The York County racing community has lost perhaps its greatest champion ever, with the death of Johnny Mackison Sr.
Known during his short but very productive racing career as "The Delta Dart," or "Jumpin' Johnny," Mackison won at least 133 feature races between 1954 and 1962.
His career started at the Bowling Green Speedway in 1954, and he won the track title there that year. All told, he won 19 races at Bowling Green during its short time in action. Mackison was most productive at Lincoln and Susquehanna speedways, winning 35 times at each. At Susky, that is still at the top of the win list for his division.
Mackison also won 31 times at Williams Grove, seven at Reading, five at Port Royal and once at Hatfield. He was the Susquehanna champion in 1956 and 1961, the Williams Grove champion in 1961 and 1962, the Lincoln champion in 1961 and the Reading champion in 1956.
The 1961 season was one that long-time local racing fans will never forget. Mackison won 41 races that year, including a record 17 times at Lincoln. Only two drivers have ever equaled that feat at Lincoln. While the majority of those wins came on the local ovals, his one Hatfield win also came that year in his only appearance at the track.
Mackison spent a parts of the 1957 and 1958 seasons racing with NASCAR's Grand National (now Sprint Cup) Series, and had a seventh-place finish in the Southern 500 at Darlington. Later his career was interrupted by a stint in the service. Mackison stepped away from racing after just one race of the 1963 season.
Mackison's career is one that will never be forgotten. But the Mackison name still carries on in local racing. His son, Johnny Jr., has had a productive career in the sprint cars with 27 career wins. Grandson Hunter Mackison is just starting his own sprint-car career, and another grandson, Jordan Mackison, will probably see some sprint-car action before this season is out.
KEYSTONE CUP: The Keystone Cup series for the local sprint cars kicks off Wednesday evening at the Grandview Speedway.
The sprints will go for 35 laps at Grandview, with $5,000 awaiting the winner. Grandview's own 358 modifieds will also compete.
The Grandview show is the first of five consecutive nights of sprint-car racing, with $5,000 awaiting the winner on each night. The remaining four shows will have 40-lap features.
The Keystone Cup moves to Port Royal on Thursday for the Smokey Snellbaker Classic. The super sportsmen will join the sprint cars at the Port. Those are the two divisions where Snellbaker excelled. The Lloyd Racing No. 56 sprint car that Snellbaker drove to many victories will be moved from the Eastern Museum of Motor Racing to be displayed during the evening at Port Royal.
Friday, Williams Grove will host the Keystone Cup series. The Pa. 305 sprints will join the sprint cars at the Grove. There will also be fireworks.
Lincoln is the Saturday stop for the Keystone Cup. Legends cars and thundercars are also part of the action.
The Keystone Cup wraps up Sunday at Selinsgrove for the running of the Ray Tilley Classic. Like Snellbaker, Tilley was a winner in both sprint cars and super sportsmen, and both of those divisions will compete. Dover's Ray Heller will have two of Tilley's cars on display at Selinsgrove. The Bud Grimm No. 88 sprint car that Tilley drove in 1967 and 1968 has been seen at the EMMR and it will be on hand. Heller has also just completed an almost exact replica of the long-gone Grimm No. 88 bug that Tilley drove to 47 feature wins in 1965. That car will make its first public appearance on Sunday at Selinsgrove.
In addition to the Keystone Cup, there is plenty of other action around the area this weekend. Williams Grove will host the Bill Heckert Memorial for the super sportsmen on Saturday. The limited-late models and street stocks will also compete.
Port Royal will also be in action Saturday with Twin 15s for the late models, plus the Pa. 305 sprints and the pro stocks.
Selinsgrove also hosts Saturday racing with its four regular divisions in competition -- the 358 sprints, late models, pro stocks and roadrunners.
Hagerstown has a two-race weekend. Friday evening the late models will compete in the Winchester/Hagerstown Shootout. The pure stocks will also be on hand. Of course, the Shootout then moves to Winchester on Saturday. Hagerstown's Saturday show will feature a championship run for the late-model sportsmen, plus a four-cylinder demo derby.
Trailway also has a double-race weekend. The 358 sprints, limited stocks and Xtreme stocks race Friday, while the micro sprints headline Saturday.
Susquehanna's Saturday program is known as the 21A Memorial in honor of Mike Zeigler Sr. All the main features will go for 21 laps. The limited-late models, street stocks, Xtreme stocks, minivans and Road Warriors compete.
The 358 sprints will make a rare appearance at the Path Valley Speedway on Sunday evening.
50 YEARS AGO: The Memorial Day weekend was a big one on the local circuit in 1962, and yes, Johnny Mackison Sr. was at the forefront. The Yorkshire Garage/Emrich Chevrolet team debuted its new cut-down "bug" about that time, and Mackison came in with a Saturday night win at Port Royal -- his sixth win of the season. He also finished second at Williams Grove on Friday and Port Royal on Tuesday, and then won at Susquehanna on Wednesday.
The Friday show at the Grove fell to Leroy Felty in the Gettle No. 77, with Mackison, Pee Wee Pobletts, Bobby Hersh and Don Kimberling in the top five. At the Port on Saturday, Mackison won over Dick Tobias, Lorenze Alwine, Johnny Dubendorff and Spunk Wilson.
Sunday at Susquehanna, Neil Haight drove to his first win of the season in Bud Grimm No. 88. Gene Goodling finished second, followed by Felty, Pobletts and Bobby Gerhart Sr.
Lincoln was rained out after six laps on Saturday, but completed the feature on Tuesday along with another full show. Goodling won the make-up race in Ken Appler's No. 77. Moe Harden finished second, followed by Pobletts, Gerhart and Haight. The regular race for that night saw Bobby Hersh score his first win since opening day at Susquehanna on April 8. Hersh drove the Trone No. 39 to victory over Haight, Pobletts, Goodling and Ronnie Cranston.
Port Royal also raced that Tuesday, and Felty scored the win in the No. 72 for his second win of the holiday weekend. Mackison finished second, followed by Frankie Thompson, Tobias and Lauden Potts.
The Wednesday May 30 show at Susky found Mackison the winner over Ray Tilley, Haight, Tobias and Goodling.
-- Reach Bryan House holder at sports@yorkdis patch.com.