Growing up at the track

Before Nelson Hogan was an all-district football player at Manassas Park in 1989 and 1990, he had a racetrack in his backyard. No wonder he grew up to become a drag racer at Old Dominion Speedway.

Hogan, now 30 years old, spends his days driving a crane truck and cutting down or picking up trees in Fairfax County. He has been doing that for five years and racing cars for eight. He has raced at various places such as Colonial Beach, Summerduck, Maryland International Raceway and Capitol Raceway. ODS, though, has hometown appeal for Hogan.

“I like ODS the most because it’s the closest and most convenient,” he said. “I can park my trailer right there. My grandfather (James Terrell) lives behind the race track and I can be over there in five minutes.

“We used to live right behind ODS when we first moved to Manassas back in 1980. I would go to the races with my father. He didn’t race but he was a big fan.”

The Hogans moved to Manassas Park in 1984. By then, the son of Nelson and Juanita Hogan already was enjoying football. He had been playing since he was nine.

“I’ve always had feelings for football since I was young playing; it’s always been in my heart,” Hogan said. “I started at an early age. I had uncles who were into coaching and they brought me through the ranks.”

A 1991 Manassas Park graduate, Hogan was a fullback and linebacker for the Cougars. In his senior year, Manassas Park earned a big win against Clarke County and shared a district title with Strasburg. The team went 6-5 overall, 6-1 in the Bull Run District. Hogan scored eight touchdowns that year and led the Cougars with 645 rushing yards.

Football’s still in Hogan’s life, as his 6-year-old son, T.J., is in his second year playing in the Eastern Prince William County league. T.J.’s schedule limits his father’s racing schedule in the fall, but it’s a tradeoff Nelson is happy to make. He still gets the thrill of going the track and leaving his crane truck for a muscle car.

“I’m not in the points standings and it’s toward the end of the season,” Hogan said. “The racing just gives you somewhere to be on Friday nights — out having fun and going as fast as you want. I just like the sound and the look of muscle cars.

“A lot depends on if you get a bad break or if you’re fortunate enough to where you don’t have anything major. But I really do the drag racing for fun. All of us pretty much try to help each other out if we can. It’s competitive, but may the best man win.”

Hogan drives a 1999 dragster. He has also driven a car on occasion for his friend, Walter Parker. His first ride on the drag strip was a 1967 Mercury Cougar. To Hogan, the sight of that car is as sweet as the memory of being part of a district-winning football team.

“That was my first car I got when I was in high school,” Hogan said. “My father and myself turned it into a race car — and I still have it. There’s no motor or nothing in it, but I still have it.”

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