The local racing world lost a legend on Oct. 5.
Larry "Smokey" Snellbaker passed away. Snellbaker was 73.
A Celebration of Life service was held this past Thursday evening in York. Family has requested memorial contributions be directed to the York County SPCA, 3169 Susquehanna Trail, North York, PA 17406.
I was blessed to have watched Snellbaker compete for much of his sprint car career. He drove for some of the area's best car owners including Roy Morral, Gary Wasson and Charlie Lloyd. Snellbaker also drove briefly for Bob Weikert, Bud Hoffman, Jack Imerbrink, Kenny Beck and the Tanger Family.
His first sprint car win came on Aug. 25, 1968. He continued winning super sportsman races until just a few years ago. I was fortunate to share victory lane with Snellbaker during his final sportsman win at Port Royal and I'll never forget that moment. Fans loved Smokey and most race officials did also. Plenty of tears were flowing during Snellbaker's last Port Royal win and I remember some fans yelling to Snellbaker telling him they loved him. Snellbaker became choked up and replied that he loved all them too.
Snellbaker won three track championships at Port Royal, Williams Grove and Hagerstown Speedways. Snellbaker was a one-time track champion at Selinsgrove.
The car that made him the most famous was Charlie and Mike Lloyd's "Pocket Rocket" No. 56. I won't forget the first night that car was rolled through Port Royal Speedway's pit area and most every one stopped what they were doing and knew the car was different and going to be fast. Snellbaker went on to shatter the track record and set a new one-lap mark of 17.56 seconds, which stood for years.
He, like others of that era, had their own fans clubs and Smokey's was one of the largest. Snellbaker is a Sprint Car Hall of Fame member. He scored 152 sprint car wins, 35 super sportsman victories, one ARDC Midget victory and one USAC sprint feature. He was one of our area's all time greats. He is gone but will not be forgotten. RIP Smokey.
Lance Dewease suffered two compression fractures in his neck after a crash at Lincoln speedway a week ago. Dewease had successful surgery and will be in a brace for about three months. We are seeing too many of this type injury and I don't like it a bit. Safety issues need looked at in this area.
Lincoln Speedway will make up its 59th anniversary race Oct. 21. Williams Grove Speedway hosts its annual Fall Fest program Oct. 22.
The season is winding down. I'll be back soon with more news and information. Until next time, please drive safely!
Craig Rutherford writes about motorsports for The Sentinel.