Local auto racing often presents exciting action and some great story lines.
Friday’s make-up feature for the 358 sprints at Williams Grove Speedway presented all of the above, plus some great drama.
The story line on this one started several weeks ago when the race was halted by rain after just four laps. Selinsgrove Speedway ace Cody Keller was the leader of the event when it started raining. Keller himself is a great story. A few years back, Keller suffered serious head injuries in a Selinsgrove crash. He sat out quite a long time, but returned to be competitive again, winning 358 and 360 races at Selinsgrove. Last year he also picked up a win at Williams Grove.
Keller’s night on Friday, however, ended before it began. He flipped his racer during warm-ups, and as the make-up feature event was lining up on the track, Keller’s rig was heading out of the pit area on its way home. He would rebound for a top-10 finish in Selinsgrove’s Kramer Cup on Saturday.
Keller’s misfortune turned the lead over to second-generation driver Todd Rittenhouse Jr. While Rittenhouse isn’t actually a junior, he does share the same first and last names as his father, so most add junior to his name. Rittenhouse has won a number of 358 features at Lincoln Speedway, and a couple of URC 360 races. He owns one career Williams Grove 358 sprint win.
Rittenhouse led until the 14th lap of the 20-lap feature when another driver entered the picture. Actually, Dillsburg’s Rich Eichelberger hounded Rittenhouse for several laps before taking the lead.
Eichelberger is a veteran of the local racing circuit, who indeed had raced against Rittenhouse’s father. While best known for his racing with the super sportsmen, Eichelberger has also raced in many other forms of local racing. He owns 88 super sportsman wins, and four each with the 358 sprints and limited-late models. He’s also been a front runner, but not a winner, with the super-sprint cars.
Now, just a few years shy of his 70th birthday, Eichelberger has seen it all. Once he took the lead in the make-up 358 sprint feature, the drama was just beginning. Not too many fans realized it at the time, but not long after Eichelberger took the lead his engine began to sound sour. He held on to win the race, his fifth in the 358 sprints, but was unable to race the rest of the evening.
The other thing that most fans didn’t realize was that this past weekend was probably Eichelberger’s last racing weekend of the season. He goes under the knife this week for knee-replacement surgery, and then later in the summer he'll have his other knee replaced.
The win at the Grove was a great way to end his racing season, and just adds to the resume for "The Legend."
This weekend: Racing action this weekend actually begins at BAPS Motor Speedway on Thursday evening.
The rescheduled Kevin Gobrecht Memorial for the sprint cars is set, along with the super sportsman cars. BAPS will not race Saturday.
Action moves on to Friday night when Williams Grove has the sprint cars, plus the first leg of the KRS Graphics Tri-Track Late Model Series. Trailway Speedway hosts the 358 sprints, 270cc micro sprints, the street stocks and the limited stocks on Friday, while the wingless super sportsmen race at Path Valley Speedway.
Saturday, Lincoln Speedway will try again to get a race in the record books. This will begin the “Step Up to Speedweek” with the sprint cars racing for $4,000 to win. Lincoln will also host a 358/360 sprint-car challenge race. Wrapping up the program will be Kids' Big Wheel Racing. As always, Tom Helf of York Flooring will provide the prizes for the youngsters.
Selinsgrove Speedway has an all-stock-car program Saturday, headed by the USLM late models and Mason-Dixon limited-late models. The pro stocks and roadrunners also compete.
Hagerstown Speedway offers the Mid-Atlantic Modifieds, crate late models, pure stocks, hobby stocks and classic race cars on its Saturday slate.
1984: On this weekend in 1984, Keith Kauffman continued his winning ways, parking Al Hamilton’s No. 77 in Williams Grove’s victory lane on Friday evening for his 17th win of the season.
Steve Siegel parked his Busch Beer No. 2 in Lincoln’s victory lane Saturday for his first win of the season, while up at Port Royal, Randy Wolfe got his second win of the season in the Keen Transport No. 5W. Selinsgrove’s Saturday show fell to Maynard Yingst in Gary and Pattie Beam’s No. 88. The win was Yingst’s second of the season.
Sunday evening, new Susquehanna Speedway promoter Jeff Hartlaub brought the sprint cars back to the oval for the first time since 1981. In the end, it was a fresh new face in victory lane. A youngster by the name of Donnie Kreitz Jr. parked his family-owned No. 69n in victory lane for the first time that season.
Bryan Householder writes about dirt-track racing for The York Dispatch. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.