When Al Shawver Jr. of Finksburg won his first race in the semi-late division at Hagerstown Speedway three years ago, it looked like he would be following in his father's footsteps.
That was quite a compliment for the younger Shawver because his father, Al Sr., was one of the top late model drivers in the '80s, capturing three track championships at Winchester (Va.) and Lincoln (Pa.) speedways.
By the time the 1992 season ended, Al Jr. had won two features in less than 10 races driving a car built by his father. Displaying the smoothness that brought his father his championships, Shawver looked like a veteran and everyone expected that the two would form a team that eventually would lead them into late model racing.
But Al Jr. decided that despite his early success, he wasn't sure he wanted to continue in the direction he was headed.
After much thought, Shawver decided that he wanted to form his own team, to race on his own. Realizing that there would be a lot of obstacles for him to overcome to realize his dream, Shawver spent the next three years putting it all together.
Last fall, Shawver was ready to return to racing. Even though he had been around late model racing all of his life, he decided to look at other divisions.
Westminster's Mark Miller invited Shawver to Susquehanna Speedway to watch the small block modifieds. Miller, one of the owners of the track, introduced him to co-owner Glenn Hyneman, who had his own modified team.
"I told him what I raced before and he talked to me about the cost of modified racing and the purse they paid at Susquehanna," said Shawver. "It sounded appealing to me. After seeing their facility and that it wasn't that far for me to travel, I began to give it serious thought."
A couple weeks later, Hyneman introduced Shawver to one of the top chassis builders in modified racing, Doug Olsen. Shawver spent the next couple of weeks talking to Olsen and exploring different options. Olsen showed Shawver what it would cost to go into modified racing and race competitively. Olsen also gave him names of drivers with good used equipment for sale.
After weighing the options, Shawver decided that he was going to go into modified racing and start off with all new equipment.
By the time Shawver was ready, half of the 1995 season was over. He found the racing much different in the modifieds than it was in the semi-late division. It took a while for Shawver to adapt to open wheel racing, but he showed improvement with each race.
Last month Shawver returned to Hagerstown for the Octoberfest 250. With a stellar field of modifieds from throughout the northeast, Shawver made the show. His father was there to watch him. Although Shawver was involved in a crash, he repaired the car in time for the next modified race at Hagerstown. Shawver's father helped set up the car for the last race.
"He came to a couple of races and he seemed proud I was able to do what I did," said Shawver. "I have greater appreciation now of what it takes to go racing on my own. It was a lot more difficult than I expected. It turned out to be a really nice car."
Now with his father behind him, Shawver is looking forward to next year. He plans on competing at Susquehanna Speedway on Saturday nights.
"I would like to race more, but only have enough money to race one night a week now," said Shawver. "I would like to run for points; that is something I have never done since I have yet to race a full year."
Cris Eash of Woodbine powered to his fourth win of 1995 in the season finale for sprint cars at Lincoln Speedway last Sunday. Eash grabbed the lead from his outside second-row starting spot on the second turn.
Gary Stuhler of Westminster finished fourth in the Dirt Track World Championship for late models at the Pennsboro (W.Va.) ** Speedway after starting 17th.
Jeff Shepard of Upperco finished eighth in the World of Outlaws sprint feature at Battleground Speedway in Houston. Then he finished 11th and 17th at Devil's Bowl Speedway last Saturday and Sunday in Mesquite, Texas.
In the Coors Extra Gold Nationals at Trail-Way Speedway, Steve Owings of Westminster finished second in the micro-sprint feature. Butch Harvey of Westminster finished third in the four-cylinder feature and Westminster's Jeff Young was seventh. Mark Shorb of Westminster was eighth in the eight-cylinder stock feature and Bill Brown of Westminster was ninth.
In drag racing at 75-80 Dragway, Donnie Hess of Taneytown won Class I and the Top Dog race. Corey Hess of Taneytown went to the semifinals. Dave Belt of Taneytown won the motorcycle division.