LEHIGHTON, Pa. – The late Bill Teel was an iconic individual to the fans and his fellow competitors at Mahoning Valley Speedway.
As a driver he was a good as they got, winning modified track championships in 1988, ’90 and ’00. He was also the 2011 Modified car owner champion with Tyler Haydt. He won 16 features between 1989 and 2000. He also holds the record for consecutive modified feature wins at four in a row.
Another distinctive characteristic of Teel came after the races ended and his many unforgettable late nights of celebration in the pits whether he won or not.
His passing in 2012 left a huge void to the tight-knit racing family at Mahoning Valley, however, since 2017 a special memorial race in his honor has been held and the speedway and a dedicated committee have once again united to make sure the Bill Teel Memorial Modified 16s will again be held.
Dene Smith, Tyler Haydt and Wayne Steigerwalt recently solidified plans with track promoter Keith Hoffman to hold the special race on Saturday evening, Aug. 1 with a rain date slated for the following Saturday if need be.
The Teel race is unique as four 16-lap features are run. Drivers will draw for heat starting spots to qualify for the first feature. The next three feature races will be an invert for starting positions to be determined and provided all drivers are on the lead lap at the respective finishes. In-between features cars will be pitted in the staging area.
This will be a non-point race, however there will be 50 show-up points towards the regular season standings.
“I was very happy after talking to Keith (Hoffman) and getting all of the information together for the event. Keith’s a real go-getter and he’s 100% committed to this as we are,” explained Smith, who helped spearhead the event from the get-go and has continued to work tirelessly along with Haydt and Steigerwalt over the past Teel Memorials to ensure its continuing success.
“Working with Keith, Tyler (Haydt) and Wayne (Steigerwalt), we’re all pledged to do whatever it takes to assure drivers will all be rewarded handsomely as we’ve done in each of the past three years.”
During Teel’s driving career, that began at Dorney Park Speedway and also included stints at Flemington Speedway, Evergreen Raceway as well as selected touring events, he was one of the most esteemed drivers both on and off the track thanks largely to his outgoing character.
The 16 is significant in the fact it was his signature car number and ironically when he won his last feature on July 8, 2000, it would be his 16th.
“Since we started this event drivers have come forward to thank us for the effort of it being a good paying race. We try to make sure everyone comes out making something be it money of some form of contingency,” added Smith.
“The 16-lap format is really thrilling for the fans and we’ve seen some really good drivers and some underdogs come away with wins.”
The driver with the best average finish after the four features will be crowned the overall champion of the Bill Teel Memorial Modified 4-16s. In 2017 that honor went to Don Wagner followed in 2018 by John Markovic and this past year it was young Austin Kochenash who took home the special trophy.