Passion Fuels Rim Country Senior On Race Circuit

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At 64 years old, he speeds 100-plus mph around an oval racetrack, competing against drivers two decades younger than he.

But for Dave Crowell, piloting dwarf race cars on the Arizona circuit is the hobby of a lifetime.

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Dave Crowell, a local real estate agent, has taken up dwarf car racing. His car is powered by a Yamaha motorcycle engine.

"I've always loved racing and wanted to do this," he said. "I used to drive the big race boats but had to stop because it was damaging my hearing."

Crowell's ambition to become a standout driver on the dwarf-car circuit has him competing almost every weekend in Northern Arizona Dwarf Car Association (NADCAR) and Desert Dwarf Car Club (DDCC) sanctioned events.

In the nearly 20 races he's competed since taking up the sport, he's managed to earn about 230 NADCAR points and he's a leading contender for Rookie of the Year honors.

"That's my goal, to win that," Crowell said.

Among the tracks he's competed on are Tucson Speedway, Central Arizona Speedway in Casa Grande, Phoenix's Manzanita Speedway, Show Low Raceway and Prescott Valley Raceway. Most of the dwarf-racing dirt ovals around the state are less than a half-mile in length and races are about 20 laps.

Crowell estimates there are about 60 to 65 dwarf racing cars in Arizona and four, including his, in Payson.

Before Crowell could delve full bore in his racing passion, he had to find a competitive race car. For just the right machine, he selected a Valley manufacturer that, he says, was responsible for the birth of dwarf-car racing in about 1984.

The car is powered by a 1250 cc Yamaha 4-stroke motorcycle motor linked to a 5-speed manual transmission.

According to race rules, Crowell said, "the engines must be production class, be no larger than 1250 cc and at least two-years old." Also, fuel injection is outlawed, only carburetors can provide fuel to the motors.

Since almost every car on the track is powered by a maximum-sized motor, no machine is more powerful than another. That means, drivers and their strategy usually spell the difference in winning and losing.

"Everything is pretty equal, no one wins consistently," Crowell said. "But the really good drivers will usually be in the top-5 each week."

Crowell also calls dwarf racing a competitive sport that attracts a lot of fan attention.

"When you have 24 cars on a track going at 100 mph, there is a lot of contact and excitement," he said. "At a race last weekend, the drivers got a standing ovation."

The most difficult race challenge facing Crowell has been bouncing back from injuries incurred in pile-ups.

"Coming back after a wreck is tough. You are driving at high speeds and the force of sudden stops can bang you up," he said. "At Manzanita, I flew about 80 feet off the track, tore the front end of the car, and ended up with scratches, cuts and very sore."

In dwarf racing, however, safety is a huge concern.

"We wear fire suits, have helmets and five-clamp safety belts," Crowell said. "The (safety) rules are strict."

With the experience of his rookie year buoying him, Crowell is speeding to what he hopes will be the year's top rookie and earn a spot in the winter national races in December in Las Vegas.

If he can be successful there, Crowell predicts he will be on the fast track to becoming one of the premier drivers in the sport.

"And I'll also be the oldest one," he said.

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