HOUSEHOLDER: Fifty years ago, 1967 proved to be pivotal season on local dirt-track scene
- The 1967 local dirt-track season was a pivotal one on the area dirt-track circuit.
- The top winners in 1967 were Bobbie Adamson and Kenny Weld, with 23 wins each.
Since last week’s column seemed to go over well, and since there still isn’t much happening right now on the local racing scene, it's a good time to take one more look at some history.
This time, the season we'll review is from 50 years ago in 1967.
The 1967 season was a very important one on the local circuit. In 1967, promoter Jack Gunn threw out the rules at his two-track circuit. That was the year that Williams Grove and Selinsgrove moved from weekly stock-car racing to weekly sprint-car racing.
While the other local tracks didn’t make the move at the same time, the switch at Gunn’s tracks started the trend at all the local speedways. By the second week of the 1968 season, weekly sprint-car racing was the norm in this area.
With that in mind, who were the big winners from the 1967 season on the local circuit? Here’s a look at the 10 biggest winners, and a few other observations.
First off, I guess it shouldn’t be surprising, but two drivers shared the honors as the season’s biggest winners. One of them drove a sprint car, while the other drove a “bug.” Both drivers were from outside the area, but both would eventually relocate to York County.
Bobbie Adamson: On the sprint-car side of things, Bobbie Adamson drove the Wilbur Hawthorne No. 35 to 23 victories during 1967. Adamson hailed from the Pittsburgh area, but would soon be a resident of Wrightsville.
That year he won 12 times at Williams Grove and seven times at Selinsgrove. He also took the roll cage off the car and went east to the IMCA races at the Allentown Fairgrounds and won twice. Add in a win at Port Royal on a night when the sprints were legal. Then, to top off a great season, Adamson and the Hawthorne team went west at the end of the season and won the big 100-lap event at California’s Ascot.
Kenny Weld: The other 23-time winner that season came east from Kansas City, Missouri, to eventually relocate in Loganville. That year he was driving his own family owned “bug” No. 91.
Kenny Weld won 10 times that season at Lincoln. He also won six times at Dorsey, Maryland, four at Susquehanna and even beat the sprint cars twice at Williams Grove. His other win that season came at a place in Iowa called Knoxville.
Mitch Smith: Third on the season win list in 1967 was also a tie. Legendary Mitch Smith scored 15 wins that year in the Regester Chevy No. 6 “bug.” Nine of those wins came at Port Royal, while he also won three times came at Williams Grove, twice at Hagerstown and once at Selinsgrove.
Gerald Chamberlain: The other 15-time winner that season was also driving a “bug,” but this one was Ford powered. A year before he moved on to the “heavies” at Reading and elsewhere, Gerald Chamberlain had a stellar season in the Don Rice Ford No. 31. Chamberlain won five races at Hagerstown, three at South Penn in his hometown of Everett, two at Winchester, Virginia, one each at Bedford and Port Royal and topped it off with a win on the quarter-mile paved track at Hershey Stadium.
Ray Tilley: Rounding out the top five in 1967 was the driver who had dominated the circuit for the previous two seasons. Ray Tilley and Bud Grimm’s Ford team had a little trouble with the switch from the “bugs” to the sprint cars, but got things together to win 14 races that season. Tilley had 10 wins at Selinsgrove and four at Williams Grove. It should be noted that during the 1967 season, their third season together, the team scored its 100th win together.
Bobby Gerhart Sr.: Sixth on the list that year was Bobby Gerhart Sr. Gerhart drove his own No. 5 “bug” with legendary Davey Brown twisting the wrenches. Gerhart won 12 times that year, with eight wins at Susquehanna, three at Lincoln and one at Williams Grove.
Gus Linder: Gus Linder, with Mickey Banas’ No. 69 sprint car, ended the season seventh on the list with 10 wins. Linder won five times at Williams Grove, three at Selinsgrove and once each at Susquehanna and Port Royal.
Johnny Grum: Johnny Grum in Harry Fletcher’s “sidewinder” Ford-powered “bug” No. 66 was eighth on the list with nine wins. Grum won five times at Hagerstown, three at Port Royal and once at South Penn.
Bobby Allen: Ninth on the season was another local transplant. Bobby Allen moved from Miami to Hanover, and that season drove Charlie Hill’s No. 456 “bug” to seven wins. Five of them came at Dorsey, Maryland, while he won once each at Lincoln and Hagerstown.
Ray Dovel: Ray Dovel rounded out the top-10 winners of 1967 in the Lee Stultz No. S-3 “bug.” Dovel won six times, with four at Winchester, Virginia, and two at Hagerstown.
Other winners: Other winners that season were Junior Ritchey and Rick Schmelyun Sr. with five. Four- time winners were Ronnie Rough Sr., Leroy Felty, Red Ninninger and Dick Tobias. Drivers with three wins included Lynn Paxton, Ed Zirkle, Don Davis and Wayne McGuire. There were two wins each for Pete Swarmer, George Weaver, Bobby Abel, Lou Blaney, Bob Testor, Earl Haliquist, Johnny Crawford Sr, Milt Miller, Boyd Arnold and Ken Bartholomew. Single wins went to Hal Browning, Milford Wales, Joe Lingle, Gene Kohr, Bud Folkenroth, Irvin King, Buddy Armel, Elmer Ruby, Johnny Hubbard, Gene Varner, Max Hanbury and Bobby Brymesser.
Track champions: The track champions from 1967 were Adamson at Williams Grove and Selinsgrove, Gerhart at Susquehanna, Mitch Smith at Port Royal, Bobby Allen at Lincoln and Dorsey and winless Mert Stine at Hagerstown.
Other 1967 notes: The 1967 season was the last that the “bugs’ were the regular attraction at any local speedways, although the cars didn’t just go away, and were still winning races into the early 1970s. It was also the last season that these cars raced on a regular basis at Winchester, Virginia, and South Penn in Everett.
It was also the only season that they ran weekly at the Hershey Stadium. That track normally hosted midget racing and would run weekly late models the following season. The “bugs”/sprints did race at Hershey once in 1968, with Lynn Paxton winning, and four times in 1969 with Milt Miller winning twice and Kenny Weld and Paxton each winning once.
In 1967, Dick Tobias actually revamped on old Indy Roadster and won four races. Wayne McGuire and Ken Bartholomew were pavement racers who won a total of five races, with three for McGuire and two for Batholomew. Boyd Arnold, Gerald Chamberlain and Max Hanbury were the other winners there that year.
Bryan Householder writes about dirt-track racing for The York Dispatch. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.