The largest winner's purse in the history of local auto racing will be on the line this Saturday evening for the Williams Grove National Open.
The $65,000 that will go to the winner will be the fourth-largest winner’s share offered anywhere in sprint racing this season.
The World of Outlaws will be sanctioning the Open, but there should also be a number of other racers in the area to take on the Pennsylvania Posse. Knoxville (Iowa) Speedway champion Brian Brown has been in the area for the last month tuning up to run for the big money, and Australians James McFadden and Kerry Madsen have made frequent local visits over that month as well.
The All Star season ended last Saturday, and in recent local appearances All Star champion Aaron Reutzel has done very well at the Grove.
In addition, local Outlaw racer Logan Schuchart, of Hanover, has been on a tear with that series in recent weeks, scoring eight wins with the Outlaws this season, including last Friday evening at Eldora, Ohio.
It should be noted that Schuchart’s grandfather, legendary racer Bobby Allen, has won the Open. Also, Schuchart has surpassed his grandfather’s season win mark with the Outlaws. The most Allen won in one season with the Outlaws was six.
Put it all together, and it promises to be quite the event.
The Open is a two-day show, with a full program on Friday evening before Saturday’s big event. Last year’s race paid $56,000 to win, which was this area’s highest winner's purse to that time. Lance Dewease scored his fourth Open victory last year.
National Open history: Although the Open has been Outlaw sanctioned since the 1990s, in recent years it seems the winner’s purse has slipped back and forth between the Posse and the Outlaws. In the last eight years, the Outlaws and Posse are tied at four each for Open wins.
The first National Open was held in 1963 and a then-unknown driver from Michigan came east with a great big wing on top of his super modified and drove to the win. Although primarily an asphalt driver, the daytime dirt surface at that event worked out well for Gordon Johncock, as he drove to victory. Of course, after that, Johncock’s asphalt prowess was proven with two Indy 500 wins.
Invaders would claim the first four Opens. Western Pennsylvania/Ohio drivers Larry Dickson, Henry Jacoby and Lou Blaney were the next winners. Blaney, of course was the patriarch of the famed family that has produced Outlaw champion Dave Blaney, All Star champion Dale Blaney, and now, in the third generation, NASCAR star Ryan Blaney.
By 1967, the local circuit had caught up with the invaders, and Bobbie Adamson, who moved to Wrightsville from the Pittsburgh area, won the Grove title and the Open that year. He would win the Open again in 1968.
Unknown Gene Varner was the controversial winner in 1969, before Johnny Grum put legendary car owner Harry Fletcher in the Open victory lane in 1970.
Another driver who transplanted to the area for racing would win the next three. Kenny Weld came east from Kansas City, Missouri, to live in Loganville and was the Open champion in 1971, 1972 and 1973.
The trend continued over the next four years. Hanover-based drivers, who moved from Florida, won the next three. Steve Smith won in 1974 and 1976, while his mentor, Bobby Allen, won in 1975. Van May, from Hanover via El Paso, Texas, won in 1977.
Kramer Williamson, Dover’s Smokey Snellbaker and Allen Klinger were the next three winners before Smith would get his third Open win. In 1982 and 1983, Lynn Paxton would lead every lap of the Opens, and then retired in the 1983 victory lane.
South Dakota driver Doug Wolfgang won the next three in the locally-based Bob Weikert car. Joey Allen drove his brother Bobby’s second car to the surprise 1987 win, before Ohio’s Kenny Jacobs won in 1988 in the Weikert machine.
Stevie Smith joined his father as an Open winner in 1989 and then went Outlaw racing.
Since that time it has been a mix of Outlaw and local drivers in the Open victory lane. Local drivers Stevie Smith and Donnie Kreitz Jr. swapped years with Outlaw King Steve Kinser over the next four years before Kinser’s cousin Mark Kinser scored a win in 1995. Lance Dewease got his first Open win in 1996. Sammy Swindell, Billy Pauch and Mark Kinser completed the winners in the 1990s.
Donny Schatz got his first in 2000, with Deweaase winning in 2001 and 2002. Schatz won three more times that decade, while Steve Kinser, Doug Esh, Red Lion’s Cody Darrah, Greg Hodnett and Swindell completed the decade.
This decade has seen Jason Meyers, Schatz, Fred Rahmer, David Gravel, Stevie Smith, Danny Dietrich, Gravel again and Dewease as winners.
Other weekend races: Trailway Speedway offers Thunder on the Farm this Saturday, with street stocks, limited stocks, a figure-eight event and a 100-lap enduro.
Path Valley Speedway has a big two-day event that includes numerous divisions on Friday and Saturday.
1991: This was National Open weekend in 1991 as well.
Sammy Swindell won the Friday night preliminary feature, while Saturday’s main event was rained out and moved to Sunday afternoon. Stevie Smith would go on to win that one in Al Hamilton’s No. 77.
Later that evening, Donnie Kreitz Jr. would win his 15th of the season at Susquehanna.
Bryan Householder writes about dirt-track racing for The York Dispatch. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
CHAMPION RACING OIL/RM LUBRICANTS
CENTRAL PENNSYLVANIA SPRINT CAR SERIES
(Wins in parenthesis)
1. Danny Dietrich (12) 1,724
2. Freddie Rahmer (9) 1,170
3. Brian Montieth (5) 1,038
4. Lance Dewease (9) 877
5. Anthony Macri (2) 850
6. Ryan Smith (1) 849
7. Lucas Wolfe (5) 845
8. Logan Wagner (6) 748
9. Kyle Moody (2) 545
10. Cory Haas (2) 520