but not forgotten... those grand old racetracks.
By Steve Williams
They used to get cars from Selinsgrove. Riverview Speedway would often race at the same time as the Muncy Speedway, only 15 miles away. Riverview was a good size 1/2 mile that sat right by the Susquehanna River, close to the Thomas Lightfoote Inn. The area is now a pond, created when they excavated to build the Williamsport bypass.
Muncy was an egg shaped high-banked 1/4 mile. Remains are still visible in the woods. Other Williamsport area tracks include a 1/2 mile in Montoursville at Indian Park. Williamsport Fairgrounds at the current Williamsport minor league baseball stadium. There was also a track in the north part of town at a current school that probably hosted racing in the 1930's called Municipal Field.
Bobby Brown still lives
in Northumberland and was a big winner at Muncy Speedway in the 50's. He
was getting married and won the feature the week prior. He was
made to stand in victory lane with the checkered flag and the black flag.
Montandon Speedway was a jalopy track that raced in the late 40's and early 50's. Located in a swamp, the track was mostly soft sand and the narrow tires would dig up the surface so badly that cars would get stuck. The association that was running the track held a raffle with guns as the 1st and 2nd prize. The winners were the president and vice president of the association.
Jack Watts’ Jalopy tracks were built near the twin bridges area near Mazeppa, PA. There were actually two tracks there. The first was a 1/4 mile built on the side of a hill. When cars got crossed up coming out of the turn, they would roll all the way to the bottom of the hill. The next year a 1/3 mile was carved out of a nearby flat field. The sizes of the tracks are approximate because they would get the plow out on Saturday and dig up a track. Not necessarily the same size or shape from the week before. This was more than a couple of guys getting together to have fun as there were races held there for several years.
Jack Watts was a driver as well. He was injured at the Lock Haven Fairgrounds, which was located behind the current Castenea Fire Company and not Clinton County Speedway.
Gil Petrosky of Sunbury built and owned coupes that raced at Selinsgrove, Riverview, Muncy, Lehighton and Evergreen. He also owned a car hauler. He would arrange to meet the local racers that wanted to travel to a track, but did not want to flat tow their cars. It cost $14 and he would load the cars up and go to Silver Spring, Evergreen, and Lehighton, or wherever there was a race.
Al Campbell of Sunbury raced coupes and late models from the early 50's to the mid 60's. He raced mostly at Selinsgrove, but also Riverview, Muncy, Lehighton and Evergreen. He drove for Gil Petrosky and Bob Hollenbach. One dusty Sunday afternoon at Selinsgrove Al went flying out over the 3rd turn and into a barn that used to set there. He could not get out of his car and it was 3 or 4 laps until a caution came out and they realized he was missing. By that time he freed himself and made it back up to the track.
Al teamed up with Bobby Peck of Sunbury. They would take their cars behind the dyke in Sunbury and race each other on a makeshift oval in the area where Sunbury Raceway Park was later built. One of the days they did this was on the day Al got married. They went there raced around for two hours went home, got cleaned up and went to Al's wedding.
Zell Krum operated a junkyard near Catawissa and used to bring his coupe to the track on the back of a flatbed truck. He used to travel alone and when he go to the track he'd find someone to drive his truck while he would crawl into the car fire it up and drive it backward as the truck pulled forward and fly off the back of the truck. He did have ramps to get it back on.
George Renninger of Northumberland built a coupe that ran at Port. The car always had a long snout and was number 72. Leroy Felty and Johnny Crawford were some of his drivers. George’s garage was in the section of town called Kapp Heights and he had junkers around his garage and on neighboring streets. He would pay the local kids $.50 to tear engines apart. He would then scavenge the parts. One of those kids was Jeff Bingaman, who later had his own garage and raced dragsters. Jeff later bought a Lloyd car and ran with KARS their first few years. His number was also 72.
Lynn Paxton’s interview mentioned Billy Wertz. Billy's name pops up throughout the 50's at places like Auburn, Circle M and Port Carbon. Billy was pretty regular at Selinsgrove in 1975 and was probably the last guy to flat tow a sprinter. His old yellow and blue #38 with snow tires and a chicken wire nose was drug behind an old beat up dirty station wagon filled with parts and tools. He would always putt around the back of the heats and get a feature spot on the nights there weren't a lot of cars. One night he started the heat on the pole and took off like a scalded cat, lead several laps and may have even won the heat. I don't remember but I immediately became a Billy Wertz fan. Billy often came to the track alone, but I believe had someone with him the night he was killed at Selinsgrove. I was there and knew the wreck was bad. They put the car on a rollback and put in one of the old barns on the grounds. The next day I heard that Billy had passed away. Billy's record was not one that will ever grab anyone’s attention but I believe he deserves to be enshrined in the EMMR Hall of Fame. RIP Billy.
A little out of our
area was Greater Latrobe Speedway. It was different than the
current Latrobe and about 3 miles away. The track had no sanitary
facilities but was very close to a creek that was used as a bathroom on
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