The "Month of Money" is in full swing in local auto racing. High-dollar sprint car and late model races have been the norm for the last three weeks and tonight is no exception.
The focus for this week is on Lincoln Speedway where the Kenny Weld Memorial Race will be run. For those of you that are not old enough to remember, Weld was one half of an on-track rivalry with Jan Opperman that took place in the early 1970s and helped make Central Pennsylvania sprint car racing what it is today. Weld came to the area from Kansas City, Mo., and was already an established young talent. His engineering and fabricating skills were among the best. Plus, Weld could just plain out drive a race car.
Once he teamed with famed car owner Bob Weikert of Fairfield, the pair were among the elite of sprint car racing. Weld won often in Weikert's cars and when Williams Grove Speedway's National Open race came along in 1973, Weikert implored his driver to "let it all hang out today. If you crash the car don't worry about it. I'll buy you another one."
Well, Weld did receive another car after that race. Weikert went out and bought his driver a brand new Chevy Monte Carlo for the street. That is how much respect Bob Weikert had for Kenny Weld. Eventually Weld concentrated on building race cars and constructed the most radical modified stock car ever built which was nicknamed the "Batmobile" due to its strange aerodynamic look. The car was built for the season-ending race at the New York State Fairgrounds in Syracuse, which is a mile track. The car was so fast the DIRT sanctioning body outlawed the car after one show.
Weld later became involved with drugs and crime. Eventually the DEA and FBI raided his property and Weld spent time in federal prison. While there Weld returned to his roots and concentrated on machining and learned the CNC machining equipment in its infancy. He mastered it and literally figured out a way to marry a sprint car cylinder head to a specific engine block improving horsepower and speed. His design was the forerunner that sprint car racers are using today.
Upon his release from prison Weld returned racing. He was forgiven by fans who loved and respected him. He built a sprint car and came back to the region one more time. Weld won 73 times at Lincoln, placing him fourth on the all time win list. Weld also scored 38 victories at Williams Grove. Weld lost a bout with cancer and died the same year as Jan Opperman. Selinsgrove Speedway recently honored Opperman. Tonight Lincoln Speedway honors Weld.
Recapping last week's Nace Memorial at Selinsgrove, Pat Cannon won for the third time in a row. In fact, Cannon became the third driver to win three National Opens ever joining Maynard Yingst (1983-85) and Fred Rahmer (1995-97). That's pretty impressive for a part-time driver. Don't get me wrong, Cannon is excellent and has won a lot of sprint car features. He certainly knows his way around the Snyder County oval and earned $13,936 in the process. Greg Hodnett set fast time at 16.106 seconds at 119 mph average.
In the late model feature last week at Selinsgrove, Matt Cochran was victorious over Coleby Frye, Jeff Rine, Chad Hollenbeck and Jim Yoder. McClure drivers Tim Wilson and Nate Romig finished eighth and 21st, respectively. Mike Mort of Lewistown was 14th.
The Sportsman 100 last Saturday at Lincoln Speedway saw Frankie Herr become the winner for the sixth time. Herr collected $4,770 for the win. Herr started 15th. Scott Dellinger set a new 10-lap track record on the super smooth surface.
Don't forget the Port Royal Speedway has three more race dates left starting with the two-day Blue Collar Nationals Oct. 11-12. The season concludes Oct. 19 with 410 sprint cars, super sportsman and a demo derby. The annual awards banquet is set for Nov. 23. Tickets go on sale Oct 1.
This evening Susquehanna Speedway is racing with a 50-lap 358 late model feature plus 305 sprint cars. Gates open at 4 with racing at 6.
The All Star Circuit of Champions have one more race remaining Oct. 12 at Eldora, Ohio. Dale Blaney holds a 37-point advantage over Tim Shaffer.
The current take on the Chase for the Cup fiasco is that NASCAR has made more mistakes by adding Jeff Gordon to the field. That is debatable - I'm not sure what I think other than to say NASCAR screwed things up royaly. I feel the punishment of the people involved should have been more forceful and severe. Perhaps drivers and team manager suspended for the rest of the season and told if it ever happens again they are done in NASCAR period.
I will say this though: Michael Waltrip has handled the mess with class. Waltrip hasn't bawled around and has accepted NASCAR and NAPA's decisions by saying he understands completely. At least I respect that.
The Sprint Cup cars race tomorrow at New Hampshire International Speedway. Race time is 2 p.m. on ESPN. Denny Hamlin is the defending race champion.
Until next week, remember speed is for the speedway and not the highway!
Craig Rutherford writes about motorsports for The Sentinel.