By Sean Barron
She might be too young to have a driver’s license, but 15-year-old Sarah Gruver already has clocked 83 mph behind the wheel.
“I race every Saturday here,” the Lowellville girl said Saturday with a hint of shyness, referring to Quaker City Motorsports Park, site of the three-day Steel Valley Super Nationals hot rod and dragster show.
The event, in its eighth year, resumes at 9 a.m. today. The all-day show’s main sponsor is Stadium GM Super Store in Salem.
More than 3,000 motorcycles, high-end hot rods and street rods as well as custom, diesel and monster trucks, dragsters, sports compacts, muscle cars and vehicles from the 1930s to today are the gathering’s main attractions, noted Corey Ward, event owner and operator.
Sarah, who was last year’s track champion, has a 2001 half-scale junior dragster with a 45-horsepower Huddleston Performance Sniper engine. The dragster also has a 150-inch wheel base and a fiberglass body with vinyl wrapping, explained her father, J.P. Gruver, who also wished to thank Royal Purple synthetic oil for supplying them with enough oil for this year’s racing season.
So, what is Sarah’s view of exceeding highway speeds before she’s able to legally drive a car?
“It’s fun; I love it,” she said.
Her dragster sports the logo, “Racing for a cure,” reflecting her love of helping children who suffer from illnesses and diseases. She raised about $2,500 last October at Quaker City for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, Tenn., and hopes to at least double that this fall, her father said.
Also accompanying the teen at the show was her mother, Rita Gruver.
Saturday was like another day at the office for J.P. Schuster of Damascus, who spends most weekends April through October on race tracks across the country.
So it’s quite likely that his torch-red super-gas roadster will be nearby.
“It runs on alcohol and was built strictly for drag racing,” said Schuster, adding that his vehicle’s features include a two-speed, power-glide transmission; a Ford-style, 9-inch rear end; and 16-inch-by-33-inch rear tires.
Schuster said he traded in a rear-end dragster for his current one, which has a top speed of about 160 mph and is a prototype of a 1963 Corvette.
Also with Schuster were his mother, Barb Schuster, and father, Paul Schuster, a manager of Stadium GM’s body shop.
A sampling of the show’s attractions include a rebuilt gray Camaro, an orange-and-black monster truck, a magenta 1966 Mustang 289, a light-blue 1967 Plymouth vehicle and a turquoise-and-white 1955 Chevrolet Bel Air owned by Nick Chicone of Boardman.
“It’s got a 28-year paint job, Chicone said proudly, adding that he bought the vehicle in 1996 from a private owner. “I sanded and buffed the car to make it look like this.”
The Bel Air has more than 120,000 miles and features the original seats and a four-speed transmission, said Chicone, who was with his wife, Cheryl Chicone.
The annual “Super Nats” continues to grow each year, something that greatly pleases Brian Caiazza, one of the promoters.
“We’re thrilled,” he said. “This whole area has been super-supportive of our show.”
Attendees also were to spend Saturday evening taking in the sounds of Skid Row, a 1980s multiplatinum rock band that staged a 10 p.m. concert. The group’s hits include “I’ll Remember You,” “18 and Life” and “Youth Gone Wild.”
The band’s scheduled opening act was Haymaker.