The cars and stars of yesteryear return to Port Royal Speedway tonight. Members of the Penn Central Racing Association will have their annual reunion prior to the races. Williams Grove Old Timers will display restored race cars. It’s always fun to talk with the guys and hear their stories. Get there early. Gates to the track open at 5 p.m., but I'm sure you can get on the grounds earlier.
Speaking about the Penn Central Racing Association makes me think about local racing history and how important these men are to racing. Penn Central operated both the Reedsville Speedway and Port Royal until the Juniata County Agricultural Society decided it would promote its own races at the track. Penn Central had all the heavy hitters of era racing with it, and if you won a race, you accomplished something.
One of the franchise drivers at that time was Pete Swarmer. Tonight’s race is a memorial to him. Swarmer was my favorite driver when I started going to the races as a kid. I was in awe of the fact that he drove both sprint cars and late models. That’s tough to do now. Think about it, those drivers didn't have power steering. They manhandled their cars around the track, and when one race was over, they climbed out of one car and into the other. Swarmer and Leroy Felty were both good at it.
Swarmer was a full-time professional driver long before it was fashionable, and his career could have been over after he lost a leg in a highway accident. It never stopped him. He continued to race, and won four Port Royal sprint car championships and two late model titles.
Swarmer was popular with the fans. From the 1950s through the early ’70s, Swarmer was one of the main men. He lived in Ferguson Valley near Strodes Mills, an area that produced quite a few talented racers. Swarmer was one of the best. Keith Kauffman is the last driver in the Port Royal field that ran against Swarmer. He’s gone, but for those of us old enough to remember, he will never be forgotten.
One other item of interest about today’s race at Port Royal: DAK Racing Simulators will have four sprint car simulators on hand for fans to try.
Next week’s Challenge at the Port Night sprint car race is taking on a life of its own. The feature race will pay in excess of $5,500 to win, and more money is being added. Heat race winners receive $100 each. A driver will get a right-rear tire and a chance to win a new racing chassis. Fans will have a chance to register for a Fair Week Party Pack of tickets and other goodies.
The All Star Circuit of Champions return to Pennsylvania next week. It visits Lincoln Speedway and Central PA Speedway (Clearfield). The track is now under the ownership of Tim Baney, who also owns a Hooter Cup racing team. Central PA Speedway opened up on May 25 and had a successful UFO late model show.
Speaking of late models, don’t forget the World of Outlaws invades Port Royal Speedway on June 17. Rick Eckert, Steve Francis, Kid Rockit, Josh Richard, Chub Frank, Darrel Lannigan and others are expected. Discount ticket coupons will be available for the show shortly.
Cody Darrah has graduated from Red Lion High School. Darrah took the weekend off from racing to go to the beach. Doug Esh is another driver taking a break. Esh has not had any luck of late.
T.J. Stutts and John Trone have split. I haven’t heard who will take over behind the wheel of this famous racecar. This team never got going, either.
One guy who has to be feeling good about his decision to switch rides last season is Lance DeWease. The No. 30c sprint car has been fast. DeWease is on top of All Star points, and just beat the World of Outlaws at the Lowe’ Motor Speedway dirt track during Memorial Day weekend.
The Sprint Cup cars are in Pennsylvania this weekend for the Pocono 500. TNT has TV coverage tomorrow starting at 12:30 p.m. Jeff Gordon is the defending race champion.
Have a great racing weekend. I’ll be back next week with more news and opinions. Until then, please drive safely!
Craig Rutherford is a Sentinel racing correspondent.