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Labor Day Classic at dragway fills the need for speed

August 31, 2008|By MARIE GILBERT

WASHINGTON COUNTY - Down on pit row, last-minute adjustments had been made. Any small slip could cost the drivers both track time and a trophy.

Tires, motors, even shoulder harnesses had been checked. Now it was time to get down to the business of winning.

With the dragsters roaring like a Metallica concert, it didn't take long for the air to fill with the smell of rubber and smoke.

And the crowd loved it - especially the families who came to watch their youngsters rip down a one-eighth-mile track at 85 mph.

Junior dragsters - ages 8 to 17 - were among the racers Saturday afternoon at the Mason-Dixon Dragway's Labor Day Classic.

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The event, which got under way Friday, continues through Monday.

"It's become a holiday weekend tradition," said Bob Williamson, the dragway's advertising director and photographer. "Every year, it's a big draw, with more than 4,000 spectators."

About 300 racers, vying for cash prizes and trophies, are expected to participate this weekend in all classes of competition, Williamson said.

In addition to junior dragsters, the races include pro driver, street, motorcycle and high school.

Many of the racers travel from outside of the area, but many are locals who race at the track on a regular basis, Williamson said.

With rankings and a point system, "some are real serious competitors who take it to heart," he said.

"They know, to the point, whose ahead. But others just come out to have fun."

Roy Casto of Williamsport was among those who competed Saturday in the motorcycle races.

But he almost didn't make it.

Casto arrived at the dragway Friday night to break in new tires prior to Saturday's race.

"I broke in the tires and broke the transmission," he said.

Casto spent until Saturday at 1 a.m. making repairs and, though a little tired, was ready to race at 4 p.m.

Casto said he always has loved motorcycles and had a good friend who was into racing. After attending a few races, he liked what he saw and decided to give it a try.

"That was about nine years ago," he said. "Now, I own my friend's bike."

Casto said he does some racing outside of Washington County, but prefers the Mason-Dixon Dragway.

"This is home," he said. "It has it all - good friends, good people and a great track."

And if you think racing is just for guys, meet Charlotte Mallow, 8, of Poolesville.

Charlotte was among several girls who competed in Saturday's junior dragsters race, driving half-scaled versions of the full-size dragsters.

"I drive a car, too," said her father, Ken Mallow. "So she has been around racing since she was born."

The older she got, the more interested she became, he said.

"I've only been racing since Memorial Day, but I've gotten to the finals twice," Charlotte said.

She likes racing because "it's fun and exciting," she said.

It's also an opportunity to make new friends.

"You're seeing more and more girls racing," Ken Mallow said. "It's not that unusual anymore."

Williamson said drag racing isn't NASCAR, but it has a big following.

"It gets very loud, it gets smoky with burnouts, but people love it," he said. "That's just part of racing."




Today

· Gates open at 9 a.m.

· Racing begins at 10 a.m.

· Fireworks display at 10 p.m.

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