A York County driver who became a force on the regional dirt-track circuit before a 2018 racing accident claimed his life is now a national hall of famer.
Spring Grove's Greg Hodnett was one of eight men selected to the National Sprint Car Hall of Fame on Wednesday.
As is traditional, the hall-of-fame announcement was made during the Chili Bowl week in Tulsa, Oklahoma. The official induction ceremony will be held Saturday, May 30, at the National Sprint Car Hall of Fame & Museum in Knoxville, Iowa.
In addition to Hodnett, several of the other 2020 inductees also have been a part of the local racing circuit.
Hodnett started racing regionally after spending his formative years competing around his native Memphis,Tennessee, and then with the World of Outlaws. He joined the local circuit at the wheel of the Apple Motorsports entry and raced on the local tracks for nearly 20 years, driving for many of the area’s top car owners.
During his career, Hodnett won 285 races in sprint cars, with many of those wins coming at the local tracks. He was a multi-time champion both at Williams Grove Speedway and on the overall central Pennsylvania circuit.
Regarded as a true gentleman off the race track, Hodnett was a fierce competitor on the track who always had the future of the sport foremost in his thoughts.
Hodnett suffered fatal injuries in a crash at BAPS Motor Speedway in September of 2018.
Tim Shaffer: Ironically, the second driver to join the class of 2020 inductees figured into Hodnett’s entry onto the local circuit.
Tim Shaffer was driving for Apple Motorsports when Hodnett lost his ride with the Selma Shell team on the World of Outlaws circuit. Selma Shell offered Shaffer the ride and Apple Motorsports hired Hodnett.
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Both drivers fared very well in the exchange. Shaffer went on to many good years with both the World of Outlaws and the All Stars, while still maintaining a strong local fan base.
Shaffer, a native of the Pittsburgh area, has won nearly 200 races in sprint cars and 19 of them have come on the local circuit. His biggest win came in the Knoxville Nationals. On the local circuit, he won the 2018 Dirt Classic at Lincoln Speedway. Ironically, that was a race run in Hodnett’s memory.
Jeff Swindell: Jeff Swindell is the third driver set for 2020 induction.
Perhaps best known as Sammy Swindell’s younger brother, Jeff Swindell had many good years with the World of Outlaws and is still active in 360 sprint racing.
He spent part of a local season driving for legendary local car owner Bob Weikert. Among Swindell’s many wins are two on the local circuit.
Walter Dyer: Retired local car owner Walter Dyer will enter the hall of fame this year as well.
Dyer’s famed “Brickmobile” No. 461 graced the local circuit for many years from the mid-1960s until early this century. Along the way, there were many wins and track titles with Paul Lotier and Joey Allen before Dyer hooked up with Lance Dewease. With Dewease at the wheel of the No. 461, Dyer became nationally known and a big winner on the local circuit.
In a twist of fate, Dyer’s last win as a car owner came with Curt Michael at the wheel on, get this, 4/6/01.
Other inductees: The other car owner to gain induction this year is Paul Leffler, who was a force on the United States Auto Club circuit for many years. He won three USAC championships, first with Greg Weld, then Tom Bigelow, and finally with his son, Greg Leffler.
Longtime racing sponsor Don Lambertti is another of this year’s inductees. Lambertti is best known for his sponsorship provided to racers. At Knoxville, he's known for his Casey’s General Stores. Lambertti’s various cars have often come to the area, most recently with 2019 Knoxville champion Brian Brown.
L. Spencer Riggs, a journalist and photographer, was also selected for induction, as was Indy 500 winner Bill Cummings, who was inducted from the pre-1945 driver category.
Reach Bryan Householder at firstname.lastname@example.org.