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Class-10 racer upsets McMillin Racing team in namedsaked event

March 31, 2002|By AARON CLAVERIE

Staff Writer

PLASTER CITY — The Corky McMillin Co. Fud 200 here had just about wrung out Steve Reynolds.

With two laps to go in the 10-lap off-road race, the 52-year-old Imperial speedster tried to radio into the pits and get his Holtville racing buddy Steve Mamer to take over and finish for him.

Reynolds' head was splitting, his arms were tired and his hands were shaking from the constant strain of wrestling his 1600cc buggy around the 20-mile Fud 200 course.

"By the time he figured out what I was saying, I just decided to finish it myself," Reynolds said.

That he was able to grit his way to the finish line was impressive enough, but when he finally parked his white buggy and took off his helmet, Reynolds found out he had finished third overall.

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Scratching his head, he said, "Damn …," and cracked a weary smile.

He was too tired to say or do much more.

On a Saturday when most of his competition had crashed or broken down, Reynolds' gutty performance was one of the highlights of the eighth annual Fud 200. He was the top finisher among Imperial Valley racers.

Reynolds completed the 200-mile race in around four hours, about an hour behind the overall winner, Smitty Schmidt of Jamul, and 15 minutes behind second-place finisher Andy McMillin of Poway.

Chula Vista-based race promoter Otis "Fud" Fudpucker said this year's Fud 200 was, "A battle of attrition."

Schmidt and his co-driver, George Smith of Alpine, were able to take the checkered flag because they avoided the mechanical problems that befell McMillin and Escondido racer Chuck Hovey.

When Schmidt wheeled the class 10 buggy into the winner's circle, there was not one scratch on her.

His co-driver, Smith, said, "It was a real clean race."

It also was the first race for the 18-year-old San Diego State University student.

In his debut, Smith drove the burgundy Class 10 buggy sponsored by Alpine Tile & Marble for the first five laps and savvy racing veteran Schmidt drove the last five.

The 49-year-old Schmidt told his young teammate, "You got to pass all of the top guys and I had to pass lap traffic."

On those early laps, Smith and 15-year-old co-pilot Cory Brewer of Alpine battled Class 1 burners McMillin and Hovey.

Fudpucker said Hovey turned in the fastest lap of the day: 16 minutes and 50 seconds. The class 1 buggy was averaging around 82 mph.

Unfortunately for Hovey, he couldn't keep up the insane pace. He dropped out of the race with mechanical problems just as he did last year.

Last year the cage that holds the ball bearings in his buggy's left CV joint broke in two. This year he had the same thing happen even though he raced a different buggy, Fudpucker said.

After Hovey bowed out, the race was left to McMillin and the team of Smith and Schmidt.

When Schmidt hopped in the buggy to start the fifth lap, most of the top competitors had dropped out. He had only McMillin to beat.

Not that he could see McMillin.

Fudpucker said 15-year-old Andy McMillin and his co-pilot dad, Scott, were about a half lap ahead starting the ninth lap.

On that lap, though, the buggy's right front spindle broke off. A spindle connects a wheel to a buggy's frame.

After it broke, "The wheel folded under the car and then I saw it rolling away with the spindle still on it. I thought, this isn't good," Andy McMillin said.

His dad said when the wheel popped off, the front end of the buggy dug into the sand.

"We got turned around in the middle of the course. I thought someone was going to centerpunch us," he said.

No one did, but it took around 20 minutes for McMillin's pit crew to bolt on a new spindle and wheel.

By the time the McMillins got going again, Schmidt had won the race.

Meanwhile, in class 5 racing, San Diegan Todd "Stumpy" Stemmerman finished eight laps in his bug to take the class championship.

Team member Troy Downey of San Diego said Stemmerman cut short his racing day after the straps on the buggy snapped.

Downey said the buggy could have sustained major damage if Stemmerman had tried to finish.

"Instead of a $30 problem (broken straps) we could have had an $800 problem," he said.

Downey explained how the straps take pressure off the buggy's suspension system. Without the straps, the constant pounding of high-speed racing could have torn up the suspension.

The next Fud race is the Tazmanik Hare ‘N' Hound on April 14. Only ATVs, motorcycles and superlite racers will compete.

The next race for buggies and trucks is the Terrible Town 250 in Pahrump, Nev. Racing starts there Thursday.

>> Staff Writer Aaron Claverie can be reached at 337-3419 or claverie7@hotmail.com

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