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Stuhler still driven after 33 years

February 21, 2008|By JULIE E. GREENE

Gary Stuhler has been late model points champion at Hagerstown Speedway twice -- in 2003 and 1990 -- but it's not the points Stuhler is after.

Stuhler, 52, of Greencastle, Pa., has won 123 feature races -- big money competitions -- at the speedway, more than any other driver during his 33 years of racing.

Stuhler, a mechanic who works on school buses for Washington County Public Schools, said he goes where the best purse is so he can pay his racing-related bills and keep up his hobby.

Sometimes that's at Hagerstown Speedway, sometimes it's at West Virginia Motor Speedway in Mineral Wells, W.Va., or at another racetrack. Because he travels to several tracks in pursuit of the big purses, he doesn't always race enough at the Washington County speedway west of Hagerstown to earn enough points to win the annual points race. Last year he came in third in the late-models points race.

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The speedway's season gets under way this Saturday with 35-lap races for modified and late models. Stuhler said he isn't sure he'll make the opening race because his new car's chassis was still under construction in West Virginia as of Monday.

But he is sure he's racing this season, after threatening the past few years to retire. Every winter he's on the fence. But then racing season arrives.

It's not speed and competition that drives Stuhler to race. He said he likes the camaraderie among drivers. Plus, racing gives him something to do on weekends.

Like many other drivers, Stuhler doesn't own the car he drives. He said the key to his success has been working with racecar owners who have invested in good equipment such as cars and motors.

A racecar today can cost $45,000 to $50,000, Stuhler said, compared with the roughly $2,500 his first racecar, a '65 Chevelle, cost in 1975.

When Stuhler first started racing he would volunteer to race in the back of the pack, even if he drew a starting spot up front, he recalled. Respecting the more experienced racers, he chose to start in the back so he wouldn't cause wrecks if he spun out.

"I just didn't want to tear my stuff up or other guys' stuff," Stuhler said.

But after being one of those more experienced racers for decades, Stuhler doesn't sound sure of his future in racing. "It's getting a little tiring now," he said. His 8-year-old son plays soccer and Stuhler can see the day when his son will want get involved in a traveling league.

But the decision has been made for this season. He can leave the retirement considerations until next winter.




If you go ...



WHAT: Late-model race and Syracuse Qualifier for modifieds, 35 laps each

WHEN: 1 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 23. In case of inclement weather, call 301-582-0640 or go to www.hagerstownspeedway.com to see whether the event has been postponed.

WHERE: Hagerstown Speedway, 15112 National Pike, 4 1/2 miles west of Interstate 81

COST: $15, general admission, $20 reserved seat, ages 11 and younger get in free.

MORE: Gates open at 11 a.m.




Hagerstown Speedway season highlights



(Schedule subject to change)

· Today through Friday -- Race-A-Rama car show at Valley Mall

· April 26 -- Lucas Oil late model dirt series, 27th annual Stanley Schetrompf Classic, 50 lap, late-model race plus late-model sportsman clash (a race between Hagerstown Speedway and Allegany County Speedway drivers)

· May 24 -- 13th annual Richard "Boney" Bonebrake Tribute and Old Timers Night (a tribute to old-time racers), 40-lap, late-model race plus late-model sportsman and pure stock

· May 31 -- 27th annual Conococheague, 50-lap, World of Outlaws late-model race plus pure-stock special

· June 7 -- U.S. Auto Club Wingless Sprints plus late models

· June 28 -- 43rd annual Johnny Roberts Memorial, 50 lap, late-model race plus late-model sportsman, pure stocks and fireworks. The rain date is Sunday, June 29.

· July 18 to 20 -- Monster Truck Nationals

· July 26 -- 27th annual Hub City Classic, American Motorcyclist Association Grand National Motorcycles

· Sept. 13 -- 34th annual Hub City 100 50-lap late-model race plus 358 sprints 50-lap race

· Sept. 19 and 20 -- 2nd annual Shamrock Small Car Nationals. Late-model sportsman plus pure stocks and four-cylinders on Friday; Enduro Championship and Powder Puff (women's race with Enduro or pure stock cars) on Saturday.

· Oct. 25 and 26 -- 21st annual Octoberfest 350. Qualifying on Saturday; racing on Sunday. There are 100-lap races for big-block modified, small-block modified and late models plus 50-lap race for 410 sprint cars.

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