The Unknown Sport of Sprint Car Racing
By Austin Rife
There is a sport that no one is aware of except for a couple thousand people scattered throughout the world. This sport is heavily adored in small portions of the world but is unknown to many. This sport is known as sprint car racing and if you ask most CEOs, they probably have no clue what you are talking about. As it turns out sprint cars are just not good enough for regular TV coverage which is utterly wrong. Sprint cars blaze at speeds of up to 160 miles per hour and slide into the corners of half-mile dirt tracks across the world leaving spectators breath-taken from the great racing. Tell me when you ever will see that in a Formula 1 race.
Sprint car racing has been around since the 60s and has evolved a lot through the years. They have become a lot lighter and faster which enables the cars to fly through the dirt and provide some very exciting racing. Anybody that goes to sprint car races will tell you that they would watch the winged sprints ten times before they would go watch a boring 500 mile INDY car race that no one passes except for on restarts. This is what really has me confused about why an unexciting INDY or F1 race will be on every weekend but sprint car races make it to TV maybe once a month on select television programs. As a an avid sprint car fan, it really ticks me off to see an F1 race on with very little passing and excitement that is live and then watch a sprint car race on TV the next week that I saw three weeks ago in-person.
Many sprint car fans like me are questioning this as well. It’s a great sport but sprint cars truly aren’t made for the television market. It’s very unfortunate but sprint car racing doesn’t have the amount of beloved superstars that F1 racing and Indy racing have. You can meet a lot of racing’s best in a local Wal-Mart in town. Does this make it wrong? Heck no, I would much rather meet a great sprint car driver in the local retail store and have a good conversation with him or her than have to wait in a two- hour line to meet some INDY superstar that really does not care about the person but just cares about getting to the next autograph to get on their million-dollar private jet to go home. Sprint car racing is a great sport it just does not have the lavish luxuries that come with racing the big-time asphalt tracks around the country.
Personally, I could care less about all those luxuries. When I watch a race I want to see a good race with a lot of passing and action. It really does not matter what you make at the end of the day. I can pay 13 dollars to go to a local sprint car race and love life for 4 hours. I do not need to pay a couple hundred dollars to watch an unexciting race with no passing. Whether, sprint car racing is as popular as INDY or F1, it does not matter. If you show the sprints on TV, people will begin to like it. As a person living in Pennsylvania, I advise you if you want to go have a lot of fun watching a sprint car race, go to a local sprint car race at a dirt track near you. You will have a blast without having to empty your pockets for no reason. I go to William’s Grove Speedway on some Friday nights and Lincoln Speedway every Saturday night. Like I always say dirt’s for racing; Asphalt’s for getting there.
NASCAR Got Right With Ike
By Audrey Parente, Staff Writer – News-Journal Corporation
A cigar-chewing race-promoter sidekick of Bill France Sr. sat down with President Dwight D. Eisenhower at a Gettysburg, Pa., restaurant to save auto racing from oblivion.
During the mid-1950s, an Oregon senator proposed a national ban on the activity, after deadly racing accidents at Watkins Glen, N.Y., Langhorne Speedway in Langhorne, Pa., and Indianapolis.
Efforts to curb racing also were under way in Italy, Switzerland and France after a disastrous accident at a LeMans race in France in 1955. A Mercedes plunged into the spectators, killing the driver and at least 80 people and injuring more than 100 men, women and children.
“People alive today have no idea about how many people used to be killed in and around auto racing — not only race drivers but cars regularly went into the grandstands,” said Edgar Otto of Boca Raton. His father was the fast-talking promoter, Ed Otto, who met with the 34th president on behalf of NASCAR.
At this time, AAA also sanctioned auto races but pulled out as anti-race press and public sentiment mounted. France was getting worried, Otto said in an interview in Ormond Beach, where he recently promoted his book, “Ed Otto, NASCAR’s Silent Partner.”
“France said to my dad: ‘You are a Yankee. Why don’t you go on up to Washington and see what you can do about this?,’ ” Otto said.
Otto’s father called Pennsylvania race promoter Hilly Rife, who owned a farm adjacent to President Eisenhower’s farm, used for weekend retreats.
Rife, now of Ormond Beach, said he called Pennsylvania state Rep. Francis Worley.
“He was a friend of my family and would do everything for me,” Rife said. “I said, ‘Can you get me in touch with Ike?’ And in two weeks he had it worked out.”
A meeting was arranged at a downtown restaurant. Rife drove Otto into Gettysburg and met Worley.
“I waited across the street. Francis Worley took Ed into the restaurant,” Rife said. “Ed came out first, and Francis came out later with Ike.
“Ed said Ike told him: ‘Don’t worry about a thing; it won’t go any further, and if it does, I will stop it. You can go back to Daytona and tell them they don’t have to worry about it,’ ” Rife said.
Otto said NASCAR followed up by making racing safer, “not only for the drivers but for the spectators.”
Source: 2007 News-Journal Corporation. ® www.news-journalonline.com.
The Hilly Rife Story
by Bob MaGinley, Illustrated Speedway News – Speedway Personalities
Some say Hilly is “crazy,” a spendthrift and fool, Others state that he is a “Promoter’s” promoter always working to further the reputation of his already famous “Fabulous” Lincoln Speedway.
Farm boy, race driver, auto dealer and track owner, Hilly Rife at 38 years has parlayed a love for auto racing, sharp business mind and an effervescent personality into a three-track stock car circuit promotion.
The Dorsey Speedway, Elkridge, Ms., the “Fabulous” Lincoln Speedway and the Susquehanna Speedway, Newberrytown, Pa. to go make up the operation.
Born Sept. 1, 1927 on a dairy farm in New Oxford, Pa., Hilly spent his youth as a farm boy doing chores and dreaming of his ambition to become an aircraft pilot.
He attended New Oxford, Pa. High School and in 1945 married Beckey E. Wenschhof. They now have three children, Vickie Diana, 20; Hillen G, 18, and Larry E., 18.
Hilly’s interest in auto racing dates back to the resumption of the sport in the Penna. Area, following World War II, Ted Horn, Bill Holland, Bill Schindler and Tommy Hinnershitz became his idols.
In 1949 Hilly Rife started his racing career. He purchased a ’37 Ford coupe from Bob Mundorf of York, Pa. and competed in his first even at the Mason Dixon Spdwy., Oxford, Pa.
From 1950 to 1953 the Lancaster, Pa. Speedway and Mason Dixon provided the experience he needed to become a winning driver.
Hilly became President of the newly formed Lincoln Speedway Corp. in 1953 on the strength of his racing knowledge.
Late model competition in 1953 with the Penn-Mar Racing Assn., in addition to his Sports-Modified activities, led to NASCAR Grand National rides in 1954.
Driving the Kuhn Auto Sales 1954 Dodge Coronet, the late and great Joe Weatherly paid the then handsome sum of $85.00 for Hilly to appear at his Virginia Beach, Va., Speedway with his fast and sharp appearing Dodge.
During 1955 Hilly copped 17 features. A nasty spill at Lancaster cost him his right thumb. Four weeks later, he won his first feature race at the Lincoln Speedway.
1956 saw the driver-promoter finish 2nd in point at Lincoln and Lancaster without a feature win.
The untimely end of what could have been a brilliant driving career came in a near-fatal flip over the first turn bank of the Lincoln Speedway on June 29, 1957. Prior to the accident Hilly copped seven features in the famous #999 Ford.
After 12 weeks of convalescence, it was confirmed that Hilly was sidelined from oval competition and relegated to the role of full time promoter.
In 1958 driving a “showroom” Plymouth Golden Commando, on the sands at Daytona Beach, Fla. During “Speed Weeks” Hilly out scored the “factory” Plymouths with a blistering 122.256 through the measured mile traps.
In 1959 the ambitious New Oxford promoter became sole owner of the Lincoln Speedway and a new era of race promoting came to light in the Central Penna. Area.
Flamboyant advertising, diversified competition, introduction of split shows, added attractions, and the Institution of Modified racing at Lincoln headed a long line of “firsts” that appealed to the race fans and packed the Lincoln Speedway for every race meet.
To show his appreciation to the fans for their loyalty, Hilly presented a full show of racing, paying $3,100.00 in purses while allowing all spectators into the Speedway for FREE.
Langhorne’s co-promoter Irv Fried, witnessing a regular weekly Modified race program dubbed the action “Fabulous.” Hilly quick on the uptake incorporated it into the track name.
The Hilly Rife promotional methods have earned him the reputation of a “Free Swinger.” Close studies of the operations reveal a definite purpose behind every move that pays of at the box office.
In 1964 the Lincoln Speedway and Hilly Rife attracted National attention after Hilly negotiated the “impossible” insurance coverage, the broadest in THE WORLD for ANY speedway. Today the entire racing industry has broadened its coverage of competitors and spectators alike as the result.
Asked the formula for his success, Hilly states, “A love for racing. You have to be aware of the problems of drivers and owners, try to please the spectators at all times. Present new and interesting shows that will keep the fans coming back.”
Good quality food at sensible prices at the concussion stands in another must. His record of 5300lbs of French Fries for one race meet is proof that fans like their food.
When questioned about his promotions, Hilly said, “I feel that cleanliness and safety are the two most important factors where the race plant is concerned. We have a doctor in attendance at Lincoln with our own hospital. Two ambulances assure the show continuing the case of an emergency.
The condition the racetrack is in reflects itself in the type of show that results. We work on all of our dirt surfaces all week long in an attempt to have the best surface possible.
Some say I’m a nut and a “show-off” with some of the ideas I get. As a promoter I do my best to attract attention to the sport, and my operations are as it should be, at least that’s my feelings.
Racing next to my family is my life. I try to make it a success, and will continue to improve the sport in any small way that I can.”
A big cigar, horned rimmed glasses and cheerful smile are the trademark of this hustling impresario of speed, that is in the thick of things at all of his race meets. Some say he’s a “way out,” others respect him for what he is, a “promoter’s” promoter.
Hilly takes it all in stride with a chuckle and sly smile, doing what he loves best, promoting. Along the way he has acquired a “multi-engine” pilot license logging 2,100 hours in the air, “as a hobby.”
Source: Illustrated Speedway News, Year: Unknown
Notes: I spoke with Hilly Rife on March 7, 2009. What a fun guy to talk with! Here’s some things Hilly thought would be interesting to share with the race fans.
• The first sprint car that raced at Lincoln Speedway in 1968 was Gus Linderman in the #69 sprinter.
• The winner received $1,000.00 for the first feature win at Lincoln Speedway.
• The admission for the first race at Lincoln Speedway was $1.50 per person.