If things warm up a little bit, opening day on the local racing circuit is only three weeks away.
With that in mind, I thought it might be neat to look at some of the local season-opening races of the past. This week we'll look at the season openers around the area from 50 years ago in 1964. Perhaps before the season opens I'll take another look at some season openers for other bygone eras.
The remarkable thing about 1964 is that the season openers were reversed from what we have in 2014. Susquehanna was the first local track to open its season, and Lincoln was the last.
Opening day 1964 at Susquehanna was on March 29. The winner that day was Johnny Crawford. Crawford drove his own white No. 96 bug to what would be his only victory in that class all season. Fawn Grove's Milford Wales chased "Big John" to the line that day, with Seven Valleys' Bud Folkenroth in third. Dizzy Dean and Willie Musselman completed the top five.
On that same day, the USAC sprint cars raced at the Reading Fairgrounds. At the time, he was only a one-time Indy 500 winner, but A.J. Foyt was still a terror on the dirt tracks, and drove to the Reading victory that day.
The next opener was on April 3, and that one was at Williams Grove. Dick Tobias drove the Davey Brown-wrenched Emrich Chevy No. 1 to the opening-day victory at the Grove that year. It was the start of a 36-win season for the team. Wrightsville's Bobby Abel finished second that day, with Junior Ritchey, Neil Haight and Bobby Gerhart in the top five.
The next night at Selinsgrove, it was Abel who drove to victory in his familiar orange-and-blue Gohn Jewelers No. 2. Abel won 16 races that season. Elmer Drumm finished second with Crawford, York's Paul Miller and Folkenroth in the top five.
Port Royal also opened on that night, with western Pennsylvania racer Henry Jacoby scoring the big win in his "Little Jewel" No. 4. Ironically, Tobias, who would win the Selinsgrove point title that year, finished second at the Port on Selinsgrove's opening night. Rosel Dolin, Joe Lingle and Bryan Osgood completed the top five.
Hagerstown opened its season on Sunday of that weekend, with future Winchester, Va., promoter Clem Lemaster scoring the win in his No. 12 racer. Lemaster would win five times that season. Bill Berry, "Big Daddy" Vic Lewis, Roy Stewart and R. Barr completed the top five.
Lincoln didn't open its season until April 12, and on that night it was Stewartstown's Frankie Thompson who drove to the victory. Thompson had always been the master of Port Royal, but for the 1964 season he had a ride with the Gastrock Buick No. 12, and was a regular at Lincoln. He'd win another race at Lincoln later in his last full season as a driver. Haight finished second on opening day at Lincoln, with Gene Goodling, Folkenroth and Pee Wee Poblett in the top five.
Winchester, Va., was still racing the bugs in that era, and it opened on April 24, with Bill Nalley scoring the win in the Lee Stultz No. S-3. Nalley would win 21 times that season.
Weekend racing: The "Battle of Trenton" indoor races go off this weekend.
The three-quarter midgets headline the Friday and Saturday shows, with the champ karts and slingshots also in action. On Sunday, the younger racers take to the track with the one-quarter midgets and go karts.
Sprint-car action also starts in Florida this weekend. The All-Star series will be racing at the Bubba Raceway in Ocala on Friday and Saturday. The World of Outlaws' late models will race in Screven, Ga., on Friday and Saturday.
Shark Racing: The Shark Racing team of Hall of Famer Bobby Allen will starting its season on the road this weekend in Ocala. Allen's son Jacob and grandson, Logan Schuchart, will start the season with the All-Stars, and then move on to a full season with the World of Outlaws.
Both young racers have raced the local circuit for several years. Schuchart was a big winner in 358 competition, and has scored a number of 410 sprint wins as well. Jacob Allen won with the 358s and last year in his rookie 410 season finished as high as second.
Racing on the road will be a challenge for the team, but Bobby Allen has been a past master of racing on the road with a limited budget. His 276 career wins include victories at 68 tracks in 20 states and Australia.
The Hanover-based team plans to leave for Florida on Tuesday.
New sponsor for 358 sprint series: The local 358 sprint-car series has a new title sponsor.
Capital Renegade Coaches and Trailers will sponsor the overall series for the area's 358 sprint cars. The series begins its sixth season with $3,000 on the line for the season champion. Over the past five seasons the series has been very good to York County drivers. York's Jeff Rohrbaugh won the first season title in 2009. Fairview Township's Pat Cannon has won the title twice, with championships coming in 2010 and 2012. Schuchart won it in 2011, and last year Manchester's Austin Hogue was the title holder.
Bryan Householder writes about dirt-track racing for The York Dispatch. He can be reached firstname.lastname@example.org.