Track Of The Day: Williams Grove Speedway

Lance Dewease fends off TJ Stutts (11) during an event at Williams Grove Speedway. (Dan Demarco photo)
Williams Grove Speedway is targeting June 12 for a planned return to racing. (Dan Demarco photo)

With the racing world paused amid the COVID-19 outbreak, SPEED SPORT is highlighting race tracks around the United States. This is part of that ongoing series.

Track of the Day: Williams Grove Speedway
Address: 1 Speedway Drive, Mechanicsburg, PA 17055

History: One of Pennsylvania’s most historic race tracks, Williams Grove Speedway, opened in 1939, when Tommy Hinnershitz won the first race at the half-mile dirt track.

Roy Richwine, who owned the Williams Grove Park amusement park was convinced by car owner Emmett Shelley to build the track across the road from the theme park in late 1937. Richwine and his family owned the track until the 1970s.

During his time in charge, Richwine’s Williams Grove Speedway played host to some of racing’s greatest competitors. Hinnershitz, Ted Horn, Joie Chitwood, Johnny Thomson and many more raced at Williams Grove, which hosted races sanctioned by NASCAR, AAA, USAC and AMA, in addition to events like the Indy Sweepstakes and National Roadster Championship.

In 1972, Morgan Hughes acquired the legendary track, buying it from Richwine’s family. The Hughes family continues to operate the track to this day, with Hughes’ daughter, Kathleen, operating the track since his passing in 2007.

Williams Grove Speedway hosts a number of major events each season, headlined by the National Open. Sanctioned by the World of Outlaws NOS Energy Drink Sprint Car Series, the event pays a whopping $65,000 and has been won by drivers such as Gordon Johncock, Lou Blaney, Kenny Weld, Bobby Allen, Kramer Williamson, Doug Wolfgang, Steve Kinser, Billy Pauch, Sammy Swindell, Fred Rahmer, Lance Dewease, David Gravel and, most recently, Brent Marks.

Other events at Williams Grove include the Tommy Hinnershitz Classic, the Mitch Smith Memorial and the Summer Nationals. The World of Outlaws, All Star Circuit of Champions and Lucas Oil American Sprint Car Series are among the touring divisions that visit the track each season.

The track’s weekly action is headlined by the potent 410 sprint car class. A number of legendary drivers have claimed track titles at Williams Grove through the years, including Hinnershitz, Dick Tobias, Weld, Williamson, Lynn Paxton, Keith Kauffman, Donnie Kreitz Jr., Dewease, Rahmer, Greg Hodnett and, most recently, Danny Dietrich.

The four-wide parade lap prior to the 2019 Champion Racing Oil Summer Nationals opener at Williams Grove Speedway. (Dennis Bicksler photo)