Pennsylvania Sprint Car Speedweek is here. The series celebrates its 20th anniversary this season.
Action begins tonight at Lincoln Speedway where the Kevin Gobrecht Memorial race will be run. Tomorrow it's off to Bedford Speedway. In the event of rain, Bedford will use Monday as a rain date. Tuesday the Grandview Speedway is in action while Hagerstown Speedway hosts competition on Wednesday. Thursday it's back to Lincoln and Friday the Mitch Smith Memorial event will be run at Williams Grove. Port Royal Speedway presents its speedweek event next Saturday before the week wraps up at Selinsgrove Speedway on July 4. That race is the Jan Opperman Memorial.
Since the beginning of the series, 23 drivers have won races. in the 124 features that have been run. Fred Rahmer has won 11 of 19 titles and Greg Hodnett is the defending champion.
One driver making headlines this week without turning a lap yet in 2010 is Keith Kauffman. Kauffman is back behind the wheel of a sprint car driving the Trone Outdoor Advertising No. 39 formerly piloted by Doug Esh. Kevin Frey is the mechanic and the pair could do well together. Frey likes Port Royal and if this team stays together the rest of the season, the car will likely race at there. It's good to have Kauffman back and I hope and feel he will do well. His fans are excited and I expect him to find victory lane soon.
Another Juniata County driver making headlines this week was Rod Stroup - not necessarily for the reasons he wanted. Stroup endured a scary frontstretch crash last Saturday night at Port Royal Speedway. Stroup was air lifted from the track and taken to Hershey Medical Center where he was treated for two broken vertebrae in his back, a broken rib and puncture wounds to his knee cap. I spoke with Stroup by phone on Sunday and he was upbeat despite the bad situation. He is thankful to be able to walk and talk and realized it could have been a John Westbrook or Paul Lotier type injury - both of whom are restricted to wheelchairs. It was refreshing to find out that Stroup is one driver who was prepared for the fact he could be injured in a race car and has excellent insurance and income to protect him while recovering.
"I'll help (cousin) Curt the rest of the season and be back. The car is junk but we'll get another one," Stroup said. "I don't want donations taken up at the track or people sending me money. There's a lot of people hurting more than me. I'll be fine."
I take my hat off to him as his outlook is refreshing to me.
One troubling thing about Stroup's scary crash were the rumors that started after the fact. I don't know who starts or says such things or why, but someone started the story that Stroup died as a result of the crash. I personally had control of Port Royal Speedway's microphone and made it a point to explain Stroup's condition and that he was being air lifted and why. At no time did I or any one else indicate Stroup's life was in jeopardy. Folks should stop and think before they spread stories. That rumor reached one of Stoup's friends in South Carolina who was quite upset to say the least.
Stroup made an interesting observation while talking with me. Several sprint car drivers - including himself, Lucas Wolfe and Danny Smith - were all wearing one version of the HANS safety device designed after the death of Dale Earnhardt Sr. Each driver I mentioned had no neck injury except broken or compressed vertebrae in the T-3 & 4 region, which is between the shoulder blades. Stroup questioned if the device is possibly saving the neck, but causing back injuries. That's something we may never know.
One final note on the crash - the safety crews did an outstanding job of removing and treating Stroup. It took 12 minutes to get Stroup from the track to Hershey Medical Center. Everybody involved deserves a big thank you.
Cards can reach Stroup at 12476 Route 35, Mt. Pleasant Mills, Pa., 17853.
Danny Smith had successful neck surgery in Indianapolis this past Monday after a bad crash at Attica Speedway last week. Dr. Terry Trammel, who specializes in race car injuries, performed the surgery.
One driver still planning to return to sprint car racing in August is Cody Darrah, who was injured in an automobile accident while in Florida this February. Darrah plans to test first before driving in competition.
Kasey Kahne will hold his foundation race at Williams Grove on Aug. 5. In all likelihood, Tony Stewart and Dave Blaney will be with him. Blaney is returning to his roots of driving sprint cars in select races. He will run the Mertz/Jenkins No. 55 car.
Scotty Haus held off Jack Pencil in the best late model race I've seen this year last Friday night at Bedford Speedway. Haus is driving the Lynn and Mike Gaw owned No. 21 car. While Haus and Pencil were going at it, Jeff Rine and D.J. Myers were having their own battle for third and fourth place. Rine finished third and Rick Singleton dominated the limited late model class.
Tonight at Port Royal, the 358 and 305 sprint cars are joined by the late models, pro stocks and powder puffs. Gates open at 5 p.m. with racing at 7.
Elliott Sadler will drive the Junior Motorsports No. 88 car in ten races this season. Sadler will start at New Hampshire this weekend. Danica Patrick also returns to the Nationwide series this week for JRM as well. It is Patrick's first NASCAR start since the Las Vegas race.
The Cup cars race at New Hampshire tomorrow. Joey Logano is the defending race champion. TNT has coverage starting at 1 p.m. Kevin Harvick holds a 140-point lead over Jimmie Johnson heading into this weekends action.
The Indy Cars are returning to New Hampshire next season and one NASCAR Cup date may leave - potentially for Kentucky Motor Speedway. The track is putting pressure on the Loudon Police Department and Chief to cut costs for security details at the track. The Chief has reportedly earned $59,000 for providing security services over the last five years and the department is charging about $170,000 per race. That information comes from published reports in Area Auto Racing News, an industry trade paper.
That's going to do it for another week. I'll be back next week with more news and opinions. Until then, please drive safely!
Craig Rutherford writes about motorsports for The Sentinel. He is associated with Port Royal Speedway,