Rahmer is still leader of pack
Another racing season is in the record books, so it’s time to take a look at how the recently completed season has changed the career win totals for the top drivers in the various classes.
Let's start with the sprint car class.
Of course, as is the case when dealing with history, there’s a chance that some of the older numbers may be off by just a bit. In the case of local auto racing, it’s sometimes difficult to find all of the old records.
Fred Rahmer, however, still sits at the top of the local sprint car winners' list. Rahmer won 419 sprint car features during his local career. He also won 99 times in the small block modifieds and once in the 358 sprints.
Lance Dewease now holds sole possession of second place. Dewease’s single win during 2015 gives him 305 wins between the 410s and 360s, which is one more than Keith Kauffman. Dewease also owns a midget win, while Kauffman has a handful of late model wins and a single dirt champ car win.
Bobby Allen stands fourth on the list with 276 wins in the sprint cars and their predecessors. Steve Smith, who followed Allen north from Miami, rounds out the top five with 266 sprint car wins. Smith also owns a good handful of late model wins.
Lynn Paxton is sixth on the list with 225 wins in the sprints and their predecessors. Paxton also won 14 times in the late models and once in a midget.
Stevie Smith has now moved into seventh on the all-time sprint list. The second-generation driver won 10 times this season to push his career win total to 218.
Spring Grove’s Greg Hodnett moved into eighth with his 18 wins this season. That gives Hodnett 216 wins that I have been able to find. As I’ve mentioned before, Hodnett was winning 360 races in his native Tennessee before I started keeping his records, so there are definitely a few more wins on his record.
Kenny Weld stands ninth with 215 wins in the sprint cars. Weld also won a number of modified races.
Donnie Kreitz Jr. scored his final win this year before retiring from the sport. That win gave Kreitz an even 200 sprint car wins. He also won a number of modified events before moving to the sprints.
Late models: In the late model ranks, Gary Stuhler is like the energizer bunny, he just keeps going and going. Stuhler added another three wins to his total this year, which bring him up to 347 late model wins. Stuhler also won several races in other stock car classes.
Denny Bonebrake still holds second with 212 wins, while Buddy Armel is third with 202. Armel also won a couple of races in the “bugs” that preceded the sprints in the area. Ronnie McBee is fourth with 187 wins.
York’s Rick Eckert moved into fifth this year. His four wins this year pushed his career win total to 183. Like Stuhler, Eckert also has a handful of wins in other stock car classes.
Retired drivers Rodney Franklin (181), Scott Haus (178), Tom Peck (171) and Jimmy McBee (165) hold down the next four spots.
Jeff Rine moved into 10th this season. His nine wins this year give Rine a career total of 130 wins in the late models.
Super sportsmen: In the super sportsman ranks, Gary Wolford’s 145 wins will probably stand the test of time. Wolford also won five times in the open stock cars that evolved into today’s sprint cars.
Dillsburg’s Rich Eichelberger won another two sportsman events this season to push his second-place total to 87 wins in the super sportsman ranks. The 65-year-old driver also has wins in the 358 sprints and the limited late models.
Retired drivers Johnny Murphy (83) and Larry Jackson (82) are next in line, with 2015 series champion Frankie Herr in fifth with 74 sportsman wins. Herr has also been a winner in the 358 sprints.
Retired drivers Russ Smith (69), Dwight Leib (68) and Fred Putney Sr. (59) are next, with Carmen Perigo Jr.’s big season in wingless racing at Path Valley moving his career total up to 53 for ninth.
Hellam’s Bobby Weaver and Howie Locke are tied for 10th with 48.
358 sprints: In the 358 sprint ranks, Fariview Township’s Pat Cannon holds the top spot with 85 wins, but Brad McClelland has moved up to second. McClelland now has 56 wins in the 358s, to go along with a 410 win and numerous micro sprint victories.
Chad Layton holds down third with 55 wins, while Mike Lehman has 51 wins in fourth. York’s Jeff Rohrbaugh has moved into a fifth-place tie with Blane Heimbach at 42 wins.
Billy Dietrich (32) and Bob Beidleman ( 31) are next, with Dale Hammaker and Cory Haas tied for ninth at 28. Hellam’s Adrian Shaffer moved into a three-way tie for 10th. Shaffer's three wins this season give him 27 358 wins. That’s the same as Kevin Nouse and Greg Leiby.
Correction: Last week I noted that the Dirt Modifieds and USAC’s sprint cars would return to Williams Grove this year. Actually, it’s not the sprint cars of USAC that will return to the Grove. It’s the Silver Crown Dirt Champ Cars.
For history buffs, the Silver Crown cars are the larger cousins of sprint cars and could be termed the descendents of the Indy Cars of the 1940s and 1950s. The Grove was the first half-mile track in the country to host the Indy Cars of the era, back in 1949.
The winner that day was Johnny Mantz, who would go on to more fame by winning that fall’s very first Southern 500 at Darlington in South Carolina. The Champ Cars raced at the Grove all through the 1950s, with Troy Ruttman, Jimmy Davies, Jimmy Bryan and Jud Larson each winning twice. Paul Russo and Roger Ward each scored single wins.
The Champ Cars didn’t return to the Grove until 1980, when Sheldon Kinser was the winner. The final time they were there was 1981, when Eddie Levitt was the winner.
Bryan Householder writes about dirt track racing for The York Dispatch. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.