Williams Grove opens for 51st annual National Open

Williams Grove Speedway is in the middle of the 51st annual National Open for sprint cars. The World of Outlaws-sanctioned, two-day show got under way Friday with a 25-lap feature that paid the winner $8,000.

Tonight as 40-lap feature carries a handsome $50,000 top prize. As I looked back through old programs this week from this event which started in 1963 I realized that this race always paid well. Kenny Weld, the winner in 1973, earned $4,000, huge for the day. In that era the race was 150 laps.

The brainchild of the late Jack Gunn, the A Main was 100 laps from its inception in 1963 through 1968. From 1969 to 1977 the distance was 150 laps except for 1976, when it was rain-shortened to 122. Since then, it has run no fewer than 40, occasionally running 50 or 75 laps, with two 100-lap events.

No one has won this race more than Donny Schatz of Minot, N.D. Schatz has Williams Grove figured out and has taken home the top prize five times. He has to be a favorite tonight as he already has won two other races there this season and is the defending race champion.

The other story to watch is the track championship battle between Fred Rahmer and Greg Hodnett. Rahmer was the points leader until last Friday when he suffered mechanical problems and stopped on the track. Entering last night as action Rahmer trailed Hodnett by 35 points. Rahmer already has won the Lincoln Speedway title this season and is retiring at season’s end. Rahmer has never won a National Open and it would be nice to see him earn one in his final attempt.

Time Trials get under way this evening at 7:30.

Selinsgrove Speedway is running 410 sprint cars Sunday afternoon. Twin 20s paying $2,500 each will be presented. Four-cylinder stock cars also are part of the program. Selinsgrove will conclude the season Oct. 12 with a $5,000-to-win late model program.

Port Royal Speedway is idle this evening and preparing for next weekend as two-day Blue Collar Classic. Last year, 51 305 sprint cars entered the program, which was a one-day show. To date more than 40 cars are pre-registered with state drivers being joined by racers from New York, New Jersey, Virginia, West Virginia and North Carolina.

Friday as program also will include 358 late models, a pro stock/street stock challenge and an enduro dash. The next night, the 305 sprint cars will be joined by the super sportsman and enduro cars. Action on Friday starts at 7 p.m. Saturday as show begins at 5.

The silly season has officially started in Central Pennsylvania sprint car racing as several teams have announced they are splitting up. Fred Rahmer is retiring. Keith Kauffman already did. Sheldon Haudenschild, son of Jac Haudenschild, was in the Heckman 8H last week at Hagerstown Speedway. Lance Dewease and the Michael Heckman team are parting ways and Heckman will only guarantee Dewease a ride through tonight, although they may consider racing a couple more times if Dewease desires to. Stevie Smith is in need of a ride and the rumor mill has Smith possibly returning to the Zemco team. Greg Hodnett is in need of a new ride and he may be the key to everything. Time will tell but look for the next few weeks to be interesting.

Pocono Raceway has released its 2014 schedule and it is good news for the regional track. The NASCAR Sprint Cup racers compete there two times again next season and the Indy cars will be back as well. They have also added a program for April 19-20 called the Tough Mudder. No details yet on exactly what that is. They are also operating Aug. 23 for a Warrior Dash again un-explained.

The track reports it had a good season in 2013 and is continuing to upgrade the facility and plans to use it for more than just auto racing. An interesting note about the Tricky Triangle. Are you aware a 25-acre solar farm was developed there that supplies all the track as power needs and also adds electricity to the local power grid?

NASCAR Sprint Cup racers compete tomorrow at Kansas Speedway. ESPN has TV coverage. Matt Kenseth is the defending race champion.

Until next week, please drive safely!

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Craig Rutherford writes about motorsports for The Sentinel.