DAILY Photo by Jonathan Palmer|
Decatur City Councilman Ray Metzger performs a burnout before a time trial at Huntsville Dragway on Thursday night, the eve of his 69th birthday.
At age 69, life
is a real drag
Councilman Ray Metzger won't run again, except in motorcycle races
By Chris Paschenko
DAILY Staff Writer
firstname.lastname@example.org · 340-2442
He's not the youngest five-time national drag race champion, but don't tell Ray Metzger, who turns 69 today, that he could be the oldest drag racer in the state who's still strapping on a motorcycle helmet.
Metzger, a Decatur city councilman and owner of Cycles Unlimited, said he's halfway to the finish line of his political career.
He said he won't seek re-election to his one-term District 5 seat, but has no plans on heeding the advice of his wife of 47 years, who suggested he hang up his helmet.
"She told me when I'm 70 I have to quit," Metzger said. "I said, 'Not if my health is good.' I enjoy it. Drag racing helps me stay young. I've got a lot of young friends that keep me thinking like they do, and I have a good time. I plan to race while I'm still good at it. It's like playing golf. You don't quit when you're good."
Started racing at age 50
Betty Metzger said her husband started racing at age 50.
"A friend of his taught him how to race," she said. "I've been to some of the races, but I don't want to see him going that fast, plus it's hot out there. Sometimes I think he's crazy, almost getting to be too old, but I'm glad he enjoys it."
Metzger sponsors a Thursday evening motorcycle-racing event at Huntsville Dragway.
George Howard owns the track and two others in Montgomery and Sumiton. He said Metzger is the oldest motorcycle racer he knows.
'A Southern gentleman'
"Let me tell you something about Ray," Howard said. "He's a Southern gentleman, a nice person, honest man."
Howard said Metzger, when he was 66, rode a motorcycle 800 miles to Norwalk Raceway Park in Ohio. Metzger won the national race and drove back, Howard said.
Metzger said Suzuki introduced its Hayabusa, and he persuaded his district manager to send him one. He drove what some say is the fastest production motorcycle around Decatur and to Ohio to break it in before the race.
Reaction time: .046 seconds
"Through some blessings of the Lord, I won," Metzger said. "The best time of my night was 10.38 seconds in the quarter-mile. My reaction time was .046 seconds, from the time the green light came on to when the wheel broke the beam, and the next pass I had the same reaction time, .046."
When Metzger had the exact same reaction time on his third and fourth passes, other racers started telling him he was going to win.
"The Lord gave me the reaction times," Metzger said, "Which is impossible four times in a row. Scooter Kizer owns Prostar Racing. He doubts it's a miracle, but said it's never happened before. It was written up in a national magazine."
Metzger, who has won five national races, achieved his personal best in the quarter-mile in Valdosta, Ga., when he rocketed to 146 mph in 9.42 seconds.
On Thursday, he raced his "bat bike" in Huntsville. He also has a car with a similar design.
"Last year I had a motorcycle event at Huntsville, and a friend came to me one day and said he bought a car or had it given to him from Pat Sullivan and Terry Henley," Howard said.
Henley, a former Auburn University running back, shared the backfield with Sullivan, the Heisman Trophy quarterback and assistant University of Alabama-Birmingham football coach.
Howard said he raffled the car, a 1959 Plymouth used in parades in Birmingham, and donated the money to the American Cancer Society. Metzger said he's glad to know who owned the car.
"I won that car for $5," Metzger said. "It didn't have a lot of chances on it because it was in such terrible shape. It was already painted black and had the Batman signs and tail fins."
Metzger said his decision not to seek re-election will allow him more free time for his family, business and racing.
"I found out I couldn't do what I thought I could, by reversing the 1-cent sales tax and preventing wasteful spending," Metzger said. "There seems to be three councilmen set on spending money all the time that we could do without."
It's discouraging, Metzger said, to hear about the possibility of the city floating its fourth bond since 1997, which could raise Decatur's debt service near $100 million.
"I'll finish out my term, but I sure am disappointed," he said. "Everyone was all for reducing the sales tax, and it kind of all went away. Priorities have gone away. There must be some favoritism going on that I don't get involved with."
Metzger said he started his business in Decatur in 1972, and has seen it through ups and downs.
"I got my wisdom from the Lord Jesus Christ," he said. "I use my business sense he gave me, and that's the way I vote, not out of anger or hatred, but out of love for the people of Decatur."
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