HOUSEHOLDER: Lincoln Speedway set for second try at Northeast dirt-track season opener
- Lincoln Speedway's Ice Breaker 30 was rained out on both Saturday and Sunday last weekend.
- The track will again try to open up racing in the Northeast again this weekend.
- Fred Rahmer leads all drivers in season-opening victories with nine.
OK, let's try this again.
As you likely know by now, Lincoln Speedway was rained out on both Saturday and Sunday over the weekend.
That means that the Northeast outdoor season opener has been pushed back to this coming weekend. Lincoln will try again on Saturday afternoon to present the Ice Breaker 30 for the 410 sprint cars. The rain date is again on Sunday.
The forecast for Saturday is mostly cloudy and 44 degrees for a high, with 0 percent chance of rain and 15 mph winds.
That means, of course, that this year’s season opener will not happen in February. While in recent memory, Lincoln’s February openers have become the tradition, local tracks opening in February is not the rule over the years.
My records for season openers date back to 1932 at the Reading Fairgrounds. While it’s possible that other tracks opened before Reading, I don’t have records of those races. I’m pretty sure that since the early 1950s my records do include the very first race of the season locally.
Trend is for earlier openers: That being said, there has been a trend toward opening the local season earlier over the years. Back in 1932, the first race of the season was held in May. After that things moved quickly to April. The first March opener I have on record is at Reading in 1953. The first February opener is at Hagerstown in 1984.
Of course, there are always trend breakers. The long-gone Bowling Green Speedway, which was located near Jefferson, raced on New Year’s Day in 1955. On the other end of the spectrum, Williams Grove opened the 1945 season in late September.
Of course, the Bowling Green race was a novelty, and its regular season didn’t open until much later that year. By the way, Jerry Banks won that Jan. 1 race.
The September opener at Williams Grove came at the close of World War II. Racing was banned for several years during the war and then it took a while for enough parts, fuel and tires to be available to the general public for racing to resume after the war. Legendary Ted Horn won that race at the Grove.
March has had most openers: A quick check of records since 1932 shows that March has been the month with the most local season openers. In fact, the 36 March openers is double the 18 times the season has opened in February. April actually has more openers than February as well, with 22.
The last time the local season didn’t open until April was in 1978, when the first race of the season was on April 1. Lincoln and Port Royal both opened their seasons on that day.
While it seldom happens anymore, more than one track has opened the local season on several occasions. In fact, in 1957, three tracks opened on the same day. Two were stock-car races, while the third was a USAC sprint-car race. Johnny Mackison won at Williams Grove that day, while arch-rival Bobby Hersh won at Susquehanna. Johnny Thompson won the USAC race at Reading.
Since 1994, all but one of the season openers has been held at Lincoln. In 2010, weather pushed Lincoln back several weeks and Williams Grove’s Friday night opener beat Lincoln by one day.
Still, Lincoln only sits second on the list of tracks to hold the season opener. Reading, according to my records, opened the local season 27 times, while Lincoln has done it 25 times. Williams Grove with 14 and Susquehanna with 12 are next in line.
Rahmer has most opening wins: Which driver has won the most season-opening races in the area since 1932? That would be Fred Rahmer, who won nine season openers around the area. Seven of those wins came at Lincoln, while he also opened the local season with single wins at Hagerstown and Williams Grove.
Second on the list is Keith Kauffman, who won season-opening races twice each at Hagerstown, Williams Grove and Lincoln, and once at Port Royal to make seven season-opening wins.
Should weather again impact Lincoln this coming weekend, the area could be in for its first two-track opening day in many years. Lincoln and Port Royal are both scheduled for racing on Saturday, March 10 — Lincoln in the afternoon and Port Royal in the early evening. Williams Grove has its opener set for Sunday afternoon, March 11.
1984: Last week’s look at the 1984 season noted that Keith Kauffman won the season opener at Hagerstown, in what was this area’s first-ever February opener.
Kauffman, driving Al Hamilton’s No.. 77, came back on this weekend in 1984 to secure his second consecutive win at Hagerstown. Kauffman’s win came over noted modified driver Kevin Collins, who had shocked the sprint-car world the previous season by winning the Williams Grove opener in one of his first sprint-car starts.
George Ferguson Jr. finished third, with York County drivers Steve Stambaugh and Smokey Snellbaker in the top five. Rounding out the top 10 were Barry Camp, Cris Criswell (the father of current super-sportsman racer Chad), Rich Eichelberger (the same Rich Eichelberger who still races the super-sportsman cars), Donnie Kreitz Jr. and Stevie Smith.
Bryan Householder writes about dirt-track racing for The York Dispatch. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.