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A dazzling display

Race cars highlight yearly event

Race cars highlight yearly event

March 10, 2003|by BONNIE HELLUM BRECHBILL

Thirty-two race cars gleamed in the parking lot of Jim's Tavern and Sports Lounge on U.S. 11 on Saturday. Checking out the cars at the 12th annual event were racing fans from around the area.

Frank Sagi of Hagerstown, coordinator for the show, pointed out the go-karts, a dwarf car, the late models with 358-cubic inch engines, the pure stocks with 350 Chevy engines, the mini-stocks with four cylinders, and the winged microsprints with motorcycle engines. All are raced locally on speedways in Hagerstown, Shippensburg and Path Valley.

All the cars are privately owned, he said. The most expensive car was No. 14, a late model that runs around $12,000 for the car and $40,000 for the motor. Others on display were converted from regular cars at a cost of around $1,500.

The late models are the highest class, Sagi said, and can go 100 mph on the back stretch at Hagerstown Speedway. They average about 70 mph.

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While there are schools for learning to drive a race car, most people "get a car and start racing. You only race as fast as you can handle. You start with the pure stock and move up to another class," he explained.

Driver Terry Lescalleet of Chambersburg, Pa., drives No. 78, a 1998 Rocket, in the sportsmen division. He is in his 25th year of racing.

"I thought I was going to retire, but my pit crew said no," he said. "Once you get it in the blood, it's hard to stop."

Last racing season, Lescalleet won two features and five qualifying races, setting a track record in one of the qualifiers.

"If you win at Hagerstown, you've accomplished something," he said.

He spends a couple of months in winter preparing for the season, which runs from March 1 to the end of October. Lescalleet said he races once or twice a week.

"If we could afford it, I'd run three nights," he added.

Hagerstown Speedway is his favorite track to drive on because "it's fast, and there's plenty of room to race. He appreciates the help he receives from brothers, friends and sponsors. "We couldn't do it without them," he said.

Some races pay more than $1,000 for a win; others as much as $5,000 to $10,000 for a 50- to 100-lap race. But, Sagi said, racing is done for fun, not for profit.

"You hope you make enough to keep going," he said. "Sponsors foot the bill. The more you do for your sponsor, the more they do for you," adding that displaying the cars like this helps to show off their sponsors.

Tavern owner Jim Laye was pleased with the turnout. A former race car driver, he sponsors some of the cars.

Sagi's son, Alan Sagi of Hagerstown, also attended the show. He drives for a team out of Endicott, N.Y., and races every weekend from February through November.

The oldest car on the lot was a 1938 Plymouth coupe purchased in 2002 by Larry Pittman of Greencastle. The car, No. 98 and known as "Miss Peggy," sat in a field in Delaware for 34 years. It was rebuilt, and has competed in several vintage races.

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