The local dirt-track racing season is set to kick off at 2 p.m. Saturday afternoon with the Icebreaker 30 for the 410 sprint cars at Lincoln Speedway.
Lincoln is set to open its 68th consecutive season of racing.
At the moment, the Saturday forecast looks promising, with a projected high of 48 degrees and mostly sunny skies. The winds are predicted at 5 mph and the chance of rain is zero.
The winner of Saturday's race will earn $4,000.
Since the mid 1990s, Lincoln has set its season opener for late February, and has managed to hit that mark more than half the time. Since 1994, Lincoln has opened in February 14 times, while 12 openers have been pushed back to sometime in March. The 22nd is one of the earlier dates Lincoln has managed to open its season. It has happened once in Lincoln history. There have been earlier openers on the 20th and the 21st.
Fred Rahmer won the earliest opener on the 20th in 1999, while Todd Shaffer won on the 21st in 1998. Rahmer is also the driver who won on the 22nd. The third of Rahmer’s record seven opening-day wins at Lincoln came on Feb. 22, 1997. On that day, Rahmer drove Al Hamilton’s No. 77 to the victory over Donnie Kreitz Jr., Lance Dewease, Billy Brian Jr. and York’s Jeff Rohrbaugh.
The 1953 opener: The latest that Lincoln ever opened its season was in its first year, 1953.
The newly constructed track opened for the first time on July 10 of that year, with Mel Kreiser taking the win. The opener was delayed one week because of rain.
There have been several father-son duos who have won Lincoln openers, although Rahmer’s sons have yet to win the opener, despite some close calls. Brandon Rahmer was second in 2018 and Freddie Rahmer was fifth in 2017.
Steve Smith and his son, Stevie, have each won three season-opening races at Lincoln, while Dan Dietrich has two opening victories, while his son, Danny, has one.
Wolfe likely won't repeat: Last year, Lucas Wolfe won the Lincoln opener.
It was Wolfe’s first time winning the Icebreaker, but he won’t make it two in a row, unless the start of the season is delayed this year. Wolfe is racing in Australia right now, and in fact, finished third last Saturday evening.
Dover’s Chad Trout won the opener in 2018. Danny Dietrich was the 2017 winner, while the late Greg Hodnett won in 2015 and 2016. Before that, York’s Adam Wilt and Brian Montieth switched off wins in the opener between 2011 and 2014.
Mark Smith started the last decade with the win in 2010.
Top opening-day winners: As noted before, Rahmer holds the most opener wins with seven, while Bobby Allen is second with five.
The Smiths, along with Montieth and Bobby Abel have three each.
Drivers with two opening-day wins at Lincoln are Hodnett, Wilt, Dan Dietrich, Lance Dewease, Keith Kauffman, Kenny Weld, Gene Goodling and Troy Funck.
Single opening-day wins at Lincoln have gone to Wolfe, Trout, Danny Dietrich, Mark Smith, Niki Young, Doug Esh, Chris Knopp, Todd Shaffer, Glenn Fitzcharles, Frankie Kerr, Richard Lupo, Bobby Davis Jr., Jimmy Edwards, Dub May, Van May, Paul Pitzer, Kramer Williamson, Smokey Snellbaker, Bobby Gerhart Sr., Lynn Paxton, Bobby Myers, Frankie Thompson, Johnny Mackison Sr., Ralph Smith, Junie Taylor, Walt Regan and Mel Kreiser.
Consecutive winners: Fred Rahmer and Stevie Smith are tied for the most consecutive opening wins with three each. Rahmer won from 1995-1997 and Smith won from 1987-1989.
Hodnett (2015-2016), Rahmer (2004-2005), Allen (1981-1982) and Funck (1957-1958) have each won two in a row.
Trout, Knopp, Fitzcharles, Davis, Williamson, Thompson, Ralph Smith, Funck and Kreiser scored their first wins in Lincoln’s top division in opening-day events.
Long wait for Lance: Dewease is the driver who waited the longest between opening-day wins at Lincoln.
His first came in 1993, while his second didn’t come until 2007.
Lincoln has a Sunday rain date for its first two shows.
The next local track scheduled to open its outdoor season is Port Royal Speedway, which is set for Sunday afternoon, March 8. Williams Grove Speedway opens a week later on Sunday afternoon, March 15.
Indoor racing: The indoor racing series switches gears this weekend in Trenton, New Jersey.
The Indoor Dirt Nationals take place Friday and Saturday evenings. The wingless 600cc micro sprints will compete.
The event is held in the Cure Insurance Arena and many truck loads of clay are hauled in to cover the cement floor. With a large field of cars expected, including drivers from a number of different classes, it should be a good event.
Florida racing: The Winternationals for the 360 sprint cars were held last weekend at the East Bay Raceway near Tampa, Florida.
All Star 410 sprint champion Aaron Reutzel won Saturday’s main event. Reutzel scored the win over local racer Mark Smith, with Terry McCarl, Eric Riggins Jr. and Dylan Westbrook in the top five. Brock Zearfoss finished seventh and Trey Starks was 17th.
In Thursday’s preliminary event, it was Mark Smith picking up his third consecutive Florida win over McCarl, Westbrook, Zearfoss and Reutzel. Brodbecks' Todd Gracey was 21st and Danny Dietrich was 24th.
Friday’s preliminary event was rained out.
Australia racing: Kerry Madsen won Saturday’s World Series of Sprint Car event in Bunbury, Australia.
Madsen, who lives in Australia but races stateside most of the year, won over James McFadden, another Aussie who runs a similar schedule.
Local racer Lucas Wolfe finished third.
Bryan Householder writes about dirt-track racing for The York Dispatch. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.