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Harrison wants to make run at points championship

Rodney Harrison has been involved in drag racing for nearly five years. While he never raced every week, he often made it to the track about twice a month competing in the ETK trophy class.

Harrison was all set to race in the same class again this year when his wife went ahead and surprised him by registering him for the points in Class II.

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This gave Harrison something extra to shoot for this year. But his season didn't start out the way he would have liked, and now he will have some time to make up.

"I broke a push rod a few weeks ago," said Harrison. "Then when I was putting the engine back together, it didn't seem right. That's when I noticed that the cam shaft was damaged too. Now I got to go back through the engine and build it myself. It will put me out another week."

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The engine problem was very disappointing for the young driver looking to get off to a good start. But the season is a long one and Harrison is confident that he will still be able to make a good run for the points championship.

While Harrison has only been racing for a short time, he has been around racing all of his life. His father, Clifton, was a top drag racer when Rodney was young. Then five years ago he began racing sports cars professionally in the Sports Car Club of America Pro racing circuit.

He drives a 1991 Chevrolet Camaro in the 20-race American Sedan Series. He races at tracks such as Summit Point, W.Va., Charlotte, Poconos and others. When Rodney isn't racing, he works on his father's pit crew.

"I would love to race sports cars," said Harrison. "But it is too expensive just to go to all the driving schools that are required. So I went drag racing. It started as a spur-of-the-moment type thing. I was a young person who wanted to go as fast as I could and do it legally. So I went to 75-80 Dragway."

Harrison started racing with a Dodge Duster, then switched to a Ford pickup with a 460-cubic-inch big block that he drove through last year.

He won his share of trophies with the truck, but the elapsed time of 15 seconds wasn't fast enough for him.

Last year, the Mount Airy native found a 1981 Camaro that needed some work.

"I bought it for my wife," said Harrison. "But since it had stick shift, she couldn't drive it. I was going to sell it, but changed my mind and decided to make a play toy out of it. I sold my truck and replaced the six-cylinder engine with a 350-cubic-inch Chevrolet small block with automatic transmission. This will be the first year for it."

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In his quest to go faster, Harrison began to strip the entire car of any unnecessary components -- everything from wiring to back seats to radio. He tried to save weight wherever he could. To improve acceleration, he changed the gear ratio from a 2.56 rear to a 3.73 positraction rear.

Before the modifications, Harrison's fastest time with the car for the quarter-mile was 14.12 seconds. With the changes, the car is expected to be at least two seconds faster.

Harrison still feels he has a lot of room for improvement. He believes his reaction time, which was good enough to win a lot of trophies in the ETK class, will benefit from racing every week.

By racing regularly, he will get to know the car better. While he still wants to go as fast as he can, he will now have to concentrate more on consistency than he has in the past.

Harrison hopes this is only the beginning of his racing career. He is working on a sponsorship package, and with the right financial support he hopes to move up to Class I. A mechanic at Century Ford in Mount Airy, the 29-year-old driver has not let his early misfortune bother him; he is still anxious to get his season under way.

Weekend results

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Rain wiped out most of last weekend's activity. Brad McClelland of Westminster finished second in the micro-sprint feature at Trail-Way Speedway. Jerry Parrish of Westminster was sixth. Mike Walls of Taneytown was second in the 4-cylinder stock feature and Mark Royston of Hampstead won the outlaw quad main event. Mark Shorb of Westminster was fourth in the 8-cyl stock feature, followed by Mickey Zechman of Westminster in sixth, Ryan Devilbiss of Westminster in eighth and Allen Cullem of Hampstead in ninth. Westminster's Jason Smith and John Pollard were ninth and 10th in the street stock feature.

In drag racing at Mason-Dixon Dragway, Donnie Hess of Taneytown was runner-up in Class I to Ronnie Proctor of Harpers Ferry, W.Va. Jay Rupard of West Friendship went to the semifinals. Corey Hess of Taneytown went to the semifinals in Class II. Anthony Battaglia of Union Bridge won the street series.

Pub Date: 5/19/96


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