BECHTELSVILLE, Pa. — When the gates swing open at Pennsylvania’s Grandview Speedway on June 28, it will mark a significant milestone in a distinctive racing promotion — The 100th event in the “Thunder on the Hill” racing series, a presentation of mostly midweek contests that feature cars and drivers not typically part of Grandview’s Saturday night program.
Grandview, a high-banked third-mile dirt track operated by Bruce Rogers, runs modifieds and late models weekly. Thunder on the Hill, organized by Bob Miller in cooperation with Rogers, began with a stand-alone 410 sprint race in 1990, with no expectation that a series lasting more than 20 years would develop.
But that first event was a hit, and now, having staged Thunder on the Hill races that have included sprints, midgets, modifieds, late models, Legends, mini-sprints and more, Miller and Rogers find themselves about to present their 100th such event. The milestone night will, somewhat fittingly, include the 410 sprints along with the 358 modifieds.
Neither Miller nor Rogers thought that the first event would lead to a second, much less to a series of 100.
“I was just happy to get through the first race,” says Miller. With iffy weather and an iffy forecast, that first race nonetheless drew one of the largest crowds Grandview had seen up to that point. Only after that first event was successful, Miller says, did he and Rogers think, “Let’s try it again.”
By the third year the stand-alone 410 sprint formula began to wear thin, according to Miller, so he began to look for different things. One of the innovative actions Miller took was to bring the West Coast’s CRA sprints to Pennsylvania.
Today, the diverse Thunder series includes events such as the USAC sprints on a twinbill with the ARDC midgets. And each year, one of the series’ most popular events is a multi-division features-only program — an evening of racing with no heats, no time trials, just features.
Miller credits United Racing Club championship-winning driver Dave Kelly with coming up with the idea for the original 410-only program, back when Miller was publicist and official for the traveling group. Miller has since become co-owner of URC, now known as the United Racing Company, yet like the other divisions URC is only occasionally part of a Thunder program.
Miller notes that what began as a purely business relationship with Bruce Rogers has grown into a close friendship, a friendship that includes Miller’s wife, Donna, and Rogers’ wife, Theresa. Both wives have long been active in racing endeavors alongside their husbands.
What’s next? Miller says, “another 100,” noting that he still finds the process to be fun and challenging. Indeed, while the June 28 event will be number 100, the Thunder on the Hill calendar for 2011 continues into the fall, each event different from one another.