Let Dave Greytak be an inspiration. He's 59 years old. He's been drag racing, off and on, since he was 14 but turned professional only three years ago in the Super Chevy Nitro Coupe division.
Now he has become the sport's world champion.
"Truthfully," Greytak said, "I was really excited for everyone around me -- my employees, my team, my family. It wasn't so much winning it for me, but the thrill I got from looking into everyone else's eyes."
Greytak, a Maryland resident since 1985, lives in Centreville, the Queen Anne's County seat. When people meet him there, they say, "Oh, you're the racer." He's been asked for autographs. In the town's post office, officials have told him, "You're the first celebrity we've had in Centreville."
All this is good fun to Greytak. He enjoyed drag racing as a kid growing up in Montana but left the sport at 29, when he started his own business, a company that has grown into NuCar Connection, a Delaware-based, multi-franchise automobile conglomerate with more than 400 employees.
Five years ago, he decided to get back into the sport he loved. When the Super Chevy Nitro Coupe division came into existence three years ago, he decided to go pro. Super Chevy is the sanctioning body for the competition that uses National Hot Rod Association rules, and the Nitro Coupes division is its main show.
The Nitro Coupes compete in an 18-race series at major racetracks across the country.
Greytak, driving his colorful 1938 Chevy Nitro Coupe called Grand-Pops Toy, set a world elapsed-time record in Joliet, Ill., this summer. He covered the quarter-mile track in 6.22 seconds (225 mph). And in the season's point race, he won 10 of the 18 events, clinching the world title by winning the season finale in Gainesville, Fla.
"My first grandchild, Mike, had just been born when I decided to go back to racing," said Greytak, who now has six grandchildren ranging from 10 months to nearly 6 years. "That's how the car got its name. The grandchildren are all motor heads. And Mike has already challenged me to a race -- as soon as he learns to drive."
It seems Greytak isn't talking about waiting until his grandson is 16. "When he's 8," said the proud grandfather and champion, "he'll be in a little junior dragster."
Brandywine's Donnie Neuenberger, who says his 1999 racing season was "a disaster," is looking forward to an exciting 2000.
"This season was kind of upsetting," said Neuenberger, who drove for the Moore Racing Team in the Goodies Dash Series. "We had more money than ever, but we had such bad luck. There were 24 rookies in the series, and it seemed like we kept ending up in a crash."
But Neuenberger's luck is changing. He has a deal to run five races in the Craftsman Truck Series beginning at Daytona International Speedway in Florida in February, plus he'll be running the full Dash series with a new team.
"It's a high-profile Dash team," said Neuenberger, 37. "But we're waiting a little while before making it official."
The Truck team is owned by Charlie and Robert Long, of Apex, N.C., and between now and the first race at Daytona, Neuenberger will test twice.
"I'm really excited about it," he said. "But we're still looking for a major sponsor."
The chatty Marylander has his own Web site, www.dgnracing.com. Neuenberger also does a five-minute racing wrap-up on WIYY (97.9 FM) at 7: 45 a.m. Mondays.
Irvan to be honored
A tribute to recently retired driver Ernie Irvan will be held just before today's NAPA 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway.
Irvan, 40, announced earlier this season that he was ending his career after incurring another concussion in an accident at Michigan Speedway last August.
Cox News Service's Michael Carvell told him, Irvan said, that the Atlanta ceremony is "going to be an emotional moment for my family and me."
He said he has been frustrated by his slow recovery. He has difficulty finding words and suffers from diminished hand-eye coordination.
"Just walking up the steps is a concern," Irvan told Carvell. "I'm not 100 percent. The doctors anticipate a full recovery for me, but they really don't know when."
The Michigan accident was Irvan's second debilitating accident at the track. After the first, in 1994, Irvan was given only a 10 percent chance to live. But he came back to compete and win three more times. He finished his career with 15 victories and as one of 50 drivers designated as NASCAR's all-time greatest.
Driver Ted Musgrave presented Winston Cup fans with one of the strangest performances of recent years. In the middle of last week's race in Homestead, Fla., he drove into the pits, parked the car and said, "I quit."
He was driving the No. 75 Ford for Butch Mock Motorsports.
"It's pathetic. It's a joke," he said.
A team official asked him: "Does that mean you won't be driving next week?"
Musgrave was under contract through today's race but obviously won't be in the car. That dubious honor falls to Hut Stricklin, who signed a one-race deal. Wally Dallenbach is signed for next season.
Nuts and bolts
Ernie Elliott, brother of driver Bill Elliott, has agreed to provide engines for the No. 9 Ford of Melling Racing for today's NAPA 500 and the entire 2000 season. It will be a reunion for owner Mark Melling and Elliott, who worked together for seven years before parting ways in 1992.
Larry Foyt, the 22-year-old son of A. J., passed his Indy Racing League rookie test. CART FedEx Championship Series runner-up Dario Franchitti will make a guest appearance on the NBC-TV sitcom "Suddenly Susan" on Dec. 6. IRL champion Greg Ray tested at the new Kentucky Speedway last week and managed speeds in the 208-mph range.