Hello again race fans. The season is winding down here in Central Pennsylvania, and the weather is not looking good for this weekend as this column was being prepared.
Lincoln Speedway is scheduled to present the Hank Gentzler Memorial Manufacturers' Appreciation race tonight starting at 7. Hopefully the weather will cooperate. Doug Esh won last year's event.
Todd Shaffer held a 110-point advantage over Mark Smith entering this weekend's action at Williams Grove Speedway. The National Open for sprint cars is up next at the Grove. The World of Outlaws sanction that event.
Stevie Smith won last Friday night's race at Findlay, Ohio. The All Star Circuit of Champions raced there Saturday and Smith finished second. Smith has won 11 races this season driving the John and Pee Wee Zemaitis-owned race car. Smith won those races at 10 different tracks. Where was he a repeat winner? Port Royal Speedway.
Daryn Pittman also raced at Findlay driving the Keen sprint car. Brooke Tatnell ran the Pete Postupack No. 25.
Work is under way at Port Royal as a large crew showed up last week end to replace guardrail in turns one and two. They accomplished quite a bit. Dick Aumiller and Steve Swartz have spearheaded the work. Current plans call for more new clay to arrive in late October.
Bedford Speedway hosted the URC sprint cars last Saturday night. It was the first time since 1983 that URC raced there. Kevin Nouse drove Elmer Stoltzfus' sprint car to the win. What a wild night it turned out to be. There is a tower above turn one that gives photographers a great view to shoot from. When stock cars are racing the danger is not as great. However, Justin Collett scared the heck out of two persons by flipping during the initial start of the URC feature. Collett hit high on the catch fence, less than 10 yards from where they were shooting. The photographers captured their shots and then they needed to change clothes. Just kidding.
Continuing with the Bedford recap, there were a lot of crashes in the feature events and it turned into a long night. The worst wrecks came in the four-cylinder feature where several cars flipped in two crashes. Promoter J.R. Keiffer was back at the track for the first time since his wife's motorcycle accident and he didn't look happy. Keiffer went from car to car while the remaining racers were under red flag. I don't know exactly what he told them but there weren't any more wrecks. Keiffer told me on Thursday that he has decided to call it a season. Bedford was planning on racing October 17, but that has now been scrapped.
Tires are the subject in sprint car racing right now. Goodyear and Hoosier Tire are competing in an effort to lock up area race tracks. The World of Outlaws and All Stars also are part of the equation. Money is being paid in the form of signing bonuses to tracks all over the country that commit to one company or another. Two area tracks have signed deals with Hoosier. Other tracks have not. Goodyear will conduct a tire test at Williams Grove following the National Open. Goodyear has not mass produced any tires yet so no one knows what they will be like. One thing I have learned is that Goodyear will build the tires at their home plant in Akron, Ohio. In the past, some of these companies have outsourced their work to foreign countries including, I think, China. Certainly, there have been race car chassis built there. With out getting overly political, what do these folks know about racing? I'm glad Goodyear's tires are being built in the U.S.
The one thing that I don't care for is that American Race Tires appear to be shut out of the sprint car tire deal. American has ties to Pennsylvania and is the old McCreary Tire Company. They build excellent tires but probably don't have big enough cash reserves to pay out signing bonuses to race tracks. They continue to be a leader in late model and street stock tires.
Plans are already under way for the second late model Speedweek next season. It sounds firm that Bedford, Winchester (Va.), Lincoln, Selinsgrove and maybe Williams Grove will be back in the mix. No word yet on the other tracks involved. I have been told there is a waiting list of other tracks that want into the program should any one not renew. A meeting will be held soon to firm up the Speedweek plans.
West Virginia Motor Speedway will return to regular racing next season with a special events schedule that will include 410 sprint cars and late models. The big 5/8-mile track is being refurbished for a spring opening.
In the world of NASCAR, Dover hosts the action this weekend. ABC has coverage Sunday starting at 1 p.m.
NASCAR has announced it will allow testing at a handful of tracks that host regional series racing next year. The current ban on testing at Cup tracks will continue. NASCAR started that policy as a cost-cutting move.
That's going to do it for this week. Enjoy a race at an area track while you can. Please remember to drive safely!
Craig Rutherford writes about motorsports for The Sentinel. He is associated with Port Royal Speedway.