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Racing is tame stuff for Wauge

Mark Wauge's career as a thrill seeker started when he was 2 years old. He jumped off the couch, crashlanded into the coffee table and nearly cut off his right ear.

Not long after that, he stuck a screwdriver into a light socket, just to see what it felt like.

In the 30 years since those ill-fated leaps into danger, Wauge has torn up his shoulders, collarbone, legs and knees and suffered numerous concussions while barreling down a mountain on his mountain bike or racing his motorcycle.

He was unconscious for 15 minutes and broke no less than six bones after suffering a horrific crash during a motocross race in May of 1997.

I've been an adrenaline junkie my whole life, Wauge says. But I finally decided I wanted to walk without a limp.

So Wauge did what any intelligent daredevil who has defied death a time or two would do: He sold his treacherous toys for something safer, a race car.

Wauge, 32, finished second in the rookie-of-the-year standings in the pro stock division at the Southern Oregon Speedway last season, and is the leading rookie driver in the winged modified class this year.

I was worried I wouldn't be getting that high I've always looked for when I raced motorcycles and mountain bikes, Wauge says. But there's plenty of adrenaline flowing when you're out there in the middle of a stock car race.

And it's nice to know that if something goes wrong, you've got a bunch of metal around you for protection.

As a youth, Wauge was known locally as the top bicycle motocross (BMX) racer in the Rogue Valley. He won two state championships and won races up and down the West Coast.

He graduated to motorcycle motocross when he was 13 and ventured into mountain bike racing a couple of years after that.

Although Wauge considers rocketing down a mountain on a bike at speeds of 60 mph the most dangerous of his reckless endeavors _ several tumbles resulted in concussions _ his most serious mishap came when he was thrown from his motorcycle during a motocross race in Albany on Memorial Day of 1997.

Wauge shattered his right shoulder blade in four places, fractured his collarbone, broke his left leg, tore the medial collateral ligament in one knee and the anterior cruciate ligament in the other.

He was out cold for 15 minutes before waking up in an Albany hospital, where he spent the following week. He then whiled away the next two months in a wheelchair and walked with a limp for nearly a year.

Wauge sold his motorcycle while still in his wheelchair but bought it back last year for one more fling at two-wheeled fame. In his first race back, he suffered another wreck and broke his ankle.

That was it for motorcycles and mountain bikes, says Wauge, who served six years in the Army and spent one year in Desert Storm. My wife (Renee) got tired of bathing me and dressing me. She said, `One more wreck, pal, and you're on your own.'

With thrill-seeking still in his blood, Wauge bought a pro stock car last year and entered the world of stock car racing.

He finished 10th his first time out and was one of the better pro stock drivers on the track by the end of the summer.

Wauge got behind the wheel of a modified car late last summer and _ not surprisingly _ developed an immediate affinity for Southern Oregon Speedway's premier class.

More speed and more exciting _ right up my alley, says Wauge with a chuckle. I knew right then that this year I'd just have to own a modified car.

Wauge has yet to finish higher than fourth place in a modified main event at the White City track, but he's had several fifths _ including the Art Pollard Memorial _ and has been in the top 10 every week.

I think I've got all the right equipment, says Wauge, who owns a Dirtworks chassis that features 500 horsepower. It's just a matter of reducing the mistakes.

Wauge has also been competing at the Yreka track on Friday nights and has one main event victory, two heat race wins and two trophy dash triumphs to his credit.

Wauge, who is the general manager for a local company that installs satellite networks nationwide, named his racing team Doghouse Racing, a term good-naturedly directed at his wife.

I'm always working on the car or putting money into it, stuff that puts us guys in the doghouse, Wauge says.

After blowing up two motors in the past five weeks, Wauge lately has poured exceedingly high amounts of time and money into his car.

And how is Renee Wauge holding up? It turns out she's not only her husband's biggest fan, she also has become the trophy girl at Yreka.