long absence from racing, the 32-year old Hampstead native jumped at the chance to get back in the sport six years ago.
Royston races four-wheel ATVs in the outlaw quad division. The division is a fairly new class that does not have a lot of rules, hence the outlaw label. They race at Trail-Way once a month and are racing at other tracks including Challenger Speedway in Indiana, Pa. The quads, another name for four-wheelers, race on the same oval as the cars, but there is a difference -- the cars have roll cages and the quads don't.
Royston always has been around racing of one kind or another. His father, Russ, was a drag racer. Mark started racing motorcycles when he was 10 years old at Trail-Way Speedway and turned professional when he was 16. He raced the American Motorcyclist Association Flat Track series from Daytona Beach, Fla., to Canada.
Mark never gave other forms of racing a try. He preferred the daring excitement of riding on a bike, two- or four-wheel.
Like many competitors in motorsports, Royston left racing when he turned 21 to pursue a career and family obligations. But he never lost his desire to race.
When his brother purchased a four-wheeler, he asked Mark if he wanted to race it. Mark was ready to go.
"They asked me if I wanted to race it, but they didn't have to ask me twice," said Royston. "It's in my blood."
It didn't take long for Mark to adapt to the four-wheelers. Even though he had been inactive for several years, he felt right at home. Although riding a four-wheeler is quite different from a regular motorcycle, Royston's experience was a big help. In quad racing, the rider throws the bike sideways as he enters the turn, similar to a sprint car. Leaning low to the left, the rider then takes a straight line coming off the turn. If the rider doesn't get it just right, it is easy to upset.
Royston started his comeback with a small 250 cc Yamaha Blaster. It was slow and he ran near the back of the pack. Then things started to come together as the team purchased two more bikes, a 250cc Suzuki and a 500cc Suzuki. Royston finished first in District 6 for the next four years, from 1990 through 1993. During that time span, he won 49 features plus three track championships at Trail-Way.
In 1992, he was injured on his job and missed a month of racing, but still came back to win his last eight races to win No. 1 again. Last year, he did a lot of traveling, racing on longer half-mile tracks and placed 10th in points in the AMA National TT Championship.
The four-wheelers are fast, too. It is not unusual for them to hit the 80-mph mark on a straightaway on a half-mile track.
The careers of motorcycle riders do not seem to last as long as in other motorsports. With his wife, Theresa, expecting the couple's second child later this year, Royston has been thinking about retiring or moving on to micro-sprint racing. But then he retired once before. It is hard to believe that he will quit altogether.
* Last weekend at Lincoln Speedway, Jesse Wentz of Manchester finished fifth in the super sprint feature and Cris Eash of Woodbine was ninth. Don Zechman of Westminster was second in the semi-late feature and Mickey Zechman of Westminster was seventh in the thundercar feature. Mike Walls of Taneytown won the 4-cyl feature and Matt Barnes of Westminster was third. Craig Mann of Westminster was sixth.
* Brad McClelland of Westminster keeps winning at Trail-Way Speedway as he picked up another win in the micro-sprint feature. David Parris of Westminster was second with Steve Owings fifth. Mike Walls of Tanyetown started off his weekend with a win in the 4-cyl feature with Mann third and Barnes, fourth. Zechman was fourth in the 8-cyl feature with Gary Warehime of Hampstead fifth.
* At Williams Grove Speedway, Eash of Woodbine was fifth and Wentz, eighth.
* Judd Shepard of Finskburg won his first limited sprint feature at Port Royal Speedway on Saturday night.
* At 75-80 Dragway on Friday night, Joe Mayne of Mount Airy won Class I and Jeff Meleo of Keymar was semifinalist in Class II. On Saturday night, Corey Hess of Taneytown won Class II over Jamie Talbert and Mike Garber of Taneytown.