As the 1995 racing season winds down, area speedways schedule championship events. It has become tradition in oval track racing to end the season with events that include extra distance races and increased payoffs.
Last weekend, two Carroll County drivers, Gary Stuhler and Mike Walls, turned in outstanding performances. Stuhler won the Winchester 200 late-model event at the Winchester (Va.) Speedway and Walls won the four-cylinder pure stock fall championship at the Hagerstown Speedway. Both are coming off a banner season.
Stuhler always seems to be at his best when big money is on the line, especially when the increased purse brings the top drivers in the country in for the race. Stuhler has gained the reputation as the hardest driver to beat on his own turf.
Whenever the late-model sanctioning group, Short Track Auto Racing Stars, visits local tracks, Stuhler rises to the occasion. Going against the full-time professional drivers never bothers the Westminster driver; he relishes the competition.
Last Saturday, he once again went against 53 of the best late-model drivers in the country. Stuhler was sixth fastest in time trials, putting him on the pole for the -- for the six fastest qualifiers. Stuhler won the event to earn the pole for the 32nd running of the 100-lap Winchester 200.
Stuhler lost the lead to Rick Eckert of York, Pa., on the opening lap, but stayed glued to the bumper of the leader waiting for the opportunity to take the lead. Stuhler knew with one slip he could lose second to Bart Hartman of Zanesville, Ohio, who was right behind in third.
"I was able to get up to his [Eckert's] door several times," said Stuhler. "But I was worried about Bart [Hartman] going around me on the outside, too."
On Lap 20, Stuhler pulled even with Eckert and the two ran even until Lap 26, when Stuhler made his move.
"I got a good run on him coming off the turn," said Stuhler. "Once I didn't see him beside me, I shot up in front. I was faster through the middle."
Stuhler held the lead to the end with Hartman coming on strong to take second near the end.
"I was worried about Bart. He's been consistent all year and has won a couple of big races," he said.
Stuhler, though, has finished on top in seven of the last 12 Winchester 200s.
He finished off the weekend by winning the 25-lap feature at Hagerstown Speedway on Sunday. It was his 74th career win at the half-mile oval and seventh of the year. Stuhler leads all late-model drivers in the Northeast with 13 wins.
While Stuhler has been winning big races for more than 10 years, Walls of Taneytown is just starting what could be a brilliant career. The 16-year-old has been one of the hottest drivers in the four-cylinder division this year. Last Sunday, he won the fall championship race at Hagerstown Speedway, his fourth win in the past five races.
Walls won the 12-lap race the hard way. On the first lap, he made contact with another car and had to go pitside with a flat.
"I figured I could get back out in time without going a lap down, but I was hoping that nothing else was wrong with the car," said Walls. "After the first lap the steering felt like it had play in it, but it turned out OK."
Walls was able to overcome the steering problem as he charged from the rear of the field to take the lead on Lap 8. Once in front, Walls ran unchallenged the rest of the way.
Walls has been almost unbeatable at Hagerstown since purchasing another car. Besides four wins at Hagerstown, he has 11 wins at Trail-Way Speedway and two at Lincoln Speedway.
Brad McClelland of Westminster was back in the winner's circle at Challenger Speedway in its Fall Fest '95 two-day show. McClelland led every lap to win the micro-sprint feature last Saturday night, then finished third last Sunday. McClelland has 10 feature wins for the season. Dave Parrish of Westminster was seventh in the Saturday feature, Steve Owings of Westminster was eighth on Sunday.
At Lincoln Speedway, Jesse Wentz of Manchester was fifth and Cris Eash of Woodbine sixth in the super sprint feature. Mickey Zechman of Westminster was ninth in the thundercar feature, followed by Fred Cullum of Hampstead in 10th.
Butch Harvey of Westminster was fourth in the four-cylinder feature at Hagerstown Speedway.
In drag racing, Len Davis of Westminster went five rounds in the Super Comp class at Richmond Dragway. At 75-80 Dragway, Don Leonard of Mount Airy won Class I. Vicky Fenner of Sykesville won the Powder Puff race.
Several Carroll County drivers were left out of last week's story about the Bracket Finals at Maple Grove Raceway. Jim Peddicord of Westminster qualified 15th in Class I for Capitol Raceway in Crofton. Cliff Peddicord finished 11th in Class II. Ronnie Proctor, formerly of Westminster, is sixth on Mason-Dixon Dragway's Class I team. Jamie Talbert of Taneytown is 14th in Class II and Rob McCraw of Sykesville is fifth in the motorcycle division.