With the year coming to a close, it’s time to look back on some of the top stories on the local racing circuit from the 2015 season.
In the world of local sprint car racing, Spring Grove’s Greg Hodnett again secured the top ranking on the local circuit. With 18 wins on the season, Hodnett again won the Williams Grove point title and the overall Speedway Motors/Champion Racing Oil crown. Along the way Hodnett bested the World of Outlaws at Lincoln and the All Stars at Williams Grove.He also won the area’s opener at Lincoln and Port Royal’s Living Legends Dream Race.
But, while Hodnett captured some of the top prizes on the local sprint car circuit, he wasn’t alone at the top of the heap. Danny Dietrich won 16 times, including the Williams Grove opener, an Outlaw race at the Grove, the Selinsgrove National Open and Susquehanna’s Final Showdown.
Brian Montieth won his fifth Lincoln point title and the $20,000 top prize in Lincoln’s Dirt Classic among his eight wins.
While it wasn’t the season he wanted, Brent Marks put together a great week in early September. A picture of consistency all year, Marks' only three wins of the season all came within that week. He won the Labor Day Classic at Port Royal and backed it up with wins in the All Star-sanctioned events during the Port’s Tuscarora 50 weekend.
Perhaps the best season on the local circuit fell to a team that only ran a limited schedule. Stevie Smith and the team owned by Fred Rahmer and Dave Pritchard only ran about 25 races during the season. They won 10 of them and finished in the top 10 in 21. Among their wins were five during Pennsylvania Speedweek, the Summer Classic and the National Open at Williams Grove, both Outlaw events, the Grove’s Tommy Classic and a couple of Outlaw tune-ups at the Grove.
In just those 10 wins, Smith earned more than $111,000 for his team. Add in career-first wins for his teammates, Brandon Rahmer and Freddie Rahmer, and the team had a great year.
360 and 358 sprints: While the 360 sprints are having trouble making their mark on the local circuit, a driver from the local circuit made his mark on the 360 sprint circuit this year. Mark Smith won 10 360 sprint races this season. While the majority of those wins came locally, Smith also won in New York, Florida and Canada.
The Hammaker name has long been associated with local auto racing. There has been a Hammaker of some sort in local competition for more than 40 years. Grandfather Sam Hammaker raced limited late models, and his son, Dale, raced in the limited lates, modifieds, super sportsmen and 358 sprints. Dale Hammaker earned the title as the “Godfather of the 358s” with numerous wins and titles in the ranks.
For several years, Dale’s older son, Nate, raced and won in the 358 sprint ranks. Younger son Doug has been racing the 358s for several years now, but this season marked his first full-fledged assault on the circuit. With father Dale in the pits, Doug enjoyed a breakout season with six wins and point titles on the overall Renegades circuit and at Lincoln.
Brad McClelland was the circuit’s big winner with eight wins on the season. He pushed his career total in the 358s at Trailway to 49 wins, and his overall win count to second on the all-time list with 56. McClelland is also Trailway’s career win leader in the micro sprints. At the end of the season, the second-generation driver announced his retirement.
York’s Chase Dietz raced his rookie season in the 410 sprints at Lincoln, but also drove a 358 for the Godfrey Brothers at Williams Grove. Dietz got his first 410 win at Lincoln and earned the Grove’s 358 point crown. Along the way, Dietz and the Godfreys donated all of their Grove earnings to charity, a total of more than $10,000. Dietz also won Susky’s 358 portion of the Final Showdown.
Super sportsmen, late models: On the super sportsman circuit, Frankie Herr raced to his 14th super sportsman tour title with three wins on the season. Then Herr announced he will not be racing the sportsman cars in 2016.
While Herr won the tour title, second-generation driver Chad Criswell won the most tour races with five, including the Sportsman 100 at Lincoln. Carmen Perigo Jr. limited his racing mostly to the wingless competition at Path Valley, and won seven times there.
Jeff Rine had the best season on the local late model circuit. Rine earned his 11th Selinsgrove point crown and pushed his career win total there to 96. He also finished second in points at Bedford.
All-time career late model win leader Gary Stuhler added three more wins to his career total, pushing the mark to 347.
Indoor racing: This Saturday, the Three-Quarter Midgets and the Slingshots start the indoor racing season at the all-new PPL Center in Allentown. A number of the top racing talents in the Northeast will try their hand at the mighty TQs, including sprint car racer Ryan Smith.
YCRC banquet: The York County Racing Club’s Hall of Fame banquet is just more than a week away. It will be held at the Wyndham Garden in West York on Saturday, Jan. 9. Kolton Gouse will be the guest speaker. Gouse is the new general manger at Susquehanna Speedway. However, the central Pennsylvania native has spent a number of years touring the country with Kasey Kahne’s World of Outlaws sprint car teams and should have a number of stories.
Bryan Householder writes about dirt track racing for The York Dispatch. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.