Hello again race fans. Tonight, Port Royal Speedway honors one of the all time greats.
Pete Swarmer did it all in Central Pennsylvania racing. Swarmer won six track championships at Port Royal Speedway. Four titles were won is sprint car action. The other two came in semi-late or late model racing. Swarmer was the franchise driver of his time. He was one of several professional drivers before it was the norm.
Swarmer would race where ever he could and also held down a full-time truck driving job as well. He, Eddie McCardle and others were key players in placing midstate racing on the map. Not only did they make their mark at Port Royal, but they also were key players in the creation of the Reedsville Speedway.
What was amazing in Swarmer's case was that he lost a leg as a result of a truck accident. Lesser men would have quit racing. Not Swarmer. Pete continued to race and won races and championships. He was my first favorite driver because he came from Ferguson Valley near Lewistown, where I grew up. In fact, Ferguson Valley and Strodes Mills were a hotbed of local racing.
Strodes Mills remains a hotbed to this day. The Penn Central Racing Association had many stars that came from Ferguson Valley, Strodes Mills, Burnham and the Dry Valley area. That group holds its reunion tonight at Port Royal. The number of members continue to dwindle due to their age. I would urge those of you that are interested in the history of local racing to come out early tonight to Port Royal Speedway and pay tribute to the cars and stars of yesteryear. They only have about 60 members and guests signed up for tonight and we should all appreciate them while we can. The Williams Grove Old Timers will have their restored race cars on display and they will receive track time to run them.
Bring along a camera to capture the moment. The reunion will be going on during the afternoon. Gates to the racetrack open at 5 p.m. In addition to the Penn Central/Williams Grove Old Timers deal at Port Royal tonight, there's sprint car, pro stock and enduro action starting at 7 p.m.
For the first time, there may not be a driver in action that raced against Pete Swarmer. Keith Kauffman was the last driver in the field to run against Swarmer. Kauffman did not race last weekend after a controversy of sorts.
I've chosen not to bother Kauffman this week and I'm sure he has had way more phone calls than he or his family care to answer. I have spoken to folks familiar with what's going on and they tell me Kauffman likely will not race this weekend. I have been told he and car owner Dave Middleswarth have spoken about Kauffman's status, and I notice that nothing has been removed from Kauffman's Web site concerning Middleswarth racing as this column was being prepared.
Chad Layton is reportedly driving the car on a week-to-week basis.
Since this is an opinion column I'm going to open my big mouth. Dave Middleswarth and Keith Kauffman are good guys. The race team has not been up to par. The car with Kauffman driving it doesn't handle. Period. Kauffman is driving around the bottom of turns one and two at Port Royal and is not fast. The car wobbles side to side in the turns and has a tendency to kick out exiting the corners. Kauffman is a Hall of Fame driver and still effective. He is not over the hill by any stretch. If he decides to race and changes rides, he will win races soon. He has earned and deserves the respect he should receive. If the current team and mechanics can't provide that or a competitive ride, for what ever reason, Kauffman should step a side until a situation arises under which he can be competitive. If he is going to continue with the current deal, changes have to happen to provide the environment that will allow he and his owner to enjoy the success they have had in the past.
Otherwise, it's time to change deals. Enough said.
The late models start their first ever Appalachian Late Model Speedweek Series tonight at Hagerstown Speedway. The series travels to Selinsgrove Sunday before moving to Winchester, Va. Tuesday, Williams Grove hosts the action. Lincoln has the Wednesday show and Port Royal will run Thursday. Bedford Speedway closes things out next Friday.
The Port Royal late model speedweek show includes a visit by the limited late models. The late model feature will be 40 laps and pays the winner $5,000. Who is going to run this speedweek series? The best late model drivers in the area and some of the national stars. York's Rick Eckert, who is a World of Outlaws late model regular, will race in all seven shows. So will "Kid Rocket," Josh Richards, Chub Frank, Steve "the Kentucky Colonel" Francis, Ricky Elliott, Tim Fuller, Gary Stuhler, Jason Covert and Nick Dickson. Jack Pencil will try and compete in as many as possible. Couple that with all the regulars and there should be a great field of late models. There also is a good chance that drivers that are racing the Dream at Eldora will head east as well. This series will be the biggest thing local late model racing has ever seen.
Congratulations go out to Port Royal's young Dylan Cisney on winning the super sportsman feature at Williams Grove Speedway May 30. There have been nine sportsman races run so far this season. Nine different drivers have won the events. That's what I call competition.
The United Racing Club is in action at Selinsgrove Speedway tonight for the annual running of the Jack Gunn Memorial Challenge race. The pro stocks are also part of the show. Action starts at 7.
There was good news about the Snyder County oval reported this week - The Daily Item states that promoter Charlie Paige is about to sign a new five-year deal with the track's owner, and that it contains an option for another five. Just three years ago, there was talk of selling the speedway, and now it seems racing will be there through 2020.
Pat Cannon has returned to 358 competition after his stint in the Keen Racing no. 17 sprint car. Cannon wasted no time and won the 358 feature at Selinsgrove last Saturday. As for the Keen car, Daryn Pittman has taken over the driving chores.
Last weeks late model feature at Port Royal was something else. Waylon Wagner did a great job and won the feature for the second week in a row. Tim "Terrific" Wilson raced from 16TH starting position to finish third. Congratulations to both of these Mifflin County drivers.
Late Model racer Tyler Hershey has come a long way. Hershey is running well each week at Bedford and Port Royal speedways. Hershey will attempt to run in six out of seven late model speedweek shows. He will miss the Bedford finale. Why? Hershey graduates from high school that evening.
Speaking of youngsters, I was shocked when I called Lincoln Speedway last Saturday to find out who won the sprint car feature. Cody Darrah was the winner. That's not a big shock. Darrah is a 19-year-old star. Danny Dietrich (age 22) and Brent Marks (age 18) were second and third. I wouldn't have guessed that.
In the world of NASCAR, Jeremy Mayfield has sued NASCAR, challenging the indefinite suspension over a failed drug test. Mayfield's attorneys were told by NASCAR that Mayfield tested positive for amphetamines. Mayfield said he was taking Adderall for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder and Claritin-D for allergies. Apparently two samples were collected and permission was not given by Mayfield to have the second sample tested. I don't know exactly what that means except that Mayfield's rights may have been violated. NASCAR held a Town Hall drivers meeting to clarify the situation with drivers. They also discussed the COT and how to make it better.
The Cup cars are in our home state this week end at Pocono. Kasey Kahne is the defending race champion. TNT has TV coverage Sunday starting at 12:30 p.m. Coverage is scheduled to last until 6 p.m. The race starts at 2.
Jimmie Johnson is fresh off a win last week at Dover. Tony Stewart is on top of Cup points.
Until next week, please drive safely!
Craig Rutherford writes about motorsports for The Sentinel. He is affiliated with Port Royal Speedway.