The wingless 410 sprint cars of the United States Auto Club are coming to our region for “The Eastern Storm.”
Action begins Tuesday night at Grandview Speedway, where the Jesse Hockett Memorial Race offers $10,000 to the winner.
The roots of open-wheel racing in this area date back to USAC and the AAA circuit that predated it. Tracks such as Williams Grove Speedway and the old Reading Fairgrounds were mainstays of the national touring circuits, starting in the 1920s at Reading and when the Grove opened 80 years ago in 1939.
It’s tough to name all of the top Indy-car drivers who have won at those two tracks on the local circuit, but some of the biggest names in the sport have done so, including A.J. Foyt, Bobby Unser, Parnelli Jones and Johnny Rutherford during the 1960s, and Bill Holland, Jimmy Bryan, Troy Ruttman and Johnny Parsons before that. Big names at Indy who didn’t win the 500, but won in our region include Ted Horn, Joie Chitwood, Roger McCluskey, Eddie Sacks, Jim Hurtibise and Duane Cater, to name a few. They have all won in our region.
It was in 1971 that a local guy named Mitch Smith put the area on the national map by beating USAC’s best three times, twice at the Grove and once at Selisngrove. The year before, another local driver named Dick Tobias had won at the Grove. Jan Opperman would do it later. Reading’s last USAC race, in its final year of 1979, fell to Loganville’s own Paul Pitzer.
Another guy who won at both the Grove and Reading was Elmer George. His children still run the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
The USAC sprints are joined by the Grandview modifieds Tuesday.
Wednesday, the USAC sprints are at Bridgeport, New Jersey, with the 600cc micro sprints.
Thursday, the USAC drivers come to BAPS Motor Speedway in Newberrytown. The United Racing Club 360 winged sprints and the super sportsmen are also on that show.
Saturday, USAC is at Port Royal and the winged 410 sprints are there too.
Sunday, it’s off to Weedsport, New York, for the USAC racers.
Dirt Champ cars at Grove: The USAC sprints don’t race Friday, but their bigger cousins, the Dirt Champ cars, do race at Williams Grove, in a show that also includes the winged 410 sprints.
The Dirt Champ cars were once the same cars that raced at Indy. The very first time those cars raced on a half-mile track was at Williams Grove in 1949. Their race at the Grove will be a 100-lap event.
That first race, back in 1949, went to a guy named Johnny Mantz. It would be a year later that Mantz would put his name in the world-wide racing history books as the winner of NASCAR’s very first super-speedway race in the Southern 500 at Darlington, South Carolina.
Indy winner Troy Ruttman would win the next two champ car races at the Grove. Paul Russo won in 1952, with a string of drivers then winning two in a row, starting with Jimmie Davies in 1953 and 1954. Jimmy Bryan won in 1955 and 1956, before winning the 500 the next year. Judd Larson won in 1957 and 1958 and Indy winner Roger Ward would win in 1959.
The Champ Cars didn’t come back to the Grove until 1980, when they were a circuit of their own. Sheldon Kinser won that year and Eddie Levitt the next. Then it wasn’t until 2016 that they returned again. This time it was Chris Windom winning. Kody Swanson won in 2017 and the series didn’t return last year.
Other races: Trailway Speedway races Friday with the wingless super sportsmen, legends, limited stocks and a championship race for the 270cc micro sprints.
At Lincoln Speedway on Saturday, the sprints and 358 sprints are joined by the PennMar vintage stocks The 358 sprints also have a make-up feature.
Selinsgrove Speedway has the Joe Whitcomb Memorial for the 360 sprints Saturday, plus late models, pro stocks and roadrunners.
The wingless super sportsmen are at Path Valley Speedway Saturday.
1991: Grandview tried to race on this Tuesday in 1991 as well. The sprint cars were there, but the feature was rained out.
Friday at Williams Grove, Fred Rahmer got his fifth win of the season in Bud Lawrence’s No. 99, while at Clinton County, Mike Van Dusen was the winner.
Saturday at Lincoln, Steve Smith got his 10th win of the season in his own Leiby’s Mobile Homes No. 19, while at Port Royal, Randy Wolfe got his fourth of the season in Ted Gano’s No. 57. Selinsgrove’s regular sprint feature Saturday went to Todd Shaffer in the Gary Turnbaugh No. 11. It was his sixth on the local tracks that year. The URC racers were also at Selinsgrove that night and Glenn Fitzcharles was the winner.
On Sunday at Susquehanna, Bobby Fletcher scored his first win of the season in his father’s No. 66a.
Bryan Householder writes about dirt-track racing for The York Dispatch. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
2019 CHAMPION RACING OIL
RM RACING LUBRICANTS
CENTRAL PENNSYLVANIA SPRINTS
Presented by Hoseheads.com
(Wins in parenthesis)
1. Danny Deitrich (7) 822
2. Lucas Wolfe (2) 459
3. Ryan Smith 435
4. Freddie Rahmer (4) 422
5. Brian Montieth (2) 401
6. Lance Dewease (5) 378
7. Anthony Macri (1) 371
8. Logan Wagner (4) 333
9. Alan Krimes (2) 281
10. Chad Trout 235