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Speedway Scene-Clipp regains his winning form

June 11, 1999|By MIKE SIRBAUGH / Staff Correspondent

Last Saturday, Richard Clipp of Hagerstown didn't just win the late model sportsman 20-lap feature at the Hagerstown Speedway, he blew the field away.

Clipp began the race on the inside pole position, immediately grabbed the lead on the first lap and never trailed in the flag-to-flag victory.

Early in the race, when Clipp began opening up a rather lead, a reporter decided to time his laps and discovered that Clipp was adding to his lead an average of one-half a second each lap.

When Clipp took the checkered flag, his lead had grown to approximately a quarter mile on the half-mile dirt oval, over eight seconds ahead of second-place finisher Bob Friese.

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"We made a lot of changes just before the race," Clipp said. "We must have changed the rear tires about five times. I kept changing my mind on what I thought was right. I was almost afraid to tell them the last time to change them."

"That's kind of what I was used to," said Clipp, referring to being in Victory Lane. "When I came off the scales and through the pit area (after the race), about a thousand of them (drivers) shook my hand. A lot of them made me feel good."

Clipp's biggest threat was encountering lapped traffic. Once he thought he was going to tangle with one of the lapped cars.

"I was thinking, 'This guy's slowing me down. I've got to find a way to get by him.' I thought, 'Man, he's gonna take me out.'"

But Clipp held on, easily outdistancing Friese, Richard Walls and current points leader and defending champion Wayne Walls Jr.

It was Clipp's first feature victory in nearly three years. So where has Richard been?

Just a few short years ago, Clipp was a regular visitor in Victory Lane, racing in the V-8 pure stock class. He participated in the pure stocks beginning in 1993, winning the championship in 1995 and finishing second in the points in 1996.

The 38-year-old has been around, but his racing career has been silent. Based on his success in the pure stock class and a longstanding desire to race at a higher level, Clipp made the jump to the late model sportsman division in 1997.

"It was always my goal to race at the Hagerstown Speedway ever since I can remember," Clipp said. "I raced at the Monster Mile in Dover in one of the Busch cars once. I've always wanted to move up"

But, due to a number of factors, success did not readily follow in the transition to the sportsman class.

Clipp is the owner of Interstate Paving and work usually keeps him busy Monday through Saturday. That commitment is one reason why his racing career remained on hold until he was 32 years old.

"It sure is tough to run a paving business and race cars. Both are seasonal and at the same time," Clipp said, "I always did want to race, but I had to make sure the family was taken care of and I had a nice house for them. I had to get my priorities right. I have a lot to be thankful for."

Because of that business, Clipp would sometimes miss a race the past few years, which hindered continuity on the track.

Then there's Factor No. 2 - bad racing luck. It seemed to Clipp that he got involved any time some other driver found trouble.

Last season, he was given the Hagerstown Speedway Hard Luck Award for the late model sporstman class because of that misfortune. Yet, he still managed to finish 10th in the point standings with eight top-10 finishes That came on the heels of 1997's eighth-place finish in the standings.

A third factor was the car itself.

"When we first started, we bought a used car and it was kind of worn out. Then, in one of the first races, we had a bad crash and it never ran right after that."

Moving to a higher class also requires a new feel with a different car that has different capabilities and limitations. Not every driver can successfully make such a transition.

"I've read a lot of books. After not winning for two years, it made me want to win that much more. And I don't think there's anybody in the pits that hasn't tried to help me during that time."

Clipp also started the 1999 season with a new car.

"The best I ever got in this class was third. When you're trying to race with a dead horse, it just doesn't work sometimes. We got a car from Jim Daversa that only had three races on it. Saturday was only the second time out for it. I was really happy with it."

Clipp is quick to express appreciation for his sponsors Critical Pass, Hagerstown Tire Service, Aluminum Cap Center, The New Delmar Inn and Frederick, Seibert and Associates.

Much of the help that Clipp has received has come from those close to him.

Interstate Paving employee Randy Monninger deserves a lot of credit for keeping the car clean and ready for race day. But the biggest accolades go to Clipp's long-time racing partner, Bud Harbaugh.

"He's more or less been my chief mechanic ever since I started racing. He is my motor builder and he takes care of the car. There are some weeks he puts in forty hours on the car. He probably deserves 90 percent of the credit. It takes good equipment and good people."

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