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Growth will play vital role in 2001 CARS

by Danny Carpenter

ASSISTANT SPORTS EDITOR

The Clarksburg Area Racing Series (CARS) numbers have reached 139 entrants this year, but series coordinator Dave Weekley believes the number that will count is the one at the end of the year.

"The end of this year and beginning of next year will be critical in our growth," he said. "We'll know if the numbers will level off or continue to grow.

"We've seen our numbers trickle in after the first race, and about a quarter of them are first-timers (to the series) this year."

Weekley does believe the 3-year-old series will surpass its total of 169 runners entered last year with the its first Harrison County race on Saturday -- the West Virginia Italian Heritage Festival 5K.

"At the end of the year, it will depend on the runners on how they perceive the series and races," he said, "and how the races promote themselves."

Promoting the series has been easy with some of the top runners in the state making their way to North Central West Virginia.

After three races, Fayetteville's Larry Taylor currently is leading the men's division, with Nitro's Mike Guinn close behind. Victor's Aaron Taylor is third.

The top Harrison County runners in the men's division are Bridgeport's David Booth and Jeffrey Miller and Clarksburg's Steve Simon.

Clarksburg's Carol Davis has the top spot in the women's division, followed by Robert C. Byrd cross country and track standout Stephanie Hatfield. Defending series champion, Clarksburg's Robin Stone, is within striking distance.

Grafton's Nicole Tingler is currently third in the women's division.

"(The Greater Clarksburg) 10K will be the key race with the amount of bonus points runners can pick up," Weekley said.

Plus, the series changed its scoring format to award second- and third-place finishers with bonus points. Last year, only the winner of each race was awarded bonus points (three).

"With the bonus points, it's technically feasible lower ranked runners can contend," Weekley said.

Scoring systems aside, Weekley also credits presenting sponsor Hardee's with the opportunities the series has provided runners.

"Without their help, we wouldn't be where we are," he said. "Without them, there would be no T-shirts and no trophies."

But without the runners, the series would be a tough draw.

"We're attracting some of the big names from outside the area," Weekley said. "Five of the top 15 races on iplayoutside.com (formerly wvoutside.com) are from Harrison County.

"We wanted to give the people in Clarksburg a chance to be recognized and help some of the charities the races sponsor, but the main thing was to give people in the area a chance at competition."

That competition has made an impact on the races themselves. Weekley said the majority of the races in the series have seen their numbers increase.

"Some things will continue to roll and others will tamper off, and we'll do what we can," he said, "but CARS is going to rely on the runners."

If the numbers continue to grow, any worries will be left off the circuit.

Assistant sports editor Danny Carpenter can be reached 626-1444 or by e-mail at dcarpenter@exponent-telegram.com.

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