Hello again race fans. Welcome to the 2009 racing season. I'm getting a late start on this column after being under the weather the last few weeks. There are some items of interest so let's get started.
Tonight at Port Royal Speedway 20 lucky fans will win a free Easter ham. The night's racing program is full as there are two sprint car features plus late models, pro stocks and enduro cars. Racing gets under way at 7 p.m. Last week's program was rained out halfway through the 305 sprint car feature which was won by Todd Spangler.
As for the start of the season, at Port Royal it has been good. An outstanding crowd was on hand for the March 15 sprint car program. Bug Day was also good with 83 cars pit side.
Last week, the weather could have bit the Juniata County oval in the check book, but Mother Nature eliminated that problem. All things considered, it has been a good start despite the economy, which brings me to another point.
I was fortunate enough to be at the Dirt Track Nationals in Florida for the third straight year. Racers and fans continue to support those shows and the programs were quite successful. After sticking around and watching Bike Week underperform for the second year in a row, I conclude what many already know. Racers are the most loyal fans of any sport and do what they have to to keep going. We are blessed in auto racing and dirt racing in particular.
Tonight the Selinsgrove Speedway presents a four-division show of 358 sprint cars, late models, pro stocks and roadrunner cars with action getting underway at 6 p.m. Selinsgrove officials have allowed rules changes to sprint car engines, which have made the cars faster. New track records have already been set this season at the Snyder County oval, including Scott Flammer, who shattered the 25-lap record last week.
The Bedford Fairgrounds Speedway opens April 17 with a regular show. One week later the Lucas Oil Late Model Series comes to town. Bedford promoter J.R. Keiffer is stepping up his program for 2009. Additional billboard space is being built in turns one and two.
The track looks great and Keiffer has ordered a mixer board for his sound system which will allow announcers to play background music between races much like the World of Outlaws do at their races as well as baseball stadiums.
The Hesston Speedway has a new promoter - Rick Jones who also operates the Rock at the Cumberland, Md. Fairgrounds. Current plans call for only seven shows which will be headlined by 358 late models. Hesston will race on Friday nights.
Late model racer Jack Pencil had a disaster at his shop recently. A fire broke out as team members were transferring fuel but Pencil was not present when the mishap occurred. His dad had some scary moments escaping from the shop and both of his hands were burned along with the side of his face.
The team lost one racecar and their toter, hauler and shop in the accident. Firemen did a great job saving one car and two engines by keeping water under the car on which the ceiling fell.
The body and all rubber and plastic was destroyed but the car is rebuilt and ready to race. It's going to take awhile to get things settled with the insurance company, but it's my understanding that the destroyed race car will not be covered by insurance. Pencil is currently working out of J.R. Keiffer's shop until things get straightened out.
I spoke with Daryl Stimeling at Port Royal last week and he indicates the Bolger Racing No. 18 car should be ready to race tonight. Stimeling and the Lewistown-based team won a feature at Port Royal in 2007.
Also look for Tim Wilson of McClure to be ready to race either this weekend or next. Wilson just recently got his engines back from the motor builder who freshened them up. Wilson has been busy building a new trailer over the winter, which is nice.
Mike Erdley's Lisi Race team purchased a new rig during the off season. It's also really nice. Erdley ventured to Volusia Co. Speedway in Florida for his first trip to the Dirt Track Nationals. It was a learning experience for his team.
Word reaches me that another historic speedway has bit the dust. I'm referring to Manzanita Speedway near Phoenix. A number of central Pa. stars have raced there in the fall after local racing was finished going back to the 1970s and 1980s.
The most notable was the late Jan Opperman, and if my memory serves me correct, Bobby Adamson. The track is being developed for industrial use.
The Latimore Valley Fairgrounds and Williams Grove Old Timers open their museum today. Jim Nace and Ed Zirkle host a round table discussion starting at 1 p.m. Call 528-8279 for information.
Tonight at Hagerstown (Md.) Speedway, it's a four-division regular show featuring late models. Action starts at 7 p.m. The Lincoln Speedway hosts sprint cars, 358 late models and super sportsman. Racing gets under way at 6 p.m..
The NASCAR Sprint Cup cars race at Texas tomorrow starting at 1:30 p.m. Fox has TV coverage.
Keep your eyes on Stevie Smith and the Zemco race team this season. Smith looks good in this car and is fast. Smith won a race in Florida and is the current All-Star points leader. I don't think Smith will race full time anywhere, but his team will be a threat to win anywhere they go.
A couple of race folks have been under the weather. Bill Ritzman has been active at Port Royal with the fair and racetrack, but has had heart problems. He is now home and recovering.
Also, Bob Heckert of Port Royal has been in the hospital and is now home. Heckert and his wife are active in Port Royal Speedway and fair activities. Best wishes to both for a speedy recovery.
"Cowboy" Jim Kennedy entertained the Port Royal Speedway office with his famous yodel last Saturday night. The 73-year-old driver is from Everett and lists just himself and one other person as crew members. Kennedy won a 305 feature last year at Port Royal.
That's going to do it for this week. I'll be back next week with more news. Until then please drive safely!
Craig Rutherford writes about motorsports for The Sentinel. He is affiliated with Port Royal Speedway.