Tonight marks the end of an era.
Keith Kauffman will strap into a sprint car for the last time in his illustrious career. It's been a heck of a ride - wins all over the country, induction into the National Sprint Car Hall of Fame and a lot of hard work and fun. I don't think one person can sum up Kauffman's career in a few words. He's been that good.But I will attempt to say what he has meant to me as a race fan and to the Port Royal Speedway in particular.
First, Kauffman has been the franchise player. It didn't matter if he was winning a bunch of races or not. Keith Kauffman filled the Juniata County oval's seats. He has driven both quality rides and some that were not quite up to snuff and got the most out of all of them. I will never forget a quote by the late Ted Johnson, who owned the World of Outlaws at the time: "Keith Kauffman got more out of a 10th place race car than any driver I've ever seen."
There could not be a more correct statement. Kauffman has survived in sport that can reach out and bite you. Face it, If one drives sprint cars long enough you will be injured. Tony Stewart can attest to that. Heck, if you drive any type race car you are likely to get hurt. Kauffman had two incidents that stick out in his career. He drove the Crash brothers car briefly and was hit and injured in turn one at Port Royal many years ago. The switch board at the Lewistown Hospital went crazy. On another occasion, Kauffman suffered a leg injury and was out of the race car for part of a season. Overall, not bad.
I just want to see him out of a race car safe, sound and able to talk about his experiences. There isn't a driver that has more devoted fans than Keith Kauffman. Probably one of his biggest fans is Paul Boyer of Lewistown, who went every where he could to watch Kauffman race. If Boyer could make it to a Keith Kauffman race he was there. I reach tonight with mixed emotions. I will miss Kauffman as a race car driver for sure. But I will be happy for him to walk away healthy.
Congratulation champ. You have left your mark and it's going to take a big man to fill your shoes.
Kaufffman will join Jed Donahue and me this morning on the Pennsylvania Sports Network to talk racing on his final day as a competitive driver. That interview will air sometime between 11:30 and noon. Locally, WIEZ-AM 670 carries the broadcast.
The All Star Circuit of Champions invade Port Royal Speedway led by defending Tuscarora 50 champion Dale Blaney for tonight's race. Blaney is the first All Star regular to win a sanctioned All Star event at Port Royal.
So who is going to win this evening's Tuscarora 50? I'd love it to be Keith Kauffman. However, Greg Hodnett, who won Friday's Night Before the 50, is going to be tough and so is Blaney. Don't count out Lance Dewease who picked up the Labor day Classic earlier this week. Dewease has had a tough year but he and Hodnett seem to to rise to the occasion when it matters.
It's unlikely Fred Rahmer will compete in tonight's Tuscarora 50. Rahmer wrapped up his 11th Lincoln Speedway track championship last Saturday night over Brian Montieth. Rahmer amassed an amazing 169 wins at Lincoln Speedway alone. His modified and sprint car win total is well over 500. That's amazing.
Next week, Selinsgrove Speedway will present the Jim Nace Memorial National Open for sprint cars. The 44-lap feature will pay $12,000 to win.
NASCAR may meet Penn State football when Michigan visits next month. Elliott Sadler's Joe Gibbs-owned show car will be on display outside Beaver Stadium if current plans hold true. Look for more cross promotions of this type in the future.
We are upon the fall season of special races for sprint cars and late models. A large amount of money is going to be on the line and I wish all our local drivers the best of luck and safety.
Craig Rutherford writes about motorsports for The Sentinel.