Gear up for Pennsylvania Speedweek, kicking off this week

Bryan Householder
For The York Dispatch

Since 1991, the week leading up to or surrounding the Independence Day holiday has meant one thing to local 410 sprint car fans, Pennsylvania Speedweek.   Officially known as the Pennsylvania Sprint Car Speedweek presented by Red Robin, the event has grown to be known internationally and offers some of the highest nonsanctioned sprint car purses in the world.

I’ve had several Australian drivers tell me that PA Speedweek is a bucket list item for them.  In recent years, it’s not been uncommon to have more than one NASCAR Cup series driver stop by for part of the series, and the All Star series now takes this week off after the completion of its own Ohio Speedweek.

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What that means is that local fans get a chance to see some of the best sprint car racers in the world in their own backyard for 10 consecutive days.

PA Speedweek has completed 222 feature events since its inception, with 47 different winners at 12 different local tracks.  This year, seven tracks will host events in the 10-race series, with each of the three weekly 410 sprint car tracks getting two shows.

Fred Rahmer leads all drivers with 13 Speedweek titles, while last year Lance Dewease finally moved past Rahmer on the all-time win list.  Dewease now has 31 wins to 30 for Rahmer, who retired after the 2013 season.

The late Greg Hodnett owned five Speedweek titles, Lucas Wolfe has four, Dewease three and Danny Dietrich two.  Single Speedweek titles have gone to Kyle Larson, Keith Kauffman, Stevie Smith and the late Steve Smith.

Lance Dewease will be among those honored this weekend at Port Royal Speedway during the running of the Tuscarora 50. The event will pay $50,000 to the winner.

Following Dewease and Rahmer on the all time win list are Hodnett with 26, Stevie Smith and Dietrich with 11 and Larson with 10.

After several years of raising the Speedweek purses for the top finishing position, which has brought the minimum winner’s share up to $7,000, this year an increase was made at the back so that  the last-place finisher will receive a minimum of $700.

Several sponsors have come on board this season for other extra money.  Long Hollow Cattle Company has added extra money for the first five nonqualifiers each night of Speedweek this season.  

Selinsgrove Ford has added a Ten for Ten bonus of $5,000 if a driver can finish in the top 10 in all the races.  Seven of the 10 races must be completed for this bonus to be awarded.

Danny Dietrich has added a Knockout bonus of $500 per night.  The Speedweek format starts the fastest timer in each heat fourth, while the rest of the field is heads up by time.  If the fastest timer can win his heat that night, the bonus is in effect.  If more than one fast timer wins a heat the same night, the bonus will be split among the winners.  The Knockout part comes from the fact that if the fast timer wins the heat he knocks a driver out of the feature redraw for top starting spots.

It should be noted that in Saturday’s Speedweek Tune Up at Lincoln, budget racer Troy Wagaman Jr., of Hanover, did win his heat from fourth after setting the second fastest time of the evening.  So it can be done.

Speedweek will kick off Friday at Williams Grove, where the 30-lap feature will award the winner $7,001.  The one in that figure is in honor of Billy Pauch Sr.,  as the night’s program will be run in his honor.  Pauch semi-retired after winning a modified race at Bridsgeport, New Jersey, earlier this season.  He was a five-time Speedweek winner.  Many of his sprint car wins came in the Zemco #1.  

The 358 sprints also race at The Grove on  Friday.

Saturday is the Kevin Gobrecht memorial Race at Lincoln with $9,200 on the line for the winner.  The Gobrecht family sprinter with which Gobrecht started his career was No. 92.  

The extreme stocks join the sprints at Lincoln on Saturday.

Speedweek moves to BAPS Sunday with $7,000 on the line for the winner.  BAPS super sportsman class will also compete.

Lincoln’s second Speedweek program of the year will be on Monday night with another $7,000-to-win purse.  This is a sprint car only program.

On Tuesday, Speedweek moves to Thunder on the Hill at Grandview Speedway for the Greg Hodnett Cup.  This one offers $10,000 to the winner.  Grandview’s NASCAR 358 modifieds will also compete.

Wednesday will mark Port Royal’s first show of the week.  It’s $7,000 to win, and the URC 360 sprints will also be there.

On Thursday, Speedweek makes it’s annual trip south of the border to Hagerstown, Maryland, for an $8,000-to-win show.  The vintage cars from the EMMR will also be on hand for some track time.

Lucas Wolfe

Friday will mark Williams Grove’s second Speedweek show of the year, and it’s the crown jewel of the series.  The Mitch Smith Memorial is a standalone sprint car event and offers $15,000 to the winner.

Port Royal’s second show of the week is Saturday’s Greg Hodnett Classic, with $10,000 on the line to the winner.  The super late models also compete.

Speedweek wraps up Sunday, July 3, at Selinsgrove for the Jan Opperman/ Luke Bogar/ Ralph Hentzilman Sr. Memorial race.  This one offers $7,500 to win.  Of course the Luke Bogar-owned No. 99, wrenched by Hentzilman, was one of Opperman’s most successful rides.  The PASS 305 sprints join the program that night.