This is a reading comprehension exercise for children. It is written by Susan Fineman, a reading specialist in the New Haven, Conn., school district.

ONA, W.Va.--Retirement for 73-year-old Harvey Simon is the stuff children dream of and his peers fear: bumper-to-bumper traffic at more than 100 mph.

"Some people my age think there's something wrong with me," said Simon, who spends most Saturday nights during the summer racing his $30,000-plus late-model stock car around the paved, 5/8-mile track at Ona Speedway near Huntington.

The pudgy, silver-hair man from Cambridge, Ohio, knows he's an attraction and doesn't hesitate to play up his age. A caricature of him sitting on a wheelchair burning rubber graces the side of his red race car.

Groups of fans in Ona's main grandstand along the front straight holler for him as he speeds by.

"Everybody knows Harvey, and everybody likes him," said Steve Swann, a 21-year-old driver. "There are a lot of people who'll root for him."

But Simon is no gimmick.

"I wouldn't be here if I ever thought I couldn't win," he said. "I don't just want to ride around out there. That's dumb. I'm looking forward to winning a race before the year's out."

His competitors take him seriously. Simon moved up to the late-model division after winning last year's season points championship in what is known as the Charger class of the Legends series.

Legend cars, compact racing machines encased in 1930s-style Ford or Chevrolet bodies, are popular among beginning oval track racers. The cars cost about $13,000 and are powered by motorcycle engines that pull them down the straights at nearly 100 mph.

That's how Simon got started two summers ago, shortly after retiring from his job as a helicopter pilot for Marietta Coal Co. in Ohio.

"This is a learning year--a step up in all respects, especially with the physical size of the car," Simon said. "You can't see out of it. You don't know where your nose is until you hit the guy in front of you."

Although some would say Simon is living dangerously for a man his age, he credits racing with sustaining him.

"Racing means about everything to me," he said. "I don't know what I'd do without it. I have no clue."

Quiz

1) pudgy a. decorates; adorns

2) root b. seating area for spectators at a racetrack

3) paved c. opponents; rivals

4) graces d. covered with asphalt

5) caricature e. picture with exaggerated features

6) grands f. enclosed

7) retiring g. shout encouragement; cheer

8) encased h. withdrawing

9) gimmick i. attention-getting scheme; fraud

10) competitorsj. chubby

Answer key:

1. j, 2. g, 3. d, 4. a, 5. e, 6. b, 7. h, 8. f, 9. i, 10. c