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Six members added to York County HOF

Bryan Householder
The York Dispatch

On Saturday evening the York County Racing Club hosted it’s 34th Annual Hall of Fame Banquet at the Wyndham Garden in West York.

Spring Grove's Greg Hodnett continued his dominance this year by winning the Harry Fletcher Tribute Race at Path Valley Speedway on Sunday night.

Kolton Gouse was the guest speaker, six new members were inducted into the Hall of Fame and several special awards were presented.

Gouse, a native of Mechanicsburg, told the crowd of his adventures on the road with Kasey Kahne’s sprint car teams. At age 18, Gouse joined the Kahne team as a crew member and he spent eight and a half years with the team traveling the World of Outlaws sprint car circuit. Now he’s about to move on to a new vocation as the general manager of Susquehanna Speedway.

For the past five years, Gouse has been involved with the benefit held during the Williams Grove National Open that raises money for various organizations that aid injured race car drivers. The first year he partnered with those who started the benefit and then took over the operation himself four years ago. His first year as sole promoter of the event raised $16,800, the next year that total was $33,500, in 2014 the total climbed to $35,200 and in 2015 it was $47,000. The YCRC is one of the organizations Gouse has benefited.

Gouse hopes to bring much of what he learned visiting speedways all over the nation into his promotions at Susquehanna. His time with the benefit has generated many contacts that should help as well.

Following Gouse’s presentation, the YCRC announced this year’s class of Hall of Fame Inductees.

Past Driver: Jimmy Sheaffer was inducted in the Past Driver category.

Sheaffer started his driving career at Silver Spring in 1956 and won his first race there in 1958. At the time he was driving a flathead Ford powered full sized coupe. Sheaffer stayed at the Springs through the downsizing to the “bugs” and won numerous races and the Silver Spring point title in 1962, 1963 and 1965.

After winning the first four races of the 1966 racing season at the Springs, Sheaffer became discouraged with a call by track officials and loaded his car, never to return. He moved to the circuit that would become the local sprint cars and put together a great run in those cars. He won a race with his now overhead Chevy powered bug at Saint Thomas and then landed several good sprint car rides. He won races for Joe Killinger, Harold Hank, Walter Dyer and Charlie Lloyd, along with in his own cars.

Later, he drove 358 sprint cars, winning there, as well. When Sheaffer ended his own driving days, he fielded cars for several drivers. Now in his late 80's, Sheaffer’s acceptance speech Saturday evening was a real hit with the crowd.

Past Owner/Mechanic: Bob Fetter didn’t spend a whole lot of time on the local circuit, but while he was here everyone took notice.

Fetter was a big race fan and also a big Ford fan. He brought Ford back into local sprint car racing and, along the way, provided winning rides for such stars as Barry Camp, Jerry Stone, Scott Haus, Kramer Williamson and Frankie Kerr.

Kerr, now a NASCAR crew chief, made the journey north from Charlotte for Fetter’s induction.

Past Miscellanous: Preston Earnst grew up in the York area and attended his first race just after graduating from high school.

He developed a love for the sport and became involved in any way he could. He eventually worked at most jobs around the area speedways, settling in as chief starter at a number of tracks including Lincoln and Trailway. Later in life, he flagged track time for the vintage racers at Latimore Valley.

Earnst passed away in 2007, but his sons, Ben and Chad, both racers themselves, were on hand to accept the award.

Present Driver: Late Model driver Jeff Rine has been the face of that division at Selinsgrove for many years now.

Among his 130 career Late Model wins are 96 at his home track. That's more wins than any other driver in any division at the track. Rine has won 11 point titles at Selinsgrove and another two at Bedford. Last season he also won the Appalachian Mountain Late Model Speedweek title.

Rine was a big fan of long time late model driver Steve Campbell and still remains a friend of Campbell’s despite both drivers' competitive nature. Rine started in go karts, moved to micro sprints and then, in 1995, to the late models. Away from the track he produces sprint car wings and late model bodies at his own business.

Present Owner/Mechanic: Jeff Creasy has had a lifelong love of auto racing.

As a teenager, he began working on the cars of driver Barry Camp. At the same time, he was perfecting the skills that would become his vocation. Creasy has a great talent for painting and began lettering race cars and signs at a young age. He worked with Camp for a number of years, both with Camp’s own cars and then with the Camel Express team.

Then in 1984, Creasy took the next step and began fielding a sprint car for a young man with a well-known name — Stevie Smith.

Creasy launched Smith’s career and, for five years, fielded the cars Smith drove to make his own name in the sport. Together they won numerous races and track titles. After winning 25 races in 1988, Smith was offered a ride with Al Hamilton’s team, but Creasy didn’t have to look far for another driver.

A young man from Hanover was working on Creasy’s car at the time. His name was Danny Jones and Creasy put him in a mini sprint. The team moved through the ranks from the mini sprints to the 358 sprints and then the 360 sprints eventually ending up in the 410 sprints, winning at each step along the way.

When Jones decided to change directions and moved to Charlotte to work for a NASCAR team, Creasy hired Blane Heimbach as his driver. They've been together ever since, winning numerous races and track titles in the 358 sprints and the 410 sprints.

Present Miscellaneous: Don Grabey, like so many others, turned a lifelong love of auto racing into a stellar career.

Grabey started as a crew member for his friend Donnie Kreitz Jr. and, while working with Kreitz, Grabey also moved in another automotive direction, taking a job with the Joie Chitwood Thrill Show.

Grabey worked with the Chitwood’s for a number of years, eventually becoming one of the show’s stunt drivers. When a lack of automotive sponsorship saw the Chitwood’s close shop, Grabey took another job, back in sprint car racing, this time as a tech man for the World of Outlaws sprint car series. Over the years Grabey worked nearly every job the Outlaws had to offer, eventually settling in as the series race director for a number of years.

While working for the Chitwoods and then for the Outlaws, Grabey made many friends in the sport, one of which bought the All Star sprint circuit last winter. When NASCAR and Indy Car champion Tony Stewart bought the All Stars, one of the first people he called was Grabey. Last year, Grabey worked as the series director for the All Stars helping to bring that group back to the forefront of sprint car racing.

SPECIAL AWARDS

Paul Miller Memorial Presidents Award: When longtime YCRC president Paul Miller passed away a few years ago, the club started an award for someone who's contributed greatly to the sport.

This year, that award was presented to Donna Gobrecht. Gobrecht raised three sons who all raced. Her youngest, Kevin Gobrecht, lost his life in a World of Outlaw sprint car race in Greenwood, Nebraska in 1999.

While Donna was always a strong supporter of auto racing, her contributions to the sport actually increased after Kevin’s passing. Under Donna’s guidance, the Kevin Gobrecht Memorial Fund has presented more than $250,000 in scholarships and charitable contributions.

Kevin Grobrecht Memorial Special Achievement Award: As a group of fans who like to enjoy their time at the races, the “Beerhill Gang” at Williams Grove could have a bad reputation, however, they are not just a fun loving group of race fans.

Like Donna Gobrecht, the “Beerhill Gang” gives plenty back to the sport. They sponsor race cars and special awards and always offer their support to local auto racing. For all they do for local auto racing, the “Beerhill Gang” won this year’s Kevin Gobrecht Memorial Special Achievement Award.

Ed Stauffer Memorial Mechanic of the Year: Ed Stauffer was one of this area’s top mechanics.

He was also one of the founding members of the York County Racing Club and served on it’s board of directors for a number of years. After his passing, the club began presenting an award in his honor to a local mechanic who excelled that year.

This year’s winner was Jacob Hinkle. Hinkle’s association with his driver, Danny Dietrich began as a friendship in the third grade at elementary school and the two have been together ever since. Hinkle was named Dietrich’s crew chief at Gary Kauffman Racing in 2012. Since then, the tandem has won 44 races, including races with the Outlaws, All Stars and during PA Speedweek.

Speedway Motors/Champion Racing Oil Central PA Sprint Cars: With Spring Grove’s Greg Hodnett away racing in Arizona, car owner Michael Heffner was on hand to collect the team's laurels for winning the 2015 Central PA overall point title.

Another Hall of Fame honor: On the same day as the YCRC banquet, the Eastern Motorsports Press Association held it’s banquet in eastern PA.

One of the inductees into its Hall of Fame was local mechanical legend Davey Brown Sr. A York County native who now lives near Pinchot Park, Brown has been wrenching winning race cars since 1954.

We may never know just how many races Brown has won as a mechanic, but the number far exceeds 1,000. Brown is already a member of many Hall of Fames, including the YCRC’s and the National Sprint Car Hall of Fame.

Upcoming weekend: The Auto Racing Club of Hagerstown will host it’s annual banquet this Saturday at the Hagerstown Elks.

ARCH honors sportsmanship drivers from around the area and also has Hall of Fame awards.

The Eastern Museum of Motor Racing at Latimore Valley will take place on Sunday afternoon.

This month’s Third Sunday Roundtable is a don’t miss event. Legendary retired sprint car drivers Fred Rahmer, Keith Kauffman and Lynn Paxton will be the guests, with their wives as the moderators.

 Bryan Householder covers sprint car racing for The York Dispatch. You can reach him at sports@yorkdispatch.com.