Tonight, Port Royal Speedway hosts the sixth annual Butch Renninger Memorial race. Parents should consider bringing their children to the track as at least 50 kids' bicycles will be given away. Area business persons and race fans donated the bikes.
As far as racing goes, the late models take center stage for this event. They will run a 25-lap feature that will pay $2,000 to win. Late model heat races pay $200 to win. Any additional money will be put into the show.
A regional vinyl decal company donated a bunch of new Butch Renninger Memorial T-shirts which will be available for sale. Any money made will be put into the purse and given directly to the racers. Also part of the program are the sprint cars, pro stocks and enduro cars. Race time is 7 p.m.
Before I continue, I must congratulate Todd Shaffer, Scotty Haus and Teresa Kepner on locking up track championships at Port Royal Speedway. Tonight is the final points race of the season.
Now, back to the Renninger Memorial for a minute. I can't believe it's been five years that Renninger has been gone. Renninger's legacy continues at the Juniata County oval and I have commented before that his passing has shown some folks signs that there must be a higher presence in this world somewhere.
During several events, things have taken place that have made me feel surrounded by a higher authority and Renninger's spirit. I've witnessed sun shine through a rain storm over Port Royal Speedway, a strange man who looked like an he could have been an angel looking over the race track. I saw him the first two weeks after Renninger's death and I've never seen him again. I watched birds circle over the track while Buck Garloff sang and drivers close to Renninger and his family win races.
Coincidence? Could be. But for some of us it has felt like someone was right there looking over things. It happened again this past Saturday night.
Heidi Kauffman, Renninger's daughter is an accomplished equestrian and judge for horse shows. Kauffman was in Pittsburgh last Saturday to judge a horse show and things were not going as planned. She wanted to be home to watch her young daughter, Kyra, race in the kids' big wheel, big foot and bicycle racing. Kyra Kauffman was ready and family members took her to the track. Her car was decaled with the No. 33 on it and Renninger decals were on its hood.
Mom was upset that she was going to miss her race. She and her husband were trying to get back in time and Heidi was almost in tears. She got the first phone call telling her not to rush because there were two major problems in the late model heat races and action was behind.
Then another call came telling her the lights had gone out at the track and there was another delay. Kauffman arrived in time to see her daughter race. Kyra had qualified through her heat race and would run the feature. Mom joked that Pappy was looking over things to make sure she would get there in time to see her race. As Kyra came to the finish line another youngster came up from behind and it looked like she was going to be passed.
Don't ask me how, because Kyra is very young, but her car jerked hard and a classic Butch Renninger-type block was thrown on the other youngster. Contact was made between the two and Kyra got the spot to finish third. I laughed and said that looked like a Butch Renninger move and it was either the luck of a 2- or 3-year-old or - and it looked this way to me - someone just made it happen.
I'm not a big person on the spirit world or ghosts, but things sometimes happen at the race track that make you wonder. If nothing else, it's an interesting story.
While we're on the subject of memorial races, the Selinsgrove Speedway has one tonight. The Joe Whitcomb 358 sprint car memorial will be run. The 25-lap feature pays $1,771 to win and $235 to start. The late models, pro stocks and roadrunners are also part of the show. Show time is 7 p.m.
Williams Grove Speedway will run the Billy Kimmel Memorial Sept. 6. They are urging folks to wear white for a whiteout in Kimmel's memory.
Bedford Speedway will race Labor Day night with the Three State Flyer late model series. There will also be a special 20-lap feature for the top 20 Three State money earners this season.
Port Royal Speedway will race Labor Day afternoon starting at 1 p.m. Todd Shaffer is the defending Labor Day champion. The sprint cars, late models and pro stocks will race.
Last week's Port Royal Speedway sprint car race was one of the best I've seen in years. Greg Hodnett and Chad Layton put on a great show. Hodnett won the event. The new clay has been helping and more was added this week.
Mitch Hack took a nasty spill in late model action flipping on the front straightaway. Hack was not injured but his car was torn up.
I'm told Hack should be back this week with a backup car. Gary Beward is showing he is for real. Beward won for the second straight week in late model competition. Car owner Ed Powell commented he has three race teams competing and six cars available. That's pretty good in my opinion.
Mike Wagner II won the 305 sprint car feature at Port Royal this past week for the second time this season. Wagner was set to head back to school in Ohio this week where he is majoring in nuclear medicine technology. Parents Mike and Ellen are proud of both their kids and it shows. I think Mike gets as much kick out of the kids winning as he does winning himself.
Keith Kauffman will sign autographs Sept. 1 from 4-10 p.m. at the Grange Fair in Centre Hall. The rumor mill has been busy this week and reports have a truck and trailer already located to keep Kauffman in a ride with the Heffner race team. I haven't been able to confirm that, but the team also needs mechanical help and cash to run two cars.
Erin Crocker raced in the Knoxville, Iowa, sprint car nationals recently. She and Ray Evernham were married Wednesday in Las Vegas at the Southpoint Hotel. Crocker signed a driver development contract with Evernham when Evernham owned his own race team. They became romantically involved later. He is now a TV analyst and owns a small portion of the Richard Petty race teams now that his old company merged with Petty. Both are accomplished racers.
That's going to do it for another week. I'll be back with with more news and opinions. Until then, please drive safely.
Craig Rutherford writes about motorsports for The Sentinel. He is associated with Port Royal Speedway.