Speedweek wrapping up as Selinsgrove honors Opperman, Bogar

COMMENTARY

The 27th annual Sprint Car Speedweek is coming down the home stretch this weekend.

Port Royal Speedway hosts tonight for the PA Posse racing stars. A 30-lap sprint car feature pays the winner $5,000. The Route 35 late model challenge series is back for round three in a 25-lap, $2,000 to win event. Coleby Frye holds a slight lead over Chad Hollenbeck in the late model challenge. Jeff Rine is in third place.

Selinsgrove Speedway wraps up Speedweek Sunday with the Jan Opperman/Dick Bogar Memorial, which pays the winner $5,000. Danny Dietrich is the defending race and series champion.

It’s fitting the Selinsgrove race honors both Opperman and Bogar. The pair enjoy history together nationally and at Selinsgrove Speedway.

Bogar recruited Opperman to drive the famed orange Bogar Speed and Show Equipment No. 99, built and maintained in Snyder County. Mechanic Ralph Heintzleman, crew man Terry Reidinger, Opperman and others made history barnstorming Pennsylvania and the U.S., winning races whereever they went. Opperman was the best of that era — he had natural driving talent and charisma that attracted fans.

Opperman always seemed to drive on the ragged edge. He ruffled the feathers of some fellow competitors, most notably Kenny Weld. The rivalry set up great racing between the Bogar and Weikert’s Livestock racing teams. A memorable Selinsgrove race took place on an ugly wet night the track probably should have canceled. Opperman and Weld raced each other harder than most drivers ever do. This particular evening Weld won the battle. Not many people were there to witness it, but writer Joe Scalzo described it as one of the greatest sprint car battles ever.

The Bogar Lumber Co. supplied lumber to build the historic covered grandstand still in use at Selinsgrove. And the Bogar race car, along with Jan Opperman, supplied plenty of excitement and memories to last a lifetime. Opperman’s career ended with a crash at Jennerstown Speedway in 1981. He passed away in 1997 at age 58. Bogar passed in 2014. He was 86. Both are honored at Selinsgrove Speedway tomorrow night.

Kyle Larson dominated much of this week’s Speedweek battles. Larson won the racing programs at Path Valley, Lincoln and Grandview speedways. He recorded six straight sprint car wins and a NASCAR Cup victory last week before finishing 11th at Hagerstown Speedway Wednesday night.

T.J. Stutts is showing improvement in 410 sprint car racing this season. Stutts is benefiting from his crew chief, Todd Shaffer’s, assistance. Stutts has been a successful 358 sprint car racer in the past. Stutts enjoyed some 410 success but it seems like the teams gaining ground with the addition of Shaffer.

Greg Hodnett has struggled during the first half of speedweek. Hodnett had a decent performance going at Grandview Speedway before becoming involved in an accident.

Have a great racing weekend!

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Craig Rutherford writes about motorsports for The Sentinel.

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