Williams Grove National Open has it all — tradition, big purse and top drivers

BRYAN HOUSEHOLDER
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Donny Schatz is seen here after winning the Williams Grove National Open in 2020.
  • The Williams Grove National Open is set for Saturday night.
  • The winner of the race will earn $75,000.
  • Donny Schatz is the defending champion. He's won the event six times.

It’s one of the best-known sprint-car races in the world, and it will be reeled off this weekend at Williams Grove Speedway.

The Williams Grove National Open was first held in 1963, when a young man from Michigan towed his modified racer to the area to compete in the 100-lap race. Gordon Johncock won that first race, and eventually went on to win the Indy 500 twice.

Since that time the National Open at the Cumberland County track has evolved into a bucket-list event for just about any open-wheel dirt-track racer. 

NASCAR star Kyle Larson has said that it is the one race he still has on his list of events to win. Last year he finished second in the 410-sprint event.

Among a family of racers who have excelled on the short tracks but are now represented at the top of the NASCAR food chain, only one has won this event. While brothers Dave and Dale Blaney excelled at sprint racing, it was their father, Lou, who won the Open in 1966. Dave’s son Ryan is now in the chase for the NASCAR title.

Lance Dewease, seen here in a file photo, is aiming for his fifth Williams Grove National Open crown.

World of Outlaws star Donny Schatz won last year’s National Open. It was his record sixth win in the Open. Williams Grove champion Lance Dewease will be gunning for his fifth Open title. The King of the Outlaws, retired driver Steve Kinser, is the only other driver with four Open wins.

The father-son duo of Steve and Stevie Smith join legendary racers Kenny Weld and Doug Wolfgang as three-time winners of the event.

Two-time winners include Bobbie Adamson, Lynn Paxton, Mark Kinser and David Gravel.

Most of the area’s top racers over the years have scored single victories in the Open, including Johnny Grum, Bobby Allen, Kramer Williamson, Smokey Snellbaker, Billy Pauch, Greg Hodnett, Fred Rahmer, Danny Dietrich and Brent Marks.

The World of Outlaws-sanctioned National Open races kick off with a preliminary-night show on Friday that offers $10,000 to the winner.

More:York County driver races to $20,075 sprint victory, plus other weekend dirt-track action

Saturday is the main event, with the 40-lap feature race paying $75,000 to the winner.

Most local tracks take this weekend off in honor of the National Open. Only Trailway Speedway in Adams County will be in action with the annual Thunder on the Farm program. That Saturday racing program includes street stocks, scramble cars, classic cars and a 100-lap enduro.

The 305 sprints have a race Saturday at Clinton County.

PIT STOPS

Brian Brown: For several years now, famed Knoxville, Iowa, multi-time champion Brian Brown has made a point of coming east for central Pennsylvania’s “Month of Money” in September. 

He’s won some local races during that time, including some that offered big money.

Friday evening, however, he got the win he probably wanted the most. Brown won Friday’s feature at Williams Grove. In victory lane, he noted that as a youngster growing up in a family of sprint racers, there were three tracks where he most wanted to score a win. One was his home track at Knoxville, another was the famed Eldora, Ohio, speed plant. The third was Williams Grove. 

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They are agruably the three most famous tracks in sprint racing. He’s still got Elroda on that list, although he has run well there. Brown also stated that it didn’t matter that it was only a “local” show on Friday, because the cars in this area are always “Outlaw” fast. That race meant a lot to Brown.

Derek Locke: Derek Locke did what he wanted to do on Friday at Williams Grove, and in the process etched a place in the record books that may never be topped. 

The third-generation racer won Friday’s 358 sprint feature at the Grove.

That win meant that Locke had won all eight races that the 358s ran at the Grove this year. No driver has ever won every race for a division at the Grove when that division raced on at least a semi-regular basis at the track for the whole season.

Frankie Herr: Last week, Frankie Herr won at BAPS Motor Speedway in northern York County to regain the lead on the track’s all-time win list for the super-sportsman cars.

This week he won again, bringing his season total there to four and his career total there to 29.

Herr is also just four wins shy of reaching the magical 100-win mark in super-sportsman competition. He also owns eight career wins in the 358 sprints, so he’s actually topped 100 wins in his career.

Dillsburg driver Anthony Macri is seen here in a file photo. At age 21, Macri is already a force on the local dirt-track circuit.

Anthony Macri: Dillsburg’s Anthony Macri won his second consecutive Selinsgrove National Open last weekend. 

That brought his season total of wins to 12. Nine of those wins were on the local 410 sprint circuit, two came in West Virginia in a 410 sprint and one in a 360 sprint on the local circuit.

Macri also added to his point lead on the Champion Racing Oil Central Pennsylvania Point Series circuit. He currently leads Danny Dietrich by 88 points.

Macri is all of 21 years old.

Bryan Householder writes about dirt-track racing for The York Dispatch. He can be reached at sports@yorkdispatch.com.

CHAMPION RACING OIL

CENTRAL PENNSYLVANIA SPRINT CAR SERIES

Presented by Hoseheads

(Wins in parenthesis)

1. Anthony Macri (9)               1,263

2. Danny Dietrich (5)              1,175

3. Lance Dewease (8)            1,094

4. Freddie Rahmer (6)            1,039

5. Brent Marks (9)                  1.019

6. Logan Wagner (3)              642

7. Chase Dietz (3)                  635

8. Alan Krimes (2)                  588

9. Justin Peck (4)                   534

10. Dylan Cisney (1)               529