The American Racing Drivers Club and the United States Auto Club have formed a partnership to help promote midget car racing in the East.
ARDC has been hosting midget racing in the East for many years, and USAC and its predecessor, The American Automobile Association, have been around even longer.
The ARDC was formed in 1940. The AAA left the sport after the 1956 season, which is when USAC was formed.
For 2017, the series will be known as the USAC Eastern Regional Midget Series presented by ARDC.
It's not unusual for USAC and ARDC to work together here in the East. The association goes all the way back to 1957, when they first presented races together at Williams Grove Speedway and elsewhere. That association lasted through the 1962 racing season. The two groups again aligned from 1985 through 1988. In recent years, the Eastern tour of the USAC midgets was supported by ARDC. Actually, ARDC combined with the AAA for a show in 1955 before USAC was formed.
The new group has a tentative 19-race schedule, that includes Williams Grove, Susquehanna, Linda’s, Clyde Martin, Big Diamond and Path Valley speedways, for sure.
The biggest news from this association is a big event planned for two days in June at Williams Grove Speedway. The schedule calls for the midgets to support two big shows on June 15 and June 16 at the Grove.
The June 15 show will include the USAC National Sprint Car Tour and the USAC Eastern Regional Midget Tour. The June 16 show includes the USAC Silver Crown Tour and the midgets.
This, in effect, will bring back the three series that established the reputation of Williams Grove Speedway. It should be an interesting two days in June.
The AAA Big Cars, now known as sprint cars, presented the very first race ever held at Williams Grove on May 21, 1939. Legendary driver Tommy Hinnershitz won that race. The first AAA midget race at Williams Grove was held on Oct. 5, 1941, with Tony Willman the winner.
In that era, what are now known as Silver Crown cars were the same cars that raced in the Indianapolis 500. The very first race for those cars on a half-mile track was held at Williams Grove on July 31, 1949. Johnny Mantz, who would go on to win NASCAR’s first Southern 500 at Darlington a year later, won the first Champ Car race at the Grove.
All three classes raced at Williams Grove during USAC’s first year in 1956. Johnny Thompson won USAC’s first sprint car race at the Grove on June 17, 1956, while Jimmy Davies won the first USAC midget race at the Grove on July 8, 1956.
Future Indy 500 winner Jimmy Bryan won the first USAC Champ Car race at the Grove on July 22, 1956.
The Champ Cars, under the banners of USAC or AAA, have competed at Williams Grove 14 times. USAC has presented 31 sprint car races at Williams Grove, while the AAA had 92 big car or sprint races at the Grove.
For the midgets, AAA sanctioned 14 races, while USAC has 20 races under its banner, although only one of those was not a combined show with ARDC. ARDC has sanctioned the majority of the Grove’s 107 midget races over the years.
Indoor racing this weekend: The Len Sammons Promotions Series of indoor three-quarter midget auto racing resumes this weekend at the PPL Center in Allentown.
Last year’s single-day event at Allentown was the first ever there and produced a sellout crowd.
This year, the series will be in town for a two-day show. There will be racing on Friday and Saturday. The TQs will compete in full programs both days. On Friday evening, the slingshots will join the program, while on Saturday the champ karts will be part of the action.
Since Saturday is New Year’s Eve, the program that day will start at 4 p.m. to allow fans to get home in time to celebrate the holiday.
YCRC banquet: Don’t forget, the York County Racing Club will hold its annual Hall of Fame Banquet on Saturday evening, Jan. 7. The banquet will be held at the Wyndham Garden in West Manchester Township. Former sprint car mechanic Tommy Sanders will be the guest speaker.
Sanders got his start on the local circuit in the mid 1960s before going on the road with several touring teams. He later ran the Gambler Sprint Car Chassis Company.
Bryan Householder writes about dirt-track racing for The York Dispatch. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.