Late Model driver Gary Dalton of Morgantown is one of the hottest drivers right now at the local tracks.
Dalton won the season opener at Interstate 79 Speedway, followed that with two second-place finishes and has run consistently in the top five at Tyler County Speedway every Saturday night.
He is coming off an outstanding 1999 season that saw him capture the points championship at Tyler County Speedway and fourth place at I-79.
Dalton has come a long way from the end of the '98 season. He had thoughts of calling it a career as that season approached its end.
His car owner was getting out of racing and his personal business kept him too busy to run his own race team.
Then came a call from Doll Brothers Racing.
They were looking for a driver to compete in the season- ending "Harvest 50" at Skyline Speedway in Stewart, Ohio.
"I was going to retire," Dalton said. "Then Bud and Marshall (Doll) came along and wanted me to drive, and I thought that if I'm going to drive for somebody, it couldn't be any better than for these two guys. They know what racing is all about. I know every time they come to the track they're prepared to win."
The Doll Brothers have fielded winning race teams since 1965.
Several top drivers, including Earl Hill, Bobby Boyles, Butch McGill and Bob Adams Jr., have placed Doll cars in victory lane over the years.
To say it was a perfect match, would be an understatement. Dalton rolled to a career-best 11 Late Model wins in the 1999 season, along with three second-place finishes and seven third-place finishes in the Doll Brothers No. 87 racing machine. He won the Mid-Atlantic Championship Series (MACS) "Thunder in the Mountains" and the "Earl Hill Memorial" races at Tyler and the "Dick Armstrong Memorial" at Corridor H Speedway.
"I think I had something to prove, and I think they did too," Dalton said. "We both came off a bad season, and we had a pretty good year together."
Dalton got his start in racing in 1983, when he bought a Semi Late car, and has competed locally since that time. After winning several races in the Semi Late class, Dalton moved up to the Late Model ranks in the mid-'90s. The 41-year-old driver figures that he has won around 150 to 200 features in both classes over his career. He has driven for several owners in the past, but is really pleased with his present ride.
"This is one of the better deals that I've ever been in," Dalton said. "They know I give it 100 percent when I'm out there, and I know they give it 100 percent through the week preparing the cars. The only thing that would stop me from running for these guys would be if they throw me out for not running good enough or that I just quit."
Dalton believes his relationship with his car owners is a perfect situation for him. They prepare the car each week and all he has to do is bring his driving suit and helmet. This gives him the time he needs to run his business, Checkered Flag Trucking. Dalton said his girlfriend, Barbara, is the one that came up with the company name.
The Doll Brothers team campaigns two different cars with Dalton. On Fridays, they race with their own Doll Chassis at I-79, and on Saturdays, Dalton drives a '97 Rocket Chassis. Hall's Feed & Farm Supply in Pennsboro sponsors their race team. Dalton hopes for a repeat of last year's good fortunes and the way things have started, he's on his way to equaling his 1999 season.
"We've been consistent so far this year," said Dalton. "We know we can't win every race, but we know we're going to be competitive every time out."