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Barracuda flies on land

March 04, 1999

Bucky HessBy BRYN MICKLE / Staff Writer, Martinsburg

photo: JOE CROCETTA / staff photographer




MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - Bucky Hess might not drive far, but he doesn't waste much time getting there.

What started out as a nighttime hobby eight years ago has turned into an obsession for the man who holds the national record in the quarter-mile drag in Super Stock A Automatic class.

"I ran an 8.88 at 148.50 in the quarter," said Hess.

Translation? A quarter mile in less than nine seconds at a top speed of almost 150 mph.

Not bad for someone who bought his car for $1,500 from a Hagerstown man more than 10 years ago.

Hess, the owner of Bucky's Ltd. Auto Body shop in Martinsburg, said he initially just wanted to restore the 1968 Plymouth Barracuda with a "426 hemi" engine to its glory days.

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Until he took it to a drag strip in 1991.

"After that first race I got bit by the bug," he said.

Using a home-built engine and needing to drive a quarter-mile in no more than 10 seconds, Hess finished with a 9.81 his first time out.

After that, there was no looking back.

Hess hooked up with premier engine builder Ray Barton in 1992 and by the next year had set the first of what would eventually become a total of seven National Hot Rod Association records.

Hoping to continue that streak this year Hess will begin his drag racing season next Friday in Orlando, Fla., with the Gator Nationals the following week in Gainesville, Fla.

With prizes at national events topping out around $18,000, Hess said he isn't in it for the money.

A blown engine alone for his "Hemi Cuda" costs upwards of $35,000 as Hess found out last year at a race in Indianapolis.

While prize money is nice, Hess points to a small line of type in a recent issue of National Dragster magazine.

Printed there, along with the names of about 100 other drivers in various classes, is Hess' name.

"You do all of this for a little bit of print. All they care about is who has the fastest car," he said.

Then there's the thrill that comes along when the car starts "hooking up" and the front end flies up - sometimes as high as six feet into the air.

"When it hooks hard, that's a thrill," Hess said. "You're gripping the wheel, pumping the gas and next thing the car goes up and all you see is sky."

Of course, being the fastest has its downside.

Along with the inherent dangers of rocketing down an asphalt strip at over 100 mph - he once ended up in a Delaware corn field with no brakes - Hess said he sometimes forgets he's not on the drag strip.

"I'm always concentrating on traffic lights. When it hits green, I'm off," he said. "Nobody ever leaves before me."

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