By JUSTIN SNYDER
PORT ROYAL, PA – With less than 30 days remaining in the year, the Juniata County Fair Board and track promotional staff at Port Royal Speedway are working extremely hard behind the scenes in preparation for the 2021 race season.
Before you know it, the sounds of race cars will again take center stage on the weekends in Juniata County and fans will again gather in the grandstands anxiously awaiting the call to ‘Light the Fires and Kick the Tires’ at the Speed Palace.
The speedway will officially kick off 2021 with a Test & Tune session from 1-4 PM on Saturday, March 6th. All Port Royal Speedway participating divisions are welcome to attend and this will serve as the lead up for the 79th Port Royal Speedway Opening Day the following day on Sunday, March 7th at 2:00 PM.
This will be the third consecutive season that the speedway will attempt a Sunday opener and will feature the 410 Sprint Cars and the Super Late Models in full programs of racing. The sprint cars will compete for a $5000 winners share while the super late models will by vying for $3000.
However, we would be remise if we didn’t first take a look back on a 2020 season that was extremely successful and challenging all at the same time.
Facing multiple obstacles as a result of the global pandemic and Covid-19, Port Royal Speedway persevered to hold 28 races in 2020. While short of the originally scheduled 34 nights of racing, this came after a three-month hiatus due to the affects of the virus and includes the addition of several unplanned races to the schedule.
After all was said and done, the Speedway paid out over 1.5 million dollars to race teams across all divisions in total purse and point fund money. This is the most in the history of the speedway.
We’d like to thank all of the great car owners, drivers and sponsors who called Port Royal Speedway home in 2020 and it is because of your continued dedication, efforts and teamwork that we can reach numbers such as this.
The season kicked off on March 8th in front of a record-breaking crowd on hand for the 78th annual Port Royal Speedway opening day. A pair of first time winners visited victory lane that night as All Star Circuit of Champions invader Cory Eliason scored the $5000 Weikert’s Livestock 410 Sprint Car victory and Virginia’s Trevor Feathers earned the $2500 River Valley Builders Super Late Model triumph.
One week later Lance Dewease added to his historic total by picking up his 113th career Port Royal Speedway victory and Delaware’s Scott Lingo capped the night by picking up his first career speedway triumph in super late model action.
This also served as the debut of the newly constructed infield access tunnel and new infield bathrooms/concessions. The offseason project aimed at increasing in handicap accessibility and fairground infrastructure was one of the most highly anticipated projects by fans and was met with high approval.
Covid-19 took center stage the following week and it would be 91 days in total before racing would return to ‘The Speed Palace’. With completed pit grandstands and a newly constructed victory lane awaiting a winner, Mike Wagner turned back the clock to score his first 410 sprint car victory at the speedway since 2104 in what the track promotion team deemed ‘Opening Day 2.0.’ Gregg Satterlee won in super late model competition and Andrew Yoder won in Limited Late Model competition.
Entering the season with only one Port Royal Speedway career victory, Anthony Macri left his mark on the history books beginning the following week. Macri won the next four 410 sprint car events at the speedway and ran his streak to five when he pulled double duty during the Round 6 PA Speedweek event to also capture the URC 360 Sprint Car feature victory. This included picking up the 5th annual Keith Kauffman Classic against the All Star Circuit of Champions worth $6000. In total Macri scored seven total wins in 2020 to include the Labor Day Classic and the 14th annual Living Legends Dream Race worth $10,000.
Sticking to the trend of repeat winners, Satterlee also picked up another super late model victory to go back-to-back. This was part of a career season for Satterlee at the Speed Palace as he won five total features to increase his total from five to 10. He was also the lone local representative on the podium during the Lucas Oil Late Model finale.
With the Kyle Larson show dominating the headlines across the country, Port Royal Speedway was not immune from the California kid’s dominance. Larson picked up his first career victory at the speedway during the Greg Hodnett Memorial finale of PA Speedweek worth $10,027 enroot to being crowned as the 2020 PA Speedweek champion.
He followed that up by sweeping the All Star Circuit of Champions Bob Weikert Memorial weekend and he also swept the World of Outlaws Nittany Showdown weekend in October for five total sprint car victories at the Juniata County oval. However, it was behind the wheel of a Late Model that Larson made the biggest splash when he defeated the Lucas Oil Late Model Series in only his second career start in a late model to win the Rumble by the River finale worth $15,000.
Tim Mcreadie won the opener for the series at the speedway, with rain cancelling the second of night of racing. The event was the largest paying late model race in the history of the speedway.
Brent Marks scored two 410 sprint car victories in 2020 to include the Curt Hershey tribute race and the 166th annual Juniata County Fair opener, while Jeff Halligan entered the record books with his first career win at the speedway in mid-July. Other winners in 410 Sprint Car competition was Blaine Heimbach and Logan Wagner, who also claimed the track championship for the third consecutive season.
The crown jewel of the season was the three-day Tuscarora 50. Cory Eliason and Lance Dewease (Night Before the 50) picked up preliminary victories and Dewease captured the $53,000 finale for a record seventh time. The win gave him wins in the event in an unrivaled four-consecutive decades.
In super late model competition, Mason Zeigler scored the win during the 16th annual Butch Renninger Memorial worth $5333 for his third career triumph at the speedway. Rick Eckert and Jeff Rine also scored wins for the year, but it was Andy Haus coming out on top as track champion in a battle that came down to the final night over Dylan Yoder and Colton Flinner.
Garrett Bard picked up on his winning ways from 2019 to score five victories in Penns Valley Meat Market PASS/IMCA 305 Sprint Series competition. He closed the season out by getting the win in the 9th annual Keystone RaceSaver Challenge. Other winners in the series were Nick Sweigart (2) and Derek Hauck.
Andrew Yoder picked up his second consecutive Selinsgrove Ford Limited Late Model championship on the strength of four series victories in 2020. The series raced 8 times in 2020 with Dillan Stake, Jared Fulkroad, Todd Snook and Marvin Winter also scoring wins.
Other winners at the track included Alex Bright in USAC East Coast 360 Sprint Car competition, Billy Brian Jr and Joey Biasi in wingless super sportsman competition and Travis Brown and Eric Boozel in the 4-cylinders.
In a late addition to the schedule due to Covid-19 restrictions in New York, the Speedway hosted the richest 2020 event for the Bob Hilbert Sportswear Short Track Super Series for three nights of racing as part of the first annual Speed Showcase 200. Matt Sheppard picked up the win during the night one preliminary, while Danny Bouc, Mike Gular, Billy Pauch Jr., Eric Rudulph and Max McLaughlin scored qualifier wins on night two. Mat Williamsom shocked everybody by scoring the night three finale win worth a whopping $53,000!
In closing we want to thank all of the fans for their continued dedication during a season that was challenging, ever-changing and sometimes frustrating. We know without you that we can’t be successful and we are anxiously looking forward to building on last year’s triumph to be even better.
Please stay tuned to our website and various social media outlets for updates regarding to the speedway and schedule! We’ll see you all in 2021!