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Published: Wednesday, 5/30/2001

Auto racing: Cygnet man has right idea for short tracks

BY C.J. LANDRY

Jeff Maran of Cygnet sums up why he competes in the factory stock division at Toledo Speedway in just three words: "Fun and cheap."

For the 32-year-old Maran, the fixed operations manager at Saturn of Findlay, the fun of racing on Friday nights begins even before he fires up the engine in his 1975 Chevy Camaro. "Racing has brought me a lot of friends. It's a great place to meet people," Maran said "And the fans are what keep me going."

Showing his appreciation to the fans during the recent autograph night at Toledo Speedway, Maran had everyone who asked him for his autograph sign their name on his yellow factory stock. He hopes he doesn't have to replace any body parts on the car this year because he wants to keep every name on his race car throughout the 2001 racing season.

Once he gets on the track and the green flag waves, Maran's fun reaches another level as he dices with the other drivers as they all try to get into the lead and stay there until the checkered flag flies. Looking for a way to describe what it's like racing against as many as 17 other stock-bodied race cars on the speedway's quarter-mile asphalt oval, Maran said: "It's like racing through downtown Detroit in the middle of rush hour. It can get crazy. Sometimes you just close your eyes and hope you can make it. But at the same time you've got to be very patient."

So just what is a factory stock and why is it a cheap way to go racing? Maran describes a factory stock as "a car you would take off the street, remove the glass, install a roll cage and go racing." Doing most of the work himself, Maran figures to have about $1,200 invested in the car that he hopes to drive to this season's track championship.

Power for the A&S Auto Sales Camaro comes from a 350 cubic inch Chevy V-8 which powered a Chevy van until it was installed in Maran's racer. "My experience in this division is that a junkyard engine that is a good reliable engine is the best one to run."

The ARCA factory stocks must use street tires, and the tires Maran uses have a lot of street miles on them before they ever get to the track. "When people come into the dealership to have new tires installed I get their old ones," Maran said. Each "old tire" Maran selects is usually good for about six nights of racing.

Outside of the safety equipment required by ARCA, the only non-stock item on his No. 4 Camaro are the front springs, which are out of a 1970 one-ton Chevy truck. "I've learned one thing - if you keep it simple, it tends to work well," Maran said.

Keeping things simple also keeps his bookkeeper happy. A recent race night ledger entry showed Maran's winnings totaling $60; expenses were $10 worth of gas at Meijer (half for the Camaro, half for the tow vehicle), and $15 for a pit pass, adding up to $25. Keeping the promise he made to himself that "I wouldn't take food off the table to go racing," Maran is still eating well and having fun racing.


Team A&S includes Maran's Camaro along with the factory stocks of Toledoans Chris Wilcox (No. 34), Jeff Radabaugh (No. 14), and James Hazlett (No. 10).

Several years ago, Toledoan Norm Maran, who owns A&S Auto Sales, asked his brother Jeff along with factory stock drivers Wilcox, Radabaugh and Hazlett if they would be interested in forming a team. All four said they would.

The loosely knit team finds each of the four drivers still owning their race cars with Norm Maran.

"I guess you could call me the team manager," said Norm Maran, who tries to get companies he does business with through A&S interested in racing. Today Maaco provides paint and body work; The Rubber Stamp Shop the decals; Auto Connection the exhaust systems; and A&S the rims for each of the four race cars.

While Norm Maran doesn't get behind the wheel of the factory stocks, he does drive in the demolition derby at the Monroe County Fair each year. Of his involvement with the team, Maran says: "It's a blast. It's the most fun way I know to advertise."

And what happens when Team A&S members, who often work on each other's cars during the week, come wheel to wheel on the track?

"We race each other just like we're anybody else out there," said Jeff Maran.


Advance tickets for Toledo Speedway's Friday, June 8, program featuring the ISMA supermodifieds and the Auto Value Super Sprints, the "Fastest Short Track Show In The World" are available by calling 419-727-1100 or 419-727-2480.


This weekend's specials:

Friday's schedule includes A&S Auto Sales Night at Toledo Speedway. Because of last week's rainout, the coupons featured in The Blade will be honored at this event.

Also Friday, Kears Speed Shop presents "Open Wheel Shootout I" featuring 410, 360 and 305 sprint cars at Attica Raceway Park. And Limaland Speedway is the site of the 2nd Annual Steve Brown Stockcar Memorial.

Saturday finds Flat Rock Speedway hosting the Walt Michal RV Center Scout Night. A $10,000 prize awaits the winner of Saturday's Leal Beattie Tribute Pennzoil World of Outlaws feature at Eldora Speedway.

Toledo Speedway's Budweiser Twin 100's, with 100-lap features for both the Outlaw Late Models and the Shooter's Iceman Series, which was washed out last week, have been rescheduled for Sunday night. Time trials get the green at 5:30 with racing at 7.

The Street Bike Nationals take place this Saturday and Sunday at Norwalk Raceway Park.



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