NASCAR Race Weekend Central

Keepin’ it Short – Selingsgrove still putting on thrill shows after all of these years

Selingsgrove Speedway has been hosting races since 1946 except a three year absence in the early 60s. The track was originally designed by Joie Chitwood and has been promoted by a myriad of people throughout its 66 year history. 2011 marks the 49th consecutive year of racing at the storied oval that bills itself as the “Fastest Half Mile on the East Coast”.

The 2011 season will see weekly racing by 358 Sprint Cars, Super Late Models, Pro Stocks and Road Runners. There will also be special events featuring Modifieds, Super Sportsman and other divisions. The 1/5th-mile raceway park, which is in the infield of the half-mile oval will still host go-karts and mini sprints on Friday nights.

Selingsgrove sits on a 115 acre tract of land that was originally the Allison-Davis farm some 48 miles north of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. In 1942 the farm was purchased by the Dauntless Hook and Ladder Fire Company of Selingsgrove to host their annual carnival and night fair. In 1945 the legendary Hollywood stuntman Chitwood laid out the track to not only host races but put on his travelling thrill show. He intentionally designed the track with a much larger front straight compared to the rest of the track, to facilitate his stunt show.

The first automobile race took place on the half-mile dirt oval on July 20th, 1946 with an American Automobile Association race that was 20 laps. Bill Holland won the race and eventually went on to take the Borg-Warner Trophy at Indianapolis in 1949. Second in that inaugural race was Red Byron, the first champion of NASCAR.

The main grandstand was constructed in 1948 by the Bogar Lumber Company of Selingsgrove. It is a wooden structure made with 175,000 board feet of lumber and still stands today. The stands increased the seating capacity of the track from 3,300 to 5,500 fans. The front straight was lighted for Chitwood’s stunt shows, but the entire track was not fully lit until 1953. The first night race was contested on June 19th, 1953. One interesting factoid about Selingsgrove is that the track announcer in the early 50s was world famous commentator Chris Economacki.

The track was closed from July 23rd, 1960 through May 25th, 1963 although there were a handful of special races run from 1960 through 1962. Bob Richwine took over promotion of the track in 1963 and widened the corners to promote more side-by-side racing around the entire oval. Richwine promoted the track until 1968 when Jack Gunn took over the speedway. Gunn is credited with bringing Sprint Cars to the track and establishing it as a premier facility for the open wheel cars in the Northeast.

When Gunn took ill in 1979 Tom Livelsberger took over the track promotion duties. Livelsberger also promoted nearby Lincoln Speedway so he moved the racing to Friday nights at Selingsgrove. While the fields were good and the racing was exciting, the crowds dropped off. By the middle of the year Livelsberger gave up promoting to Joe Trone and racing was moved back to Saturdays which immediately saw the crowds return.

Several people handled the promotion of the facility from 1980 through 2001 and the racing moved to Sunday evenings over the last few years of that period. 2001 saw T.C.R. Promotions take over the track and move the racing once again to Saturday nights. They also adopted a 358 cubic inch engine rule in an attempt to reduce the cost of competing. The promotion team put on a “Pack the Track” night which afforded free admission to the grandstands. It was such a hit that they put it on every season through 2006. 2001 also saw the construction of the raceway park, a 1/5-mile oval in the infield of the half mile oval for go-karts and mini sprints. They contest 17 different classes of racing on Friday nights on the infield oval.

Since 2001 several other improvements have taken place at the speedway. The track has been resurfaced multiple times, a new concession stand has been constructed, new restrooms and a V.I.P. facility were built, upgraded guardrails and lighting have been installed the entire circumference of the racing surface. In 2006, a new scoring tower and system were installed while turns one and three were widened 15-18 feet to provide for better and safer racing.

2007 saw even more modifications to the racing surface. The track was widened 20 feet from turn three to the front straight to complete the modifications started the year before and now afford the competitors the opportunity to race four and even five wide all of the way around the track. The track had 60 truck loads of clay added to the surface along with 20 loads put on the raceway oval in the infield. The infield concession stand was expanded and improvements were made to the V.I.P. Suites in turn 1. Those additions lured the modifieds back to the track for the first time in 25 years for a show in 2008.

2009 saw the improvement continue. Turns 1 and 2 were resurfaced again while additional lights were added to the front straight stanchions along with a new PA system. The new PA system is state of the art with wireless technology that allows the fans to monitor the system by tuning to an FM radio station. The track also added a four by thirteen foot message board in the infield that will allow for advertising and information to be posted throughout the nights of racing. The turns on the track also received 1,500 tons of sifted clay to improve the racing surface.

2010 saw the Super Sportsman division return to the track for the first time since 2004. 2011 was more capital improvements at the speedway. The turn one suites and the operations tower were both expanded. The operations tower was doubled in size affording more space to scorers, announcers and the addition of a media center. Seven suites were added in turn 1 which doubles the amount of available suites including a handicap accessible suite. The new suites have a 32 inch television monitor that will receive a live feed of timing and scoring during racing events.

Selingsgrove Speedway is a very fan focused racing facility that understands people will show up to watch your races if you make it an enjoyable experience for them. The amount of capital investment that has been poured into the facility over the last few years is among the most extensive of any track in the country. If you find yourself in the middle of Pennsylvania on Saturday night, head over to Selingsgrove and check out the fourth annual Icebreaker for the Race of Champions Dirt Modified Tour.

If you’re looking for racing action around the country this weekend, check out some of these events:

Fri : Mar 18 – Giant Chevrolet Speedway ; Hanford : CA – USAC 360 Sprint Series
Fri : Mar 18 – Giant Chevrolet Speedway ; Hanford : CA – WoO Sprint Cars
Fri : Mar 18 – USA Speedway ; Sterlington : LA – SUPR Late Models
Fri : Mar 18 – Columbus Speedway ; Columbus : MS – WoO Late Model Series
Fri : Mar 18 – Southern NM Speedway ; Las Cruces : NM – Renegade Sprint Car Series
Fri : Mar 18 – Selinsgrove Speedway ; Selinsgrove : PA – Race of Champion Dirt Modifieds
Fri : Mar 18 – Golden Triangle Raceway Park ; Beaumont : TX – USMTS Modifieds
Sat : Mar 19 – Auburndale Speedway ; Auburndale ; FL – Florida United Promoters Late Model Series
Sat : Mar 19 – New Smyrna Speedway ; New Smyrna ; FL – USARacing Pro Cup
Sat : Mar 19 – Placerville Speedway ; Placerville : CA – California Sprint Car Civil War Series
Sat : Mar 19 – Thunderbowl Raceway ; Tulare : CA – USAC 360 Sprint Series
Sat : Mar 19 – Thunderbowl Raceway ; Tulare : CA – WoO Sprint Cars
Sat : Mar 19 – Bradenton Motorsports Park ; Bradenton : FL – NMCA Muscle Car Nationals
Sat : Mar 19 – New Smyrna Speedway ; New Smyrna Beach : FL – USARacing Late Models
Sat : Mar 19 – North Florida Speedway ; Lake City : FL – Florida Mini-Sprint Association
Sat : Mar 19 – Baton Rouge Raceway ; Baton Rouge : LA – Cajun Sprinters Association
Sat : Mar 19 – Champion Park Speedway ; Haughton : LA – SUPR Late Models
Sat : Mar 19 – Columbus Speedway ; Columbus : MS – WoO Late Model Series
Sat : Mar 19 – Aztec Speedway ; Aztec : NM – New Mexico Motor Racing Association
Sat : Mar 19 – Sandia Motorsports Park ; Albuquerque : NM – ChumpCar World Series
Sat : Mar 19 – Southern NM Speedway ; Las Cruces : NM – Renegade Sprint Car Series
Sat : Mar 19 – Selinsgrove Speedway ; Selinsgrove : PA – Race of Champion Dirt Modifieds
Sat : Mar 19 – Gator Motorplex ; Willis : TX – USMTS Modifieds
Sat : Mar 19 – Thunderhill Raceway ; Kyle : TX – Dwarf Car Series of Texas
Sun : Mar 20 – Bradenton Motorsports Park ; Bradenton : FL – NMCA Muscle Car Nationals
Sun : Mar 20 – Sandia Motorsports Park ; Albuquerque : NM – ChumpCar World Series
Sun : Mar 20 – Little Rock Speedway ; Rockingham : NC – INEX Legend Cars

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