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ChumpCar champs: locals drive junker to Daytona win

Updated: Thursday, August 22 2013, 10:49 AM CDT

Posted by: Jason Bristol

HARRISBURG -- Five local men have one of the most feared race cars around -- and its a hunk of $500 junk with a stuffed squirrel in the back.

But it's good enough for them to race some of America's most historic tracks, like Daytona and Watkins Glen.

A rusted out 1985 Mercury Cougar is a dream machine for Matt Newcomer and Craig Anderson, both of West Hanover Township; Graham Hollis of York, Darin Kreiss of Marysville and Palmyra's Jerry Blauch.

To them, the car is better than any curvy Corvette or luxurious Lamborghini.

"The car performs," said Kreiss. "Its reliable. It's fast. It does what it needs to do."

For years it wasn't doing anything; it was just sitting in a field.

Now?

This old grocery- getter runs 150 miles per hour; hugs corners and makes these average Joes feel like NASCAR drivers.  "The only difference between what we do and what they do," added Anderson, "is that there's nobody in the stands."

That's not the only difference. The Cougar --  surprise, surprise -- costs $500.

They're all like that, though, on the ChumpCar World Series, which holds endurance races that last 12, 14, or even 24 hours long for a 100 or so rust buckets, tin cans,and leftover lemons -- and the weekend warriors that drive them.

Each guy from thus local group -- Tiger's Wood PGA Racing Team, as its called -- takes a turn behind the wheel of the car, which isn't easy getting in and out of, by the way.

They say being inside is such a rush and things fly by so fast, they never get tired during their two-hour shift.

The team won the ChumpCar World Series' 14-hour race in May at Daytona Interational Speedway. It's also a family affair -- wives serve as the crew chiefs.

How do they make the car go so fast?

"It's just a strategic pile of parts," Hollis said.

Those parts include an old V8 engine, that delivers six miles to the gallon, according to Newcomer; as well as a spoiler made from street signs and headlights that don't always work.

The car also features some sort of muppet-type roadkill on the roof and, of course, the stuffed  squirrel staring out the back.

Does anyone take this car seriously?

"You show up and there's a bunch of BMWs and exotic imports; we get there and smoke 'em," said Blauch with a smirk. "That's the best part."

It better be. Winners of these races take home a whopping $800 . That doesn't even cover gas.

These guys should know, too.

They recently celebrated their latest win at Daytona. Their collection of trophies looks right at home -- if their living room was decorated by The Terminator.

So what really inspires them?

Its the opportunity to do something most of us could never do -- much less afford -- unless our last name is Gordon or Earnhardt.

"We're paying way less than any other form of Motorsports to be able to get onto tracks like Watkins glen and Daytona," said Newcomer, who also points out that  rollcages, tires and brakes do not count in the $500 price of ChumpCars.

Racing, some recycling and winning.

Mr. Gore may agree.

These guys aren't chumps after all.

Some video used in this story was provided by Matt Newcomer. Some video used in this story is courtesy of YouTube/ChumpCar Series.

ChumpCar champs: locals drive junker to Daytona win


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