HOUSEHOLDER: Forecast looks promising for dirt opener
- The local dirt season opener is set for Saturday, Feb. 25, at Lincoln Speedway.
- Right now, the forecast for getting that race into the books looks promising.
- Fifth years ago was a very eventful season on the local racing circuit.
With the way this mild winter has been going, things look good right now for Lincoln Speedway to kick off the local racing season on Saturday afternoon, Feb. 25.
The long-range forecast between now and then doesn't show any signs of snow and the forecast for Feb. 25 right now is 48 degrees for a high with a 20 percent chance of precipitation and 8 mph winds.
Not bad at all for February.
Of course, it's still winter, and things could change literally overnight, but most local fans are getting excited.
Since the start of the local season is looming in the near future, I thought it might be neat to look back 50 years at the start of the 1967 racing season in this area. That year was a year of serious change in the area.
Jack Gunn opened up the rules at his two tracks, Williams Grove and Selinsgrove, to allow sprint cars to compete with the “bugs.” While the other tracks in the area must have experimented early on, they decided to stick to the previous rules. It wasn’t until the 1968 season that the other area tracks wrote the sprint cars into their rule books.
The first local race I can find for the 1967 season was the USAC sprint car season opener, and it was held at the Reading Fairgrounds on Friday, March 31. Larry Dickson won that race.
With the USAC sprints in the area, Gunn opened his track the next two days. Selinsgrove opened on Saturday evening, April 1. Ray Tilley, in Bud Grimm’s new sprint car No. 88, drove to the Selinsgrove win that night. USAC regular Larry “Boom Boom” Cannon finished second, with Lou Blaney third. Bobbie Adamson and Bobby Gerhart completed the top five. Only Gerhart was driving a “bug.” Lincoln standout “Big Slim” Devilbiss drove his No. 400 Ford to the late model victory.
Williams Grove opened on Sunday afternoon, April 2, with Pittsburgh area driver Bobbie Adamson driving Wilbur Hawthorne’s No. 35 to his first local victory. Adamson would take such a liking to the local circuit that he would eventually move to Wrightsville and stay in the area until retiring to Florida years later. Adamson’s win came over Lou Blaney, with URC ace Earl Halaquist, Mack Clingan and Buddy Cochran in the top five. All five were driving sprint cars. The late models didn’t compete at Williams Grove until June of that year.
Most of the “bugs” must have gone to Hagerstown that day. The Hub City oval also opened its season on April 2. Ray Dovel, in the famed Lee Stultz No. S-3, drove to the win over Don Davis, with Lynn Paxton, Willie Musselman and Mert Stine in the top five. A guy named Bunky Fuller drove to the late model win.
Opening for the season the following weekend were both Port Royal and Silver Spring. Saturday, April 8, was opening day at both tracks. At the Port, legendary Mitch Smith drove the Regester Chevy No. 6 “bug” to the win over Joe Lingle. Troy Funck finished third, with Lincoln regulars Milford Wales and Charlie Cockey in the top five. Stu Robinson parked his No. 99 Ford in the late model victory lane.
At Silver Spring “the Pride of Brogue “ville,” Gary Wolford drove the Ted Althouse No. 46 super sportsman car to one of his career-leading 86 victories. Fred Locke finished second, with Lee Parthemore, Jerry Getz and Dick Snare in the top five. Herm Gardner won the hobby stock feature.
With the Grove still running on Sunday afternoons, Susquehanna opened its season on Friday, April 14. By the finishing order that night it appears that Susky allowed the sprint cars to compete with the “bugs” and the “heavies.” Kenny Weld drove his own No. 91 “bug” to the win over the sprint cars of Don Kreitz Sr. and Bobbie Adamson, while the “heavy” of Bobby Ballentine finished fourth and the “bug” of Bobby Brymesser was fifth. Ray Fanning drove “Tiny” Slayton’s No. 19 Chevy to the late model win.
Lincoln opened the next night on Saturday, April 15, with Lynn Paxton parking Ree Smith’s No. 1 in victory lane. The top five were all “bugs.” Weld finished, second followed by Rick Schmelyun, Bobby Gerhart and Paul Miller. Fanning also won Lincoln’s late model feature that weekend.
The Fredricksburg Stadium opened on Sunday, April 16, with the super sportsmen (actually at the time they were known as Class A sportsmen) and the hobby stocks. Russ Smith drove the No. 98 sportsman to the win over former teammate Gary Wolford, with Jerry Getz, Earman Fulk and Fred Putney in the top five. John Smith won the hobby stock feature.
That season the quarter-mile paved oval at the Hershey Stadium featured weekly Wednesday night racing, with the “bugs,” late models and midgets all seeing competition on a regular basis, although not always all on the same night. Hershey opened with the "bugs” on May 3. Boyd Arnold, a regular in the middle part of the state, won that night over Gerald Chamberlain and Dick Tobias. Tobias, by the way, had converted an old Indy roadster for competition at Hershey.
Dorsey and Winchester opened their seasons on Friday, May 5. At Dorsey, Seven Valleys' Bud Folkenroth drove the Gurtizen No. 50 to what would be the last of his 31 wins on the local circuit. Kenny Weld, Lynn Paxton, Bob Testor and Bobby Allen completed the top five. Sam Myers won the late model feature.
At Winchester Don Davis drove the No. 21 to the victory.
Florida results: The All Star sprints were at Bubba’s Raceway in Ocala, Florida, over the weekend, with racing Thursday, Friday and Saturday.
Donny Schatz won on both Thursday and Friday, but finished second to Kerry Madsen on Saturday. Friday it was Schatz over Tim Shaffer, Kraig Kinser, Ian Madsen and Caleb Armstrong. Spring Grove’s Greg Hodnett was seventh, with Danny Dietrich in eighth. Other locals included Mark Smith in 13th, Steve Buckwalter in 15th and Ryan Smith in 26th.
On Friday, it was Schatz over Tim Shaffer, David Gravel, Kerry Madsen and Joey Saldana. Hodnett was ninth, Dietrich was 14th, Buckwalter was 17th, Etters’ Bradley Howard was 23rd and Ryan Smith was 26th.
On Saturday Kerry Madsen topped Schatz, with Tim Shaffer, Gravel and Hodnett in the top five. Mark Smith was eighth, Ryan Smith 10th and Dietrich was 16th.
Motorama: The Motorama show at the Harrisburg Farm Show complex runs this weekend.
Presented by the Hostetter family that own Trailway Speedway, Motorama will run Saturday and Sunday. Race cars, and plenty of other cars, will be on display, along with indoor go-kart and motorcycle racing.
Reach Bryan Householder at email@example.com.