Marchiani, 42, didn't even try to defend himself after admitting that he was back in the mud four days after being released from a hospital where he was treated for abdominal injuries suffered when his wheels locked coming out of a mudhole and his truck slammed into a guard rail.
"I still got 18 stitches in my stomach. I swore up and down I wasn't going to race anymore, but I'm back," Marchiani said at a recent meet here while he waited to race his Phantom Rat - an oversize truck with 52-inch tractor tires.
"It's in the blood," he said.
The object of mud-hopping is to drive the length of the track in the shortest time possible without getting stuck. A good time for a 500-foot track is 30 seconds.
The sport, as mud-hopping enthusiasts are careful to point out, is distinct
from mud-bog racing, which takes place on a shorter, flat track often located indoors in arenas, such as the Spectrum in Philadelphia.
A mud-hopping track, by contrast, is a series of hills and gulches designed to challenge even the most hardy four-wheel vehicle. Building one is as easy as making mud pies - you dump truckloads of dirt in a desired location, wet it down until it reaches the optimal degree of mushiness, and keep a hose handy to counter the drying effect of the sun.
The trucks compete in classes, from small pickups in Class A to full-size pickups in Class D and an "open class" of so-called "monster" trucks - wide-track vehicles with huge tires, such as Marchiani's.
The contestants pay $10 to make one run down the track, and winners take home cash prizes usually ranging from $50 to $100 - which usually isn't enough to pay for the repairs mud-hoppers must make to their trucks.
Take Bill Meritt. In 1987, Meritt, 44, of Salisbury, Md., put $9,000 into repairing and upgrading his 1969 Ford pickup. His winnings for the year totaled $3,500 - "enough," he said, "to let me keep going."
While some mud-hoppers run their trucks more or less straight off the showroom floor, with no fancy gizmos or engine rebuilding, others go to great lengths and expense to ensure top performance.
Regular mud-hopping competitions can be found from North Carolina north to New England, and from the Atlantic coast to Indiana. On the Delmarva Peninsula, the sport got started about 12 years ago when Jimmy Hall of Crisfield, Md., got together with six friends to build a track in their home town.
"We used to go out on weekends, get a case of beer, go out running in local woods and ditches and have a ball," said Hall, 52.
"But after a while, you want to have competition, so we built a track."
Though the Crisfield track eventually closed, tracks were built in nearby Fruitland, Md., and in Tasley, which is halfway down the Virginia portion of the Delmarva Peninsula.
On weekdays, Debbie Hitchens dresses for success as a customer-service representative for a Maryland insurance company. On weekends, however, she dons a bathing suit and shorts and heads for the mud in her full-size pickup, which she named One of Daddy's Girls.
Hitchens, 21, of Salisbury, Md., is one of a very few female mud-hoppers. When she was 15, Meritt, her stepfather, bought his first mud-hopping truck, ''and I decided that's what I was going to do. It looked like fun," she said.
"And beating the men was even more fun," said Hitchens, who has become so good she is barred by mud-hop organizers from competing in a women's class and now races in the same class as her stepfather and fiance.
"At first the men thought, 'She's not going to do anything.' Then, after a couple of years, they saw that I could do it as good as they could," she said.
Hitchens was frustrated at a recent competition here because she had damaged her truck's gears in a prior race and was unable to get a new part in time to participate.
ON THE SIDELINES
So she joined about 1,000 other spectators at the track in this town of 200 residents, where a mud-hopping competition is held about once a month from May through October.
On one side of the fenced-in track were the spectators, who had paid $4 each to watch the fun from bleachers, where no shade offered protection from the searing sun.
On the other side of the track were the participants - more than 50 - and their families and friends, settled in and sipping soda and beer under suspended tarpaulins on flat-bed trucks or converted school buses.
At one end of the track, the contestants lined up in their vehicles, all spanking clean. At the signal to start, a truck would move down the track, emitting a great wailing and gnashing of gears as it struggled up over the hill and through the mud puddle.
Drivers who made it through the track were greeted with loud applause as they steered their mud-covered vehicles to the exit, steering as they stood leaning out the driver's-side door so they could see where they were going.
Those who got stuck slammed their fists on their steering wheels and waited for a tow truck to come to the rescue.
"It's very bumpy. When you're going up a hill you can't see, and the steering wheel is ripping out of your hands, you gotta fight it to keep it in the track," said Hitchens.
Hitchens casually ticked off the various things that can go wrong between one end of the track and the other: busting a front end, dropping a drive shaft, having your engine burst into flames, or losing control and flipping over. And, of course, possible injury to the driver, though seat belts and helmets are required.
"I ran my first course with my eyes closed - I was scared to death," said Hitchens.
"But I like fast, dangerous stuff."