I was invited to speak at the Eastern Museum of Motor Racing, which is located at the historic Latimore Valley Fairgrounds and race track in York Springs, Pennsylvania. But what isn’t historic when it comes to things in Pennsylvania?
I was never much interested in history when I was in school, and even now I, admittedly, don’t know as much about U.S. history, or even racing history, as I should.
My visits to the EMMR and central PA are always an eye opener. When you see the old farm houses, many built with stone from the surrounding fields, and the barns, some that have stood for over 100 years, you can’t help but try to imagine life in the area generations ago.
Going through the museum, which obviously has sprint cars, since it sits almost smack dab in the middle between Williams Grove Speedway (which ran its first race in 1939) and the fabulous Lincoln Speedway (which has been around since 1953). But the museum also has motorcycles, snowmobiles, drag cars, old signs, and a library for those who like to read. I’m a visual learner, myself. Lol.
My trip to the EMMR was also on the same weekend as the start of the10 races in 10 consecutive days Pennsylvania Speedweek.
Williams Grove Speedway kicked off Speedweek on Friday night with the “Davey Brown Tribute” race and I was able to be at there and sign some of my books, sell a few T-shirts, and hang out next to the restored Bowers Coal 28D car. It is the car and team that got me out on the road with the World of Outlaws and allowed me to win the WoO Rookie of the Year title in 1982.
Davey Brown is 87 years old and is a legendary crew chief (I’m betting he calls himself a “mechanic”) who currently works on the Don Kreitz Jr.-owned No. 69 car that Lance Dewease drives.
It is estimated that Davey has roughly 800 wins as a car owner/mechanic, with many of his drivers in several Halls of Fame.
I stopped by their team to say hi to everyone and had a chance to watch the masterful mechanic in action, if only for a few minutes. We waved to each other as he was sitting on a tire in the trailer looking at the race car. You could tell he was mulling over what to do to the car. At 80 years old, his mind is still sharp and I’m sure there isn’t a scenario he hasn’t already experienced and dealt with when it comes to track condition and chassis set up.
A few minutes later he was down on his hands and knees in the dirt and gravel looking under the front of the car. Then he stood up, took a wrench out of his pocket and slowly and meticulously made adjustments to both front torsion bars. They proceeded to go out and win the race. It was only appropriate that the race named in Mr. Brown’s honor was won by the man himself. You couldn’t have scripted it any better!
On Saturday afternoon, I made a “quick” lap through the EMMR to look around before taking part in a roundtable discussion with museum curator and sprint car legend Lynn Paxton. After we spoke to the crowd, I did a short interview with the guys from Beer Hill Gang TV and had some photos taken next to the 28D car, which was also brought to the museum, before I headed to Lincoln Speedway for night two of PA Speedweek, the Kevin Gobrecht Memorial, which was won by Brent Marks.
The PA fans are fanatical about their sprint car racing, and I actually sold all but one of the books I brought with me before I even got to Lincoln. I met with fans, sold a few shirts and signed some autographs, and I was also interviewed at Lincoln by a local TV news crew for their Sunday night sports show. On social media, I had been seeing just how much coverage this news station gave to racing in the area and it is so great to see “mainstream” media show so much support for racing. I was flattered they included me on their show.
Lincoln Speedway is just outside of Hanover, Pennsylvania, and Hanover is only about 14 miles from Gettysburg and the battlefields. State route 30 (Lincoln Highway) goes right through the town of Gettysburg and also goes through a portion of the actual battlefield as well.
When I was racing, we drove that route several times, but rarely had time to slow down to look at anything, not to mention ever stop for a look. But, as I mentioned, back when I was racing, I was more interested in getting to the next race on time than taking time to learn about history.
But on my drive home on Sunday, I took the time to drive through some of the battlefield. It is far more vast than most would imagine, so I didn’t get to see all of it. But seeing the barricades and the cannons lined up, and reading some of the plaques along the way, it is hard to fathom the horrendous battle that took place there.
On a lighter note, I also stopped in the little borough of Canonsburg, Pennsylvania on my way home as well. Canonsburg is just south of Pittsburgh and is the location of the now-closed Yenko Chevrolet dealership that produced the legendary Yenko Camaros, Chevelles, and Novas back in the late 1960’s.
For those not familiar with the Yenko story, in 1967 this small dealership in a small town of around 8,000 people converted pretty much box stock Camaros into some of the most coveted high-performance muscle cars in the entire United States. They took brand new Camaros and pulled the engines out and dropped in highly-modified big block 427ci engines and added many other high-performance modifications.
Within a couple years they added Chevelles and Novas to the lineup, and also added the instantly-recognizable YENKO name and striping to the sides of the cars to complete the package. They were a turnkey hot rod that you could buy right off the showroom floor.
Unfortunately, by the 1970’s, insurance rates and higher gas prices killed off the demand for not only the Yenko high-performance machines, but muscle cars in general.
For someone who isn’t/wasn’t very much into history, I had a great weekend of racing with a few interesting history lessons thrown in as well.