By DEAN REYNOLDS
A little over a week ago, scrolling through those hallowed pages of Facebook something caught my eye. Actually had to do a double take… There was an ad that showed the Dick Tobias Classic at Action Track USA on Sunday, May 14th. Sunday, hmm, Sunday and Mother’s Day on top of that.
I now this neat little bullring located on the Kutztown Fairgrounds has been in operation for years, it’s been talked about, actually it’s been raved about. But, the normal night of operation is Wednesday. From beautiful downtown North Syracuse, Google Maps has it at 3 hours and 29 minutes. Just a wee bit too far for a down and back and then do the work thing the next day.
So upon stumbling on this event I just said that it had to be done. A). Might be the only time I get a chance and B.) A great way to get different track #115 under my belt. It was to be a solo trip but off I went.
Now for you Pa. folks, I know this read might be a bit boring as you are familiar and fond of what has been happening here for years. For me, it was a trip well spent and came back with “I am glad I did this” feeling.
Under the tandem of Doug Rose and Toby Tobias Jr., Action Track USA has been flourishing. Heavily promoted which leads to big name stars in the field weekly and sponsorships up the ying, yang. It’s small car racing with big car purses. Over the years you will find names like Pauch, Rahmer, Brightbill, Planck, Eckert, Strunk and so many more than will find themselves behind the wheel of a car much bigger and heavier.
The Tobias born, bread and built SpeedSTR are the headline and where many of the names above strap themselves into. Then you throw in the ever so popular wingless 600’s and also the Tobias built Slingshots. Three classes a week that bring in full fields and put on some great action on a track that is perfect for all three.
The Tobias Classic was actually rained out from Aug. of 2016, so this became a bonus. Not only did many new fans make the maiden voyage, it’s the SpeedSTR’s biggest event..until Aug. of this year.
Got there early and the pits were already full with some 20 or so still came on after me…Doug was running all over the joint but still spent time to say hi or shake a hand. It was sort of opening night chaos but the staff was ready and they did it with a smile to boot. Toby Jr. manned and headed the track prep, something he takes great pride in as that is what is talked about the most about…the racing and the surface.
The car counts were like wow, 34 SpeedSTR’s, 65, yes, 65 600’s and over 40 of the Slingers. Got to talk to many friends, most asking the same “What the heck are you doing here?” while in the pits. Then to watch hot laps in the infield (They seem to like doing this in Pa and it’s popular no matter what size track, NY promoters??) I went over to the stands to sit back and enjoy.
I said there were many new comers taking advantage of this Sunday one-off. Right behind me was Area Auto scribe Todd Heintzelman and then a person right in front gave the old hey! It was Friday night Accord winner Jerry Higbie also taking in the show. Just by those coincidences I am sure there were many, many more.
The track is right across the street from an education center and school buses parked right behind the stands. Those are sites you don’t see often. But when you work closely with the town and run a tight ship, you can run one of these race tracks anywhere. They are doing it right here.
Even though Billy Pauch Jr. started the SpeedSTR 75 Lap Tobias Classic on the pole, spotted a few spots after hooking a small rut, had to fend off Steve Buckwalter, Doug Manmiller and Mike Bednar to carry the $5,000 check in victory. Running the Mike Heffner owned mount that his dad took to many wins here including last year’s title, this was Jr.’s 11th career win in a SpeedSTR putting him just two behind pops. More importantly, he’s starting off on top looking for his third Action Track title.
In the 600’s I got to see Alex Bright live for the first time. While he won’t be your first choice to help in a back alley brawl, man can he wheel a race car. I wish I can tell you there was a awesome battle for the win here, but Tim Buckwalter threw everything he had at him. But, this was Bright’s night. He’s defending ARDC champ and you can see why he made it to the B-Main at this year’s Chili Bowl.
This was a cool Mother’s Day and they have a good thing going in Central Pa. While seeing Kenny Brightbill, Tom Mayberry, Lou Cicconi and others actually behind the wheel, this is a heaven for generations handed down. Besides Pauch you had a Brightbill, Rahmer, Reimert, Mayberry, Swavely, Skias, Hartman, Strada, and so many others.
Not sure, when or if I will make a second appearance. It’s not choice but more cause of geography but if you get a chance to head to Kutztown, do so!