One of the highlights of the drag racing season is the Sears Craftsman E.T. Series Finals at the Maple Grove Raceway in Reading, Pa.
Next weekend, more than 800 drivers from 22 Division I racetracks in the Northeast and Canada compete to see which track team will record the most winning points in five classes. The championship at Maple Grove is a culmination of a yearlong season of weekly racetrack point events that determine the individual teams.
After competing each week against one another to make the team, the drivers from each track come together to battle for the team championship as well as individual honors.
The team from the 75-80 Dragway in Monrovia is normally loaded with drivers from Carroll County and the 1995 team is no exception.
The championship has gone to the 75-80 Dragway team five times since the bracket finals started 18 years ago. But 75-80 hasn't won since it captured three straight team titles in 1986-88.
Now the 75-80 team seeks to regain that top position after a fifth-place finish last year.
The other Maryland track that will participate in the bracket finals is Mason-Dixon Dragway in Hagerstown, which finished 10th last year.
Carroll County drivers make up almost half of the three championship teams representing 75-80.
Nathan Etzler of Mount Airy won Class I, Steve Hoff of Sykesville was the top point-getter in Class II and Marvin Ford of Westminster repeated as the top rider in the motorcycle division.
The big weekend gets under way Thursday with time trials. On Friday night, the champions of each division, Etzler, Hoff and Ford, will compete in a "Race of Champions." Last year Ford won the champions race.
Drivers from Carroll County who will be representing 75-80 in Class I (Super E.T. Eliminator cars with elapsed time of 7.50-12.99) are champion Etzler, '93 Dragster; No. 2 Russell Barefoot, Mount Airy, '67 Chevrolet Camaro; No. 3 Mike Creaghan, Mount Airy, '69 Plymouth Roadrunner; No. 6 Joe Mayne, Mount Airy, '94 Dragster; No. 10 Chuck Taylor, Westminster, '95 Dragster; and No. 11 Larry Hoff, Westminster, '74 Ford Mustang.
Creaghan, Mayne and Hoff were on the team last year.
In Class II (heavy eliminator cars with elapsed time of 11 to 19.99 seconds), Carroll County drivers are champion Steve Hoff, '65 Ford Mustang; No. 2 Corey Hess, Taneytown, '77 Ford Mustang; No. 3 Jeff Meleo, Keymar, '72 Dodge; No. 5 Mike Stambaugh, Union Bridge, '79 Ford Fairmont; No. 6 Roger Jorss, Westminster, '70 Chevrolet Chevelle; No. 8 Donald Bosley, Westminster, '63 Chevrolet Chevy II; No. 10 Steve Dustin, Westminster, '68 Ford Mustang; and No. 16 Charlie Spielman, Taneytown, '69 Ford Torino.
Hess, Stambaugh, Jorss, Dustin and Spielman were members of the team last year.
The Carroll County riders in the motorcycle class are No. 1 Marvin Ford, '89 Kawasaki; No. 2 Marion Ford, Hampstead, '95 Suzuki; No. 3 Tim Lippy, New Windsor, '78 Kawasaki; No. 4 Malcolm Ford, Hampstead, '91 Suzuki; and No. 5 Gene Belt, Taneytown, '82 Suzuki. All five riders were in the finals last year.
Eliminations begin on Saturday morning. A purse in excess of $34,000, as well as thousands of dollars in awards and contingency prizes, will be on the line.
The 75-80 team will race Beaver Springs Dragway in the first round and then continue round robin as they win.
In local racing last weekend, Matt Barnes of Westminster won his third straight in the four-cylinder division at Trail-Way Speedway. His brother, Steve, was third with Mike Walls of Taneytown fourth. Jeff Young of Westminster was sixth. In the micro-sprint feature, Brad McClelland of Westminster was second and Steve Owings of Westminster third. Dave Parrish of Westminster was seventh. Gary Warehime of Hampstead was sixth in the eight-cylinder feature. John McDonogh of Finksburg was eighth and Mickey Zechman of Westminster ninth. Jason Smith of Westminster was third in the street stock feature. Dave Pollard of Westminster was ninth. Mark Royston of Hampstead was third in the Outlaw Quad feature.
At Lincoln Speedway, Cris Eash of Woodbine was third in the super sprint feature and Jesse Wentz of Manchester was fourth.
Gary Stuhler of Westminster set third fastest time out of 74 drivers at the Pennsylvania Motor Speedway in Pittsburgh. Stuhler finished seventh in the "Pittsburgher 100" late model feature.