Every year, the top drivers from 22 tracks throughout the northeast United States and Canada converge on the Maple Grove Raceway in Mohnton, Pa., for the Sears Craftsman ET Finals.
The top 16 drivers from the Super and Heavy Eliminator classes and top eight from the motorcycle division from each track go to Maple Grove not only to win their divisions, but to score as many points as they can for their home track.
The 75-80 Dragway in Monrovia has gained national recognition over the years as having some of the best drivers among the local tracks. Last weekend, the 75-80 drivers proved it again as they finished second to Maple Grove Raceway in the final team standings.
Contributing to the team's overall success were some outstanding performances by several Carroll County drivers.
Nathan Etzler of Mount Airy turned in the performance of his career, winning the Race of Champions on opening night. The 33-year-old driver has been a regular at 75-80, but hasn't raced for points for 11 years. This year he had the time required to chase the championship, and it paid off.
Leading in points at 75-80 in the Super Eliminator Class, Etzler raced against the champions of 21 other tracks.
Right from the first practice run earlier in the morning, Etzler had a good feeling about his car, a '69 Fabrication Dragster. But it wasn't until he won the first round that his confidence began to build.
After six rounds, Etzler was in the finals against Don Raiser of Buffalo, N.Y., representing Lancaster Raceway. The race was a close one right to the end.
Etzler dialed a 8.33-second time and ran a 8.343 time with a .514 reaction time for 157 mph to win a close one.
"I had a real good night," said Etzler. "I kind of surprised myself. The car was unbelievable. I dialed the same number all night. It only varied two-thousandths of a second all night."
For the second consecutive year, Steve Dustin of Westminster turned in an impressive weekend. Last year, Dustin went to the Heavy Eliminator semifinals. The year he went to the finals and barely missed winning it all.
Dustin started the weekend with timing runs on Friday. The car was consistent and the weather was almost perfect. Eliminations began Saturday morning, and the 25-year-old was ready to go up against more than 350 other drivers.
"I was the most nervous in the first round," said Dustin. "By the time I won the fourth round I felt pretty good since I normally do well once I get that far."
Dustin continued in his '68 Ford Mustang to the finals, when he turned a near-perfect light in the sixth round. The race was so close he didn't know who won until the win light flashed for him.
Dustin went into the final round against teammate Robert Pare. Dustin dialed a 12.22-second time and ran a 12.195 time. Pare, a native of Ijamsville, dialed a 12.19-second time and ran a 12.174 time. It was a close race, with only a nine-thousandths of a second difference between the two drivers.
"I had a better reaction time," said Dustin. "I was on the brakes at the end, but not quite long enough. It was real good to make it to the final against my own teammate. There's only one spot left for next year."
"It was the biggest win I ever had by far," said Pare, 25. "My adrenalin just started taking off in the sixth round. I have had a lot of good tight races with Steve. There wasn't anyone I wanted to race more than a teammate. It was an incredible feat that we both made it to the finals together."
All the drivers were pleased with the support they received from the other drivers. "It feels so good to have drivers you raced against all year pulling for you at the finals," said Etzler.
The second-place finish for 75-80 was a big accomplishment. A lot of the credit has to go to team captain Laurie Taylor of
Other Carroll County drivers who did well at ET Finals last weekend in the Super Eliminator Class were Chuck Taylor and Larry Hoff of Westminster. Both went two rounds, and Joe Mayne and Etzler of Mount Airy went two rounds.
In the Heavy Eliminator Division, Mike Stambaugh of Union Bridge and Charlie Spielman of Taneytown went two rounds. In the motorcycle competition, Marvin Ford of Hampstead went three rounds, Dave Belt of Taneytown went three rounds and Marvin Ford of Westminster went two rounds.
In weekend action on the oval tracks, Gary Stuhler of Westminster was third in the 100-lap late-model Octoberfest feature at the Hagerstown Speedway.
At Trail-Way Speedway, Brad McClelland of Westminster was second and David Parrish of Westminster was seventh. Mike Walls of Taneytown was third in the four-cylinder feature and Jeff Young of Westminster fifth. John McDonough of Finksburg won the eight-cylinder feature with Mark Shorb of Westminster third. lTC Gary Warehime of Hampstead was eighth. In the street stock division, Steve Pollard of Westminster recorded his first career win.