On Sunday, this column reached a milestone. It's been 30 years since I began penning the Dirt Trackin' Column for the York Dispatch.
My first column appeared on Jan. 20, 1983, and featured the late Paul Miller, who was then president of a fairly new organization called the York County Racing Club.
Much has changed in the local racing world since that day. Miller, a former racer, guided the YCRC until his passing in 2011, and his stepson, Todd Bender, is now at the helm. The group, formed in June of 1979, now boasts a membership of over 3,000, and has over $30,000 in its Injured Driver's Fund.
On the local racing scene that year four tracks raced sprint cars regularly, Williams Grove, Lincoln, Selinsgrove and Port Royal. There was no such thing as a 358 sprint car, and late models were the support division at most tracks. The now shuttered Silver Spring and Penn National Speedways were going strong.
A teenager from Memphis named Bobby Davis Jr. was the big sprint car winner that year. He drove Bob Weikert's "Beefmobile" to 26 wins. Although only a good handful of his wins were on local tracks, an Ohio racer was second in sprint car wins that year. Dave Blaney, now a NASCAR Cup driver, won 13 races including victories at Williams Grove, Port Royal and Hagerstown.
Lynn Paxton completed his final year of racing by leading every lap of the Williams Grove National Open in Al Hamilton's #77A. At mid-season Paxton got a teammate who would go on to several great years in Hamilton's #77. That driver was Keith Kauffman. Ironically both Paxton and Kauffman won nine times that year, as did Kenny Jacobs.
Kauffman is still racing today as are other season winners Blaney, Donnie Kreitz Jr., Kramer Williamson, Steve Kinser, Sammy Swindell, Jac Haudenschild and Jimmy Horton.
In late model action Tom Peck was the big winner. Peck had 13 wins that season to top 11 time winner Jeff Robinson. Of course Peck went on to spend several productive years with NASCAR's Grand National division. Jimmy McBee won nine times, and still active Scott Haus won eight late model races. Other 1983 late model winners who are still active include Gary Stuhler, Denny Bonebrake and Mike Hess.
The super sportsman class saw Larry Jackson win nine times, with Dwight Leib scoring eight wins. Recent YCRC Hall of Fame inductee Johnny Murphy won three times as did fellow YCRC Hall of Famers Gary Wolford and Rich Eichelberger. Eichelberger is the only sportsman winner from that season who is still active.
Some research shows that the average sprint car payoff that year was just over $7,000 total with the winner taking home $1,500. Tenth place paid $150 and last was $60.
Today the average sprint car purse is almost $16,000, with the average winner's share just over $3,200. The average for 10th place pays $485, and last is $290.
For fans the average cost to go to the races was around $7, while today it's $14. Pit fees were around $12 then, but are $25 today.
Big sprint car races back then paid between $2,000 and $6,000 to win. Today that average is between $5,000 and $50,000 to win.
DIRT TRACKIN' NOTES
ARCH BANQUET: The Auto Racing Club of Hagerstown hosted its awards banquet on Saturday evening. Sportsmanship drivers from around the area were honored, and several other special awards were presented.
Family patriarch Dan Dietrich, a top sprint car driver himself, was inducted into the ARCH Hall of Fame, as was former stock car driver Bob Rohrbaugh.
Delco Sign's Special Achievement Awards for the 2012 season went to Tim Wagaman, the 358 sprint champion at Lincoln and Trailway, and Lincoln sprint car champion Danny Dietrich. Dietrich was unable to collect his award and watch his father inducted into the Hall of Fame, as he was in L.A. on his way for 10 days of racing in Australia.
ARCH member favorite drivers included sprint driver Aaron Ott, late model driver Nick Dickson and limited late model driver Wayne Walls Jr.
Former racer and promoter Joe Padula won the Chub Shadle Award for contributions to the sport. Padula is a noted historian on late model racing as well.
A new award in memory of longtime announcer and ARCH founder Frank Sagi was presented for best appearing cars. The sprint winner was Robbie Kendall; late models, Marvin Winters; street stocks, Charlie Pensinger, and miscellaneous, Cole Young.
DIRT TRACKIN' SHOW: The annual Dirt Trackin' Show at the York Fairgrounds is this weekend. Hours are Friday from 4 to 10 p.m., Saturday from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m., and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Lots of race cars on display, along with racing products, novelties and speedway displays have always been the highlights of the show. The Ms. Dirt Trackin' contest will be held on Friday evening, with seminars by Simpson Racing Products, the PA State Police, Hammaker Racing Engines, Zemco Headers, ARC Race Cars and Hoosier Tire on Saturday. Saturday evening is also Champions Night with many area track champions on hand to sign autographs. Sunday is Kid's Day with a low admission price of just $5.
Saturday evening will also feature a benefit auction for former driver Scott Ausherman. Ausherman, who by the way was a 1983 super sportsman winner, is suffering from demensia, and his family has fallen on hard times. The auction is set for 8 p.m.
Items for auction are still coming in, but I've already seen a few really neat items. Included are the dash panel from Ausherman's first sprint car, autographed helmets from Eddie Zirkle, and the late Smokey Snellbaker, an autographed helmet visor from former Knoxville Nationals winner Tim Shaffer, and autographed door panel from late model racer Gene Knaub, the trophy the late Dick Tobias won at the 1977 Syracuse Super Dirt Week and many more.
Car owner Michael Barshinger, who once fielded a car for Ausherman, has donated a completely installed vinyl floor through his EmBee and Son business.
-- Reach Bryan Householder at firstname.lastname@example.org.