Racing continues in Central Pennsylvania this evening.
Last Saturday, Port Royal Speedway opened despite cold temperatures. While one would expect a sparse crowd that was not the case. A large crowd and red hot racing was found. When action concluded, 2013 sprint car track champion Blane Heimbach was joined by late model racer Tim Wilson and 305 sprint driver Tyler Bear as opening night winners.
Wilson and Brett Schadel were the best show of the night. Wilson went to the front to win exiting turn four on the final lap of the late model feature. The pair met up on stage afterward and both posed with the checkered flag. As for Bear, he made his parents proud in a week his mother and father celebrated birthdays.
Tonight at the Juniata County oval the 355 econo late models make their first appearance. Optimism exists for the new class in hope the division will keep people in racing while also allowing newcomers a chance to compete in late model racing at an affordable cost. It's also Race to find a Cure Night benefiting the American Cancer Society - 50 cents of every general admission tickets will be donated toward cancer research. Gates open tonight at 4 p.m. with racing at 6.
Selinsgrove Speedway chose to wait another week to start regular Saturday night action. The Snyder County oval is in operation tonight starting at 6. New this year is the move to the 360 cubic inch sprint car class joined by late models, pro stocks and roadrunner cars.
The racing clubs are out in full force for some of their first fan nights at area tracks this evening. Lincoln Speedway hosts the Auto Racing Club of Hagerstown along with 358 and 410 sprint cars plus 358 late models. Susquehanna Speedway will have the York County Racing Club on hand. The York County oval also will operate tomorrow with 358 and 410 sprints.
Hagerstown, Md., Speedway canceled the Three States Flyers late model program scheduled tonight and will now offer a regular five-division show starting at 7 p.m. The move will keep a couple Port Royal racers home that originally planned to chase the big money at Hagerstown.
Here is a first for area short track speedways: When the decision to reopen Clearfield Speedway as an asphalt track was made, naming rights to the half-mile oval were conferred to CNB Bank. The name is now CNB Bank Raceway Park. A 100-lap enduro race opens the return to pavement this evening.
Also opening tomorrow is Bedford Speedway. Race time is 6:30 p.m. A five-division program of late models, limited and semi-lates plus pure stock and four-cylinder stock cars is scheduled. Bedford moves to Friday night programs starting next week.
Beaver Springs Dragway has a Sunday afternoon program tomorrow with gates opening at 9 a.m.
Dan Dietrich was originally expected to race at Port Royal tonight in preparation for the Bob Weikert Memorial race. That plan has been scrapped and Dietrich will be in action at Lincoln Speedway.
So how do the racers feel about the reconfiguration of Port Royal Speedway's first and second turns? My feedback has been great. Improved sight lines entering the corners and more racing room have been mentioned. The change altered drivers' chassis set ups and driving style. However, I have not heard any complaints as the track is now wider and safer.
The Kasey Kahne Racing Team is on a roll right now in World of Outlaws Racing action. The team drivers ran first, second and third last Sunday night in California as the Outlaw western swing winds down. Drivers include Daryn Pittman, Brad Sweet and York County driver Cody Darrah.
Joey Logano won last weeks Texas Sprint Cup race.
Washington State high school senior Trey Starks' first race at Port Royal ended with an eighth-place finish. Starks finished seventh in his first try at Williams Grove. Starks plans to fly home to attend school during the month of April.
Lernerville Speedway opens next Friday night. They have a practice session today. Lernerville is owned by the World Racing Group, parent company that also owns the World of Outlaws. Several local drivers head west to race at the track regularly.
With much sadness I mention the passing of two racers this past week. Ed Spencer, 85, father of NASCAR celebrity and former driver Jimmy Spencer, passed away April 4 in Berwick. Spencer was the Dale Earnhardt Sr. of Central Pennsylvania late model racing. Fans either loved him or hated him. Spencer was in the mold of another great area racer, Butch Renninger. Both were deep down good guys who were family men, fierce competitors, friends and multiple race winners.
Spencer visited victory lane 27 times at Selinsgrove Speedway where he was the track champion in in 1963 and 1974. A one time winner in super modified cars at the track, Spencer is 29th on Selinsgrove's all time win list. At Port Royal Spencer claimed the 1976 and 77 late model championships while scoring a career 34 wins which places him tied for 20th on the all time win list over all with Bill Powell. Spencer also won track titles at Bone Stadium Speedway and Rummages Drive In Speedway. He also was one of the drivers to beat every time the late models raced at Williams Grove. I instantly enjoyed watching Spencer for his aggressive driving style. Spencer was a U.S. Army veteran. Complications from Alheizmers disease claimed his life.
Locally, sprint car racer T.J. Winegardner passed away last Friday morning at home in Mifflintown. Winegardner, from Pierson, Fla., near Volusia County Speedway, arrived with a bright racing future on the horizon. Winegardener enjoyed success with the help of his family while racing in Florida and ran well for several seasons locally before injuries sidelined him. Winegardner was well liked and fun to associate with. I feel sure he would have stayed racing for a long time. Winegardner was 30 years old. Winegardener and Ed Spencer will not be forgotten by those of us that call our selves "racers."
Trackside Restaurant will host a meet and greet for PA Posse/All Star Circuit of Champions and local racers April 26 to coincide with the All Star visit to Williams Grove and Port Royal speedways. A car show will be held outside the facility. Live driver interviews can be heard on The PA Sports Network hosted by Jed Donahue, which airs locally on WIEZ-AM 670. Air time is 8 a.m.
That's wraps up another week in area racing news. With good weather expected, make plans to visit one of our areas racetracks. Please drive safely.
Craig Rutherford writes about motorsports for The Sentinel.