The racing season is winding down and one might think that all would be quiet. That isn't the case at all. We've lost some folks this week and that is sad.
Lincoln Speedway founder and former promoter Hilly Rife lost a lengthy battle with cancer. Rife was 83 and lived in Ormond Beach, Fla. Rife, like the late Jack Gunn, was a colorful guy and one of the early pioneers of local auto racing. He also was a race driver himself and survived several bad accidents. His trademark traits were a cigar, cowboy hat, and string tie.
Rife was ahead of his time and many races included fireworks. He also was known to employ the services of a parachutist at one time. Rife also promoted Susquehanna and Dorsey speedways during his career.
Then came the news that Jane Buckwalter, of Royersford, passed away. Buckwalter was the matriarch of a great racing family. Her daughter, Judi Bates, broke the gender barrier by becoming the first woman to win a 410 sprint car event in Central Pennsylvania. Bates' win came at Port Royal.
Her grandson, Steve, is a midget and sprint car racer who competes all over the country in midget competition. He is a Port Royal and Williams Grove sprint car competitor when he's home. Buckwalter was 83.
Another major loss to sprint car racing - this time through retirement - was Gary and Patty Beam, driver Todd Shaffer and mechanic Jim Russell, who called it a career after last week's Jim Nace Memorial at Selinsgrove.
The Beams first fielded a sprint car for the late Maynard Yingst in 1981. Joey Gravino, Chuck Reinhart, Barry Camp, Larry Jackson, T.J. Stutts and Scott Gesford drove the No. 88 in addition to Shaffer and Yingst. Shaffer had the most success, wining 136 features.
Shaffer will consider a return to racing but only if the right deal comes along. Costs and tires played a part in the team's decision. Beam and Shaffer have been loyal to Hoosier Tires and the mandated Goodyear rubber cost the team a bunch of extra money. It's sad to see them go and I wish them well.
Gary Beam spoke with Area Auto Racing News writer Jerry Reigle about his team's retirement, specifically the costs associated with sprint car racing and the fact that rule changes end up costing race teams money.
Beam is right about that and I will add my two cents' worth to the subject: Sprint car racing is a sport I have loved since I was a kid. Unfortunately it has become like I.R.O.C. - everyone has the same basic equipment and competition is so equal that passing has become difficult, especially in a heat race. Seldom does the winner come from the third row back or further. If a race goes nonstop, drivers have a tough time getting to the front.
It isn't the same sport I grew up watching. My view would be considered extreme by some, but here is something to consider: What if the motor cubic inch limit went away and a team could again run what they want? Keep a weight rule, one that would allow frames to last and be passed down to other teams with out being worn out. And, instead of shutting out tire companies, each company contributes to the tracks they want to compete at.
Competition would increase and I believe the racing would be better. I know this scenario is not going to happen, but it's something to think about. We have some good mechanics and innovators. Right now, their talents have been stymied.
The Jim Nace Memorial at Selinsgrove Speedway last weekend was a big success. The race was an open tire event, and 35 of the 39 teams used Hoosier tires. Three ran on Goodyear and one was on American Racers. That tells me what sprint car teams think about the tire rule.
Still, when it all shook out, Lance Dewease won the final segment on Goodyear tires. Pat Cannon won the first segment with Hoosier.
Congratulations to Lewistown's Waylon Wagner on winning the Clinton County Speedway late model championship. Port Royal regular Mitch Hack finished second.
Greg Hodnett is on top of the Williams Grove Speedway sprint car points standings. Hodnett holds a 190-point lead over Brian Montieth entering this weekend.
The Big Kahuna is coming up at The Rock Speedway in Cumberland, Md. Race dates are Sept. 30 and Oct. 1. The late model winner will earn $7,000. Roaring Knob Speedway in Markleysburg will host a three-day racing program Oct. 7-9. Mifflin County driver Tim Wilson is considering traveling to that show.
Barry Jackson has sold JEI Chassis to T122 Performance. I don't know who TI22 Performance is but Jackson had a good run with the business. His cars have been fast and won races.
Speedway Illustrated Magazine is making a comeback. The magazine closed up shop earlier this year and has been purchased by another concern. Dick Berggren will return as editor and most of their writers are coming back as well. Information is available at www.speedwayillustrated.com.
That's going to do it for another week. I'll be back soon 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.