The richest sprint-car race in the world is scheduled for this week, when the Knoxville Nationals will be presented in Iowa.
The Nationals start Wednesday, Aug. 9, with preliminary races for three nights leading up to the Nationals' main event Saturday, Aug. 12. Saturday's feature will pay $150,000 to the winner.
The Iowa race will have a big impact on the local racing schedule. As always, a number of local teams will make the trek west for the Nationals, and this year, both Williams Grove and Port Royal speedways will take the weekend off.
Lincoln will be the only local track hosting the 410 sprints this weekend. The Saturday show at Lincoln will also include the 358 sprints and the All American Outlaws.
Other racing around the area this weekend finds the 358 sprints running in a championship event Friday at Trailway Speedway. The 600cc and 270cc micro sprints will also be a part of that show, along with the limited stocks.
Saturday action finds the super sportsmen, limited-late models and street stocks racing at Susquehanna Speedway, while the Eastern Museum of Motor Racing will also present a vintage race exhibition there. Selinsgrove Speedway hosts the URC 360 sprints, a Moonshine Camo Route 35 Challenge Series race for the late models and pro stocks.
Hagerstown’s Saturday show includes the late models, late-model sportsmen, pure stocks and hobby stocks.
Old-Timers: The EMMR will present the Old-Timers Convention at the Latimore Valley Fairgrounds this weekend.
Late promoter Jack Gunn actually started the Old-Timers tradition back in the mid-1970s. Every year since then, there has been a convention of former racers and old race cars in the area. This year marks the 43rd annual convention.
Gunn hosted the conventions at Williams Grove, and when he died, a dedicated group of racing historians banded together to keep the history of the sport alive. Known then as the Williams Grove Old-Timers, the group has evolved into the EMMR.
The group raised the funds to purchase the abandoned Latimore Valley Fairgrounds, restored it, and eventually built a museum on the hill overlooking the property. They moved the convention to Latimore when the facility was ready.
This year’s convention runs Friday through Sunday, with track time for the vintage race cars on Saturday from noon until 3 p.m. and Sunday from 1 p.m. until 4 p.m.
The convention this year will honor the memory of car owner Harry Fletcher. A Maryland native, who eventually relocated to East Berlin, Fletcher started fielding cars in the era of the full-sized stock cars with a driver named Tom Bowers.
In 1965, Fletcher began his assault on the local ovals with a “bug” powered by Ford, and driven by the ever-popular “Dizzy Dean,” whose real name was Royce Renfro. While they won two features that year, they also suffered many engine-related failures.
The next year, Fletcher flexed his mechanical knowledge, building an offset “sidewinder” bug. He also hired Johnny Grum as his driver. For two years, Grum and Fletcher fielded the “sidewinder” and scored numerous wins.
In 1968, Fletcher purchased a traditional sprint car and Grum would win numerous times before stepping from the seat after the 1977 racing season. The biggest of those wins was the 1970 Williams Grove National Open.
When Grum elected to step out of the sprint cars and into late models, Fletcher teamed with Steve Smith for several very productive years. By the time Smith and Fletcher went their separate ways, it was a for a very good reason. Fletcher’s son Bobby was ready to try his hand at driving the sprint cars.
Bobby became a winner as well, before retiring to take over the family service center in Maryland. That’s when Harry became a farmer in East Berlin. He kept up with the racing, and when Bobby’s son, Cody, was ready to try his hand at racing, Harry still had plenty of equipment and all that racing knowledge.
Before his unexpected death, Harry was able to witness Cody’s first two wins in the 358 sprint ranks.
Harry Fletcher was a remarkable mechanic and a great competitor, but more than that, he was always a complete gentleman. I’ve never heard anyone offer a bad word about Harry Fletcher, and I was proud to call him a friend.
While the convention honors Harry Fletcher, two other remarkable gentlemen will serve as grand marshals. Joe Heisler Jr. and Joe Heisler III will carry those honors. The Heislers are some of the most knowledgeable racing historians in the area.
1972: Like this year, in 1972 this was Knoxville Nationals week, and it was a very good Nationals for one local team.
Kenny Weld, living in Loganville at the time, drove Bob Weikert’s No. 29 to victory in the Thursday preliminary feature at Knoxville, and then came back to win the main event on Saturday. In between the Weld wins, a future local visitor, Roger Larson, won the Friday preliminary feature. Weld’s two wins at Knoxville pushed his season win total to 23.
Unlike this year, most local tracks did race during Knoxville week in 1972. In fact, there were even some special races. The week of local racing kicked off Wednesday evening at Jennerstown, where Buddy Cochran drove to victory in the Koiser Brothers No. 8.
Lincoln offered a special Thursday race that week, and Steve Smith drove to victory in the O.J. Myers No. 19. Smith would also win Friday night at Bedford and then again Sunday at Hagerstown, to bring his season win total up to nine
Williams Grove also raced Friday night, with a surprise winner. Mitch Smith, who had sat out most of the season to that point after back surgery over the winter months, piloted Gary Wasson’s No. 5 to his first win of the season.
Saturday evening, Lincoln lost its features to rain, while Port Royal completed its program. Dover’s Smokey Snellbaker drove the Roy Morral No. 880 to the Port Royal victory for his seventh win of the season.
Susquehanna raced Sunday, with popular veteran racer Hal Browning picking up the win in Gary Wasson’s No. 81. The win was Browning’s first of the season.
Reach Bryan Householder at firstname.lastname@example.org.
2017 CHAMPION RACING OIL
CENTRAL PENNSYLVANIA SPRINT SERIES
PRESENTED BY HOSEHEADS.COM
1. 24 Lucas Wolfe 954 8
2. 48 Danny Dietrich 935 7
3. 51 Freddie Rahmer 729 5
4. 27 Greg Hodnett 723 3
5. 69K Lance Dewease 716 8
6. 3z/58 Brock Zearfoss 621 2
7. 21 Brian Montieth 612 2
8. 1 Dale Blaney 415
9. 11 T J Stutts 387
10. 25 Aaron Ott 338
11. 87 Alan Krimes 328
12. 5 Dylan Cisney 309
13. 44 Trey Starks 291 2
14. 39 Cory Haas 289
15. 07 Doug Esh 285 2
16. 16 Gerard McIntyre Jr 253 1
17. 12 Blane Heimbach 213 1
18. 0 Rick Lafferty 202 1
19. 5 David Gravel 199 3
20. 55 Mike Wagner 191
21. 1x Chad Trout 182
22. 16 Matt Campbell 181
23. 59 Jim Siegel 180
24. 20 Ryan Taylor 164
25. 88 Brandon Rahmer 153
25. 8 Billy Dietrich 153