Jennerstown Revival On The Horizon

Jennerstown (Pa.) Speedway, closed since 2009, will return to life in 2014 under new ownership. (Sheena Baker Photo)
Jennerstown (Pa.) Speedway, closed since 2009, will return to life in 2014 under new ownership. (Sheena Baker Photo)
Jennerstown (Pa.) Speedway, closed since 2009, will return to life in 2014 under new ownership. (Sheena Baker Photo)

JENNERSTOWN, Pa. — Closed since 2009, Jennerstown Speedway looks to be getting a new beginning in 2014.

Three local men — John Taylor, Bryan Smith and Robert Beck — have come together to form ZeroTime Entertainment and are in the process of purchasing the .522-mile venue with plans to re-open the facility for racing as soon as May.

The deal is all but done according to Taylor, who spoke with National Speed Sport News by phone on Tuesday.

“The sale is completed. It’s ours. The only thing we are waiting on is the attorney to draw up the proper paperwork so we can sign on the dotted line,” Taylor said. “We have the place. Nobody else was in line for it.”

Jennerstown Speedway began as a half-mile dirt track in the 1920s and has gone through a few different incarnations through the years. The track was paved in 1987 for the first time and hosted the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour, the Hooters Pro Cup (now CARS X-1R Pro Cup) Series and the American Speed Ass’n.

The track was closed in 2009 when owner Dave Wheeler put the facility up for sale. The plan to purchase the speedway was hatched by Taylor and company after the three men competed in SCCA-sanctioned AutoCross events at the facility.

“The three of us are officers in the local Allegheny Highlands chapter of the Sports Car Club of America,” Taylor explained. “We ran AutoCross events in the infield for the last two years. Over time we kept looking around and seeing that the place was vacant and we knew that it was a great historical site.

“We just kept asking ourselves, ‘I wonder if somebody can open this back up. I wonder what we can do to open it back up.’ Then we started talking to the owner, Mr. Wheeler, then low and behold through a chain of events here we are opening it back up.”

The new owners hope to open the facility next May and host weekly racing every Saturday night with late models serving as the premier class. Other weekly classes that are expected to compete include chargers, street stocks and a four-cylinder class. Taylor said they are also in negotiations with two touring series that could race at Jennerstown in 2014.

“We’re hoping to maybe mix in some modifieds here and there and maybe even bring in some super late models throughout the season. Just kind of mix them in with the regular classes,” Taylor said.

The group also hopes the facility will host more than just racing. They’d like to see the facility operating “seven days a week” by hosting car shows, drifting, monster truck shows, swap meets and other community events. There are even conversations about hosting winter events, such as snowmobile racing, at the track.

Before any of that can happen, the facility needs some tender love and care. Taylor said that besides needing a fresh coat of paint everywhere, the entire electrical system will need work and most of the building windows will need replaced.

“All the electricity was stolen out of the place, all of the copper wiring, so that has to be put back in,” Taylor said. “There was a lot of vandalism that went on in there. Door jams have been broken and windows have been busted out. Basically when they got into the buildings they just trashed the place.

“Aside from the major vandalism and the electricity, it is just a matter of cleaning everything up and putting a fresh coat of paint on everything.”

Luckily for the new ownership group, the racing surface won’t need any attention. The track received a new polymer-based racing surface in 2004 that is still in excellent condition according to Taylor.

“The racing surface is in excellent shape,” Taylor said. “It is a really good surface. From what I’m told by the racers that have raced on it, it makes the track very fast and very grippy.”

Anytime a group announces plans to re-open a vacant speedway, there is naturally some skepticism.

“It is definitely going to happen. There is no doubt about that. There is no backing out at this point,” Taylor said. “We’ve got the proper backing. We’ve got the community support. Mr. Wheeler is going to stay on as a consultant with us to help us get through opening it up since he has run it before and knows the ins and outs of the speedway.

“We just have a lot of backing from racers, the community and the previous owners. If we fail at this point it is because something tragic happens. There is too much pushing it forward for this not to happen.”