Greetings from Pennsboro, West Virginia
From the travels and adventures of the “World’s #1 Trackchaser”
Pennsboro Speedway – Track #124
First West Virginia visit – 1982.
My very first track to see in West Virginia was part of a most memorable trip. On October 16 and 17, 1982 I joined my buddy Jim Sabo and my mother and stepfather for a racing adventure to the Pennsboro Speedway. I was living in the Chicago area at the time. Nevertheless, just four days earlier I had been to the famous Lernerville Speedway in Pennsylvania. The weekend after our Pennsboro outing I was in Hagerstown, Maryland for a big late model race. Yes, I’ve been doing this for a long time and movin’ on down the road at a pretty good pace for nearly 40 years!
The racing at Pennsboro would pay the feature winner $50,000 U.S. Back in 1982 that was an “over the moon” sum of money for a short track stock car race. I would see just 18 new tracks for the year out of the 50 overall race nights in ’82. Pennsboro was big but so were several of my other racing visits to places like, Bristol, Rockford, Santa Fe, Indianapolis, Wisconsin State Fair Park, Kokomo, I-70, Knoxville, Eldora, Peoria, Oswego, Winchester and the New York State Fairgrounds to name a few. I went to these tracks as a “racechaser. I went to these tracks because they offered the very best racing at the very best tracks. It was during these times that I began to enjoy traveling long distances to see racing. However, it was not for several more years that I would “move over” from racechasing to trackchasing, i.e. going to a track just for the sake of going to a new track even if the racing might not be very good.
My parents brought their Winnebago motorhome to Pennsboro. Jim Sabo and I came to West Virginia from a different direction. We were here for the weekend. The campers were all parked about five feet from each other for what seemed like miles. If one of them had caught on fire they ALL would have. When the first day of racing was finished, and after being out in the sun all day, we looked for a peaceful night of rest before the big race on Sunday. That was not to be.
When we returned to the Winnebago after Saturday’s races we noticed a huge construction project going on near our campsite. What were they building? They were building the stage for the night’s country and western entertainment! Yep. The C&W band played all night long and into the wee hours of the morning within a sand wedge of where we were trying to sleep.
All of the biggest late model drivers were at Pennsboro for this $50,000 to win race. One of our Peoria Speedway local drivers, Fred Strube in the #S2, was on hand. Pennsboro itself was a very small town. Even in 2010 the town only had 1,171 people! I have long said that West Virginia is the most rural state I visit. The track location was so rural that there was very little fencing surrounding the track property. Beyond the backstretch was a huge hill (nearly a mountain). There was no grandstand seating on this side of the track. However, a few freeloaders had scaled the hillside and were watching the racing for free on Saturday. The next day a large load of dead fish had been spread all over that hillside. In the hot sun the decaying fish discouraged most from watching the race from there!
Of course I have seen racing in all 50 states many times over. However, West Virginia given it’s location and population is probably my most “under represented” state of all. I currently (2014) average 33 tracks for each and every one of the 50 United States. I have only seen six tracks in West Virginia. That’s under represented!
A unique late model stock car was born on this weekend at Pennsboro. I’m talking about the “wedge” car. This car looks an awful lot like a doorstop. It was build this way for aerodynamic reasons. Driver Charlie Swartz was the originator of the “wedge” late model stock car. It was not a coincidence that Charlie won the feature event on both days of my visit in this car. The “wedge” car would create a huge amount of controversy. Later it would be outlawed all together.
On the way out of West Virginia on Sunday night I was driving and Jim was navigating. We were using Jim’s radar detector to “make some time” if you know what I mean. I had never used a radar detector and to this day have never owned one. Jim assured me his radar detector was absolutely foolproof. You probably know where I’m going with this.
In the dark of the night while busting it down the four lane highway we passed a state trooper. With the radar detector we shouldn’t have had a thing to worry about. However, the radar detector didn’t go off until the trooper was about ready to pass us going the opposite direction. I kept going but looked up in the rearview mirror. Yep. The copper was making a u-turn and heading our way. To cut to the chase the trooper stopped us and we ended up following him to the county seat, located in the opposite direction of where we were heading. I paid my fine. Then I looked over to Jim. All he could say was “he must have turned on his radar at the last second”. That soured me on radar detectors AND the definition of “foolproof”.
You might have remembrances about the Pennsboro Speedway. If so, please feel free to share in the comments section below. If you have any photos from back in the day, send them to me at Ranlay@yahoo.com. I’ll try to include them here.