HOUSEHOLDER: Former standout driver Neil Haight dies
- Former local driving standout Neil Haight dies last week after a long illness. He was 80.
- Haight's best year came in 1963, when he picked 11 victories, including seven at Lincoln.
Another local racing star of the past has died.
Neil Haight died last week after a long illness. He was 80.
Haight was a Maryland native, who ventured into the area to race. His career started at the tracks around his home in the late 1950s. His first win came at the West Port Stadium near Baltimore in 1959. In 1960 he teamed with another young Marylander named Bud Grimm and picked up two wins at the Dorsey, Maryland, track.
The next year the team ventured out to make the central Pennsylvania tracks its home. That year, with Grimm’s Ford coupe No. 88, Haight won two races at Lincoln. They won three times at Susquehanna and once each at Williams Grove and Lincoln in 1962.
The 1963 season would be the team's best on the local circuit. With a Ford-powered, cut-down coupe, Haight drove Grimm’s No. 88 to seven wins at Lincoln, two at Williams Grove and one each at Susquehanna and Selinsgrove.
In 1964, Grimm built a true “bug” for Haight to drive. There were some early problems to work out, but by the end of the season they had won three races at Lincoln. But 1964 turned out to be a bad season for Haight. He suffered serious injuries in a crash during the running of the Race of Champions at Langhorne in October, and would have to miss the start of the 1965 season.
Grimm made some changes to the No. 88 “bug” and hired Ray Tilley as his driver. That part of the story is history. Grimm and Tilley had an amazing 1965 season with 47 feature wins.
Haight eventually returned to racing on the local circuit with rides in several different cars, including the Gastrock No. 12 and the Mauer No. 3. His best local ride after that came in 1966 in Warren Grimm’s No. 98. Warren was Bud’s cousin, and had purchased the former No. 88 from the 1964 and 1965 seasons. Haight drove that car to a win at Williams Grove in 1966.
After that, Haight dropped from the local radar. Much later, during the 1980s, he resurfaced. Haight had moved to Colorado, and had actually done some sprint-car racing there. He returned to the area, settling near Dover, and spent a weekend racing the sprint car at his old haunts, before turning the wheel over to his son Dave, who went on to a fine career of his own on the local circuit.
Neil Haight never lost his love of racing, and before his illness took over, was a regular visitor to the local tracks and most of the events hosted by the Eastern Museum of Motor Racing and the York County Racing Club.
It was after his return to the area that I got to know Neil, and he became a true friend. He will certainly be missed.
This weekend: Tony Stewart’s All Star Circuit of Champions sprint cars will visit the area this weekend.
They will race at Williams Grove on Friday, Port Royal on Saturday and Bedford on Sunday. Each of the All Star races pays $5,000 to win.
At Williams Grove, the race is the Tommy Hinnershitz Memorial, and the 305 sprints will also be on hand. Port Royal’s race honors living legend Keith Kauffman, and the Moonshine Camo Route 35 Challenge Series for the late models will also be a part of the program. Bedford’s race honors former car owner Roy Morral.
Trailway also races on Friday evening with the limited late models, 270cc micro sprints, limited stocks, classic cars and vintage cars.
Saturday’s show at Lincoln is a big one for the sprint cars as well. The $6,900-to-win Weldon Sterner Memorial is on tap for the sprint cars, with the 358 sprints and super sportsmen also on hand.
Susquehanna hosts one of the biggest races of the year for the 305 sprints. The Jim Strausbaugh Memorial Bald Hill Shootout will also include the ARDC midgets, street stocks and Xtreme stocks.
Hagerstown has a regular show of late models, late-model sportsmen, pure stocks and hobby stocks on Saturday.
1972: The local circuit almost got up to speed on this weekend in 1972, but the Sunday evening shows at Susquehanna and Hagerstown were rained out. Before that, there was plenty of action.
It started Friday evening at Bedford, where promoter Hilly Rife had two features to run. In the make-up from the previous week’s rained-out feature, Kenny Weld drove Bob Weikert’s No. 29 to his fourth win of the young season. In the regular event, Weld’s arch-rival, Jan Opperman, drove to victory in the Bogar No. 99. The win was Opperman’s fifth of the season.
All three Saturday shows made it into the record books. Weld drove the Weikert No. 29 to his second win of the weekend in Lincoln’s season opener, while Opperman got his second win of the weekend at Port Royal. At Selinsgrove, Wrightsville’s Bobbie Adamson picked up his first win of the season in Al Hamilton’s No. 77.
Williams Grove got its Sunday afternoon program in the books before the rains came, and Opperman had his third win of the weekend, and seventh of the season.
Bryan Householder writes about dirt-track racing for The York Dispatch. He can be reached at email@example.com.
2017 CHAMPION RACING OIL
CENTRAL PENNSYLVANIA SPRINT SERIES
PRESENTED BY HOSEHEADS.COM
1. 48 Danny Dietrich 238 2
2. 07 Doug Esh 231 2
3. 27 Greg Hodnett 199 1
4. 21 Brian Montieth 184 1
5. 3z Brock Zearfoss 169 1
6. 24 Lucas Wolfe 165 1
7. 51 Freddie Rahmer 138 1
8. 1 Dale Blaney 119
9. 87 Alan Krimes 115
10. 0 Rick Lafferty 110
11. 11 T J Stutts 104
12. 16 Gerard McIntyre Jr 93 1
13. 69K Lance Dewease 80 1
14. 39 Cory Haas 79
15. 16 Matt Campbell 78
16. 25 Aaron Ott 77
17. 7w Logan Wagner 74 1
18. 59 Jim Siegel 63
18. 5 Chase Dietz 63
18. 20 Ryan Taylor 63
21. 99M Kyle Moody 61
22. 55 Mike Wagner 57
23. 5 Dylan Cisney 56
23. 17B Steve Buckwalter 56
25. M1 Mark Smith 55