It's the middle of winter, but for local auto racing fans it's still a busy time of year.
The Motorsports show has just concluded, and the next couple of weeks are filled with racing activities.
The York County Racing Club will play host to a general membership meeting on Wednesday evening at the club hall in Zions View. The 7:30 p.m. meeting will feature limited-late-model driver Sterling Kinard as the guest speaker.
This coming weekend will feature two events.
Saturday evening, the Auto Racing Club of Hagerstown will play host to its annual awards banquet. The ARCH group has been at this a long time and its banquet is always a fun affair.
Each year the club gathers at the Elks in Hagerstown to award sportsmanship drivers from each of the tracks it attends during the year. ARCH also inducts two members into its Hall of Fame each year.
The very next day, Sunday, the Eastern Museum of Motor Racing will open its doors for a special winter event. The group at the EMMR will be roasting its leader.
Former sprint-car star Lynn Paxton is certainly the guiding force behind the EMMR and this coming Sunday will mark his 70th birthday. What better time for all his "friends" to gather and sling arrows.
The Paxton roast starts at 1 p.m. Sunday.
The following weekend will be a busy time as well. The weekend of Jan. 24-26 will feature two events that are big with local racing fans.
Here in York, the Dirt Trackin' show at the York Expo Center will be in full swing that weekend. This year the Dirt Trackin' show will be under new leadership. Susquehanna Speedway Park promoters Todd and Rhonda Fisher have taken over as promoters.
The Dirt Trackin' show fills both wings of Memorial Hall with race cars and many other racing-related items.
That same weekend, the Gambler's Classic indoor auto races will be held in Atlantic City's Boardwalk Hall. Friday and Saturday night racing with the three-quarter midgets is the headline attraction. The champ karts and slingshots also race in Boardwalk Hall.
The same basic show will be reeled off again two weeks later when the indoor races move to Trenton for action on Feb. 7-8. The Battle of Trenton will mark the first time the group races in that city.
Of course, by that time there will also be racing action in Florida, where many local teams compete during the events surrounding Daytona's Speedweeks. Local sprint and late-model teams always make the trek south for these events.
The local racing season is set to open on Saturday afternoon, Feb. 22. That's when Lincoln will play host to its traditional Icebreaker 30 for the sprint cars. Lincoln's schedule calls for four weeks of sprint-car only Saturday-afternoon shows before switching to Saturday-evening multi-card shows.
Over the past several years I've been putting together some local history notes for those who read this column.
Each year I pick a year with dates that match those of the current year, and then look each week at the sprint-car winners from around the area during that year.
This year, I've decided to use the 1980 racing season. It's hard to believe that's already 34 years ago. This week I'll give a brief look at that season, and then each week during the season I'll review who won races that week in 1980.
Of course it will be a while before I take a look at any winners from that season, since it took a while to get going in 1980. The season was set to open on March 7, but it wasn't until March 22 that things actually got going.
The 1980 season was the start of a new era in local racing. Longtime local promoter Jack Gunn was suffering from cancer and let go of the lease on Selinsgrove while still keeping Williams Grove and Hagerstown in his fold for that season. The year would mark Gunn's final one as a promoter because he lost his battle with cancer late that fall.
Lincoln's Tom Livelsberger gained the lease at Selinsgrove and moved action there from Saturday nights to Friday nights. Much like Gunn had done for many years, Livelsberger envisioned a Friday-Saturday circuit for his racers, with the added benefit that Selinsgrove was so close to Port Royal that a Friday show would draw cars and fans from the Port as well.
Unfortunately it didn't work out that way, and by midseason Selinsgrove was back to Saturday night racing and by season's end Livelsberger had released his lease and new promoters took over for the last four shows of the season.
On the racing front, the sprint cars were using both small- and big-block engines. Some of the big blocks were reported to be more than 500 cubic inches in size. (Today's limit is 410 cubic inches.)
For the second year in a row, the area's biggest winner was Lynn Paxton. Paxton drove Maynard Boop's No. 1 to 21 wins that year, down from 28 the year before. Two of Paxton's wins that season came in World of Outlaws shows in New York state. Paxton also beat the Outlaws at Selinsgrove that year.
Other local drivers to score Outlaw wins that season were Kramer Williamson, who drove Harry Kuhn's No. 21 to a Selinsgrove Outlaw win; Billy Steif, who won an Outlaw preliminary event at Williams Grove in Walt Dyer's No. 461; Keith Kauffman, who won against the Outlaws at the Grove for Bob Weikert; and Bobby Allen, who won against the Outlaws on the road in Arkansas that season.
Kauffman was the second-biggest winner that season with 16 wins. Kauffman started the season with a combination of his own No. K33 team and the LPS racers team, and then moved to the Weikert's Livestock No. 29 at midseason.
Paxton's Boop's car sported a big-block engine, while Kauffman had small-block power in the No. K33, and big blocks with Weikert.
Van May was the area's third-biggest winner with 12 wins in his Weldon Sterner No. 69.
Track champions that season were Smokey Snellbaker at Williams Grove, Jay Myers at Lincoln, Kauffman at Port Royal, Barry Camp at Selinsgrove and Bobby Weaver at Susquehanna. Bobby Allen was the All Star champion that year.
Bryan Householder writes about dirt-track racing for The York Dispatch. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.