HOUSEHOLDER: Fall sprint racing, unless it's a big-money event, doesn't attract many fans
- For the first time since 2009, there was no area sprint-car racing in November.
- Track attendance after Labor Day dwindles, unless there's big money at stake.
- Until this year, Susquehanna had raced every November from 2010 through 2016.
When Susquehanna Speedway ended the local sprint-car-racing season on the final weekend in October, it marked the first time since 2009 that there will be no local sprint-car racing in November.
It also continued a trend that's been a part of the local racing scene almost since the beginning.
Fans often say the local racing season starts too early and ends too soon. They cite the fact that weather conditions are more favorable for racing in November than they are when the season starts in February.
However, the fans don’t prove those words by their attendance at the races. With even a hint of spring in the air, fans flock to those early-season races, while it’s pretty apparent that, unless it’s a big, high-paying race, they don’t attend races as often after Labor Day.
Susky’s season-finale program was well attended, as were races such as the Williams Grove National Open, Port Royal’s Tuscarora 50 and World of Outlaws show, Lincoln’s Dirt Classic and a few others. However there were a number of regular shows during that period that had sparse attendance.
The other side of the coin is that, in the fall, the racers seem to feel the same way. Other than the big races, most of the fall shows drew a less-than-stellar field of cars. If they have some problems with their cars, or perhaps crash and suffer serious damage to their cars, racers often decide to pack it up and get ready for next year.
None of this is new. It’s been this way for years. Tracks will run in November for several years, but Susky’s stretch of seven years in a row of running in November from 2010 through 2016 is the longest at any time in local history for one track to race during November.
A look at November racing: My records from the 1950s are certainly not complete for all the tracks that raced during that time. Records, even just the winners, are sometimes hard to come by from that time frame. That's especially true at some of the tracks that are long gone. But’s I have a pretty good sampling of those tracks, and my records are pretty well complete from the 1960s onward. Here’s a look at November racing around the area since 1950.
The first November race I have recorded was held at Oxford's Pennsylvania Mason-Dixon Speedway on Nov. 5, 1950. Junie Gough, a regular on the local circuit at the time, won that race. A week later, on Nov. 11, Elmer Gray won Port Royal’s first-ever race for the local stock cars that eventually evolved into today’s sprint cars.
In 1951, there were two November races at the long-gone Lancaster Speedway. Buck McCardle, on Nov. 3, and Ralph Smith, on Nov. 8, were the winners.
Lincoln then began a stretch of November races that ran from 1953-1955. Harvey Richards won at Lincoln on Nov. 1, before action switched to Bowling Green, near Jefferson, for the rest of the month. It should be noted that both Lincoln and Bowling Green opened late that year, Lincoln on July 10 and Bowling Green on Sept. 27. Both were extending their short seasons.
Bowling Green raced three times that November on the 11th, 15th and 26th. Buzzy Wilson won all three. Bowling Green continued the trend, racing three times in November of 1954, with Bob Wolfe winning on the 7th and 14th, and Scott Smith winning on the 28th.
In 1955, Bowling Green ran head to head with Susquehanna on the 6th and 13th of November. Wilson and Deve Leppo won at Bowling Green, while Johnny Mackison Sr. won both races at Susky.
By November of 1956, Bowling Green was closed, and no track raced in November again until 1963. That year, Dick Tobias won at Williams Grove on the 3rd, while Bobby Abel won at Lincoln on the 10th. Lincoln carried on the November racing trend for two more years, with Abel winning twice and Bud Folkenroth once during the first three weekends in 1964. Bobby Myers and Hal Browning won at Lincoln during the first two weeks in November of 1965.
The next November race was the 1971 Williams Grove National Open, which was pushed back several weeks by rain. Kenny Weld won that one. The rest of the November races in the 1970s came at the Reading Fairgrounds. Weld won three there in 1974. In 1975, Tobias won twice, with Kramer Williamson and Van May also winning. Steve Smith won in 1976, and then got two of three in 1977. Bobby Allen won the other November race at Reading in 1977.
Hagerstown then took over the November racing starting in 1985. Twin features went to Allen and Kenny Jacobs. In 1986, there were two double-feature weekends at Hagerstown in November. On the 2nd, Stevie Smith won the regular race and Dave Kelly was the URC winner. The next week, the features were rained out. Van May won the make-up two weeks later, while Allen won the regular race. In 1987, Bobby Allen split the twin features with his younger brother Joey.
Hagerstown didn’t race in November again until 1994, but Lincoln and Susquehanna raced in November of 1988. Susky raced Thanksgiving Day and Lincoln raced the Saturday of Thanksgiving weekend. Cris Eash won at Susky and Kenny Adams won at Lincoln. Susky planned to try it again in 1989, but it snowed on Thanksgiving Day that year.
Selinsgrove’s only November race came on the first weekend of 1989 with Todd Shaffer winning.
Fred Rahmer won at Lincoln in November of 1990, while Keith Kauffman did likewise in 1991. Donnie Kreitz Jr. won at Path Valley in November of 1991. Eash and Rahmer won at Lincoln in November 1992 and 1993 respectively.
Hagerstown was back for Twins in November 1994 with Dan Dietrich and Dale Blaney winning. Kreitz won at the Hub City oval in November 1996 and Billy Pauch in 1998. Daryn Pittman wrapped up Hagerstown’s November winners with a win in the Octoberfest make up in 2011.
The rest of the November races in the area are Susky’s Final Showdowns from 2010-2016. Winners were Chad Layton, Kreitz for two in a row, then Derek Sell, Greg Hodnett, Danny Dietrich and Jacob Allen.
Monte Carlo Night: The York County Racing Club will host its annual Monte Carlo Night this Saturday evening at the club hall in Zions View. Doors open at 6 p.m., with gambling to start at 7 p.m.
A Monte Carlo, or Casino Night, features gambling with play money followed by an auction of donated items to be purchased with your winnings.
Bryan Householder writes about dirt-track racing for The York Dispatch. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.