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Elder Doffmeyer making up for his late start on drag track


Drag racing is a family sport enjoyed by all ages. It's a sport in which father and son can work and compete together as a team.

Joe Doffmeyer and his son, Brian, are spending the winter months preparing for the 1997 season at 75-80 Dragway in Monrovia. Joe is returning to an active schedule after racing part-time last year.

Most drag racers get started when they are teen-agers. But it wasn't until his teen-age son began racing that Joe Doffmeyer became interested in racing. It wasn't long after his first trip to watch his son that he was helping on the car.

"I started going to the track with my son about seven years ago when he was still in high school," said Joe Doffmeyer. "He was driving a 1967 Dodge. After a few weeks, I took a couple of runs and felt that the car was not safe enough to race.

"So a couple friends of mine, Harry Beall of Glen Burnie and

Randy Stinchcomb of Randallstown, just all got together and went to work. We set out to build a safer car than what we had."

Rather than trying to repair the Dodge, Doffmeyer gave his son a 1979 Mercury Capri to race.

By this time, Doffmeyer was so caught up in racing that he and his friends decided to make a race car out of a 1979 Ford Mustang. They spent three months working on the vehicle, changing it from a four-cylinder street car to a relatively fast drag car with a 302-cubic-inch Windsor V-8.

While Brian lost interest in racing after high school, his father's interest grew.

After four years of racing in Class II (for cars with elapsed time of 12 seconds or slower), Doffmeyer began to look for ways to go faster. With a little change here and there, the little Mustang showed improvement every year. Not only was the car going faster, Doffmeyer was improving as a driver.

"We learned a lot over the years," said the Mount Airy resident.

"I learned that you have to be patient. I also practice a lot on my reaction time."

With the increased speed came tougher competition. And Doffmeyer and his crew responded by working harder.

"We write down everything we do. Every run we make, we keep records on," said Doffmeyer, who is always looking for a way to stay ahead of the competition. "We have a weather station that helps us keep accurate records so we can refer back to them."

A problem-free fuel system is critical in a quick car. Starting at the fuel cell, the outlets need to be low and at the rear, because that's where the fuel will be doing a launch. A few years ago, Doffmeyer switched to alcohol, even though most competitors use gasoline.

"It runs cooler and gives more power," Doffmeyer said. "A lot of people have a first-class car and don't think about the fuel system. It is easier to work on, more consistent, and [with alcohol] the weather doesn't affect the performance as much as a car using gasoline."

Doffmeyer is a person who pays attention to every detail and it has paid off with very few breakdowns.

"We are always going over the car, checking it carefully, especially safety -- that's No. 1. I always use quality parts, too," said Doffmeyer.

Although Doffmeyer started racing later in life than most racers, he is now just getting geared up. He will have two cars ready to race this year -- , the Capri, a second Class II car, and the Mustang. He is also working on a 1991 Ford Mustang.

"I just love going fast -- being able to do it in a safe environment rather than on the street," said Doffmeyer.

"I like the competition, trying to outsmart the guy next to me, out-drive him, especially at the bottom end of the track."

Doffmeyer's enthusiasm for drag racing has attracted other men at work (he's a service manager at Koons Ford in Baltimore), including Dano Passaretti, to racing. His employer sponsors a Ford Day at 75-80 each year.

Doffmeyer already is looking ahead a couple years. He hopes eventually to build a faster dragster. At 52, Doffmeyer finds drag racing the perfect way to stay young.

Pub Date: 2/16/97

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