Millbury company an industry leader in building dragsters
Millbury resident Mark Horton has one hobby.
“I like to build race cars,” said Horton, 59, a 1972 Lake High School graduate.
Don’t call what Horton and his cohorts do at his Millbury-based shop, American Race Cars, a job. The business has been rebuilding race cars and building chassis for dragsters for eight years.
|Chris Bear, of Bear Automotive, Oregon, races at Norwalk in a dragster built by
Mark Horton of Millbury. (Press photo by Harold Hamilton.hehphotos.com)
“It’s been a good living,” said Horton, who has five employees and a partner, Travis Colangelo. “Everybody who works here likes what they’re doing, and that means a lot in jobs nowadays. They get paid good, too, but they like their job. That means a lot. They get along and it’s a small company, and everybody is happy and working away.”
The cars Horton’s company builds compete in the Sportsman dragster class on the International Hot Rod Association (IHRA), National Hot Rod Association (NHRA) and bracket series (local tracks) circuits.
“Most of the people (who compete) in the Sportsman have other jobs,” Horton said. “The professionals, that’s all they do all year long, work on their cars.”
Sportsman dragsters are 19-22 feet in length and feature anywhere from 700-2,000 horsepower. Some cars can cover a quarter mile in 6.25 seconds, which translates to about 215 miles per hour.
“We race one-eighth mile at some of the southern tracks,” Horton said. “They’re all old tracks. In the top dragster class we have some that have been 4.02 (seconds), or around 177 miles an hour.”
|Mark Horton, left, owner of American Race Cars with
assembler Brett Murphy, of Northwood. (Press photo
by Harold Hamilton.hehphotos.com)
Horton became a driver right out of high school and competed for several years. He said he took this year off from competition to concentrate on his business.
“We’re one of the top Sportsman car builders in the country,” said Horton, who earned an IHRA Super Rod world championship as a driver in 1999. “I’m not bragging, because I’m not that way. I’m being honest. In the last eight years we’ve sold about 450 cars. Everything having to do with race cars, we do in-house. No motors, we just work on the chassis.”
Horton said he and Colangelo started American Race Cars when other car builders and manufacturers didn’t take their suggestions seriously enough.
“We wanted to make changes to some other cars we were running,” Horton said. “They said their cars were good. We just thought we could make them better. That’s kind of how we got started in this.”
American Race Cars has two team cars that represent the business. They are driven by Elyria resident Ray Connolly and Sherman Adcock, who lives in Columbus, Ga.
“Ray takes our rigs to races to represent us,” Horton said, “and Sherman has a big sponsorship with Peak Motor Oil. Both people who drive for me have been world champions. The cars we race run the NHRA circuit, where all the pros run. We’ll to go Norwalk and places like that. We try to run wherever the national tour is, where the pay is decent – Bristol (Tenn.), St. Louis, Joliet, (Ill.), New Jersey, Reading, Pa., Dallas, Houston, Las Vegas. These things go from one end of the country to the other.”
Horton said American Race Cars will have 20-25 cars represented at the U.S. Nationals in Indianapolis on Labor Day. Winning on the track will be a tough task, due to the fact that each class the company’s cars compete in will have between 80-100 other cars entered.
“Ray and Sherman will be at the Nationals,” Horton said. “We have good equipment. You just need a little bit of luck.”
Horton’s company has built about 400 full-size dragsters and 50 junior dragsters in the past eight years. He said the plan is to begin building sprint cars in addition to dragsters.
“We’ve started repairing wrecked sprint cars,” Horton said. “It just gives us some other way to make a living. We’re going to build a couple this winter.”
Horton’s employees at American Race Cars include Brett Murphy, Denny Shiffert, Brian Horton, Kevin Bradshaw and Joe Driscoll.