WAYNESFIELD, Ohio – After 16 years of operation, Waynesfield Raceway Park faced an uncertain future going into this year.
Owners Greg and Tami Shobe were thinking about scaling back operations at the third-mile high banked dirt oval known as “The Field.” Shane Helms, a former sprint car driver and successful Ohio businessman, didn’t want to see the track go by the wayside.
Helms, who followed in the sprint car driving footsteps of his father Larry and whose son Caleb continues to drive 410 sprint cars, has reached an agreement with the Shobes to partner up for four special sprint car events in 2019.
“Greg simply didn’t want the work and stress of preparing a track every week any longer. He has other jobs and his farm to run,” Helms said. “I know he feels very bad for the teams that counted on running every Saturday and hopes they can continue to race at other area tracks. It was really a hard decision for Greg but I understand how he feels. I’m thankful he wants to work with me to put on some shows this coming year.
“The drivers all love to compete at Waynesfield. The high banking and speeds are a challenge. The fans love the excitement and entertainment a one-third mile track offers. We’re confident the shows we put on will be a success. We don’t have exact dates for the special events as yet. We want to work with the other area tracks so as not to create scheduling problems.”
Besides the weekly divisions of non-wing sprints, modifieds, mini-sprints, trucks and compacts, Waynesfield Raceway Park has played host to several traveling sprint car series over its history, including the All Star Circuit of Champions, NRA Sprint Invaders, FAST and USAC.
Helms plans to recognize some of Ohio’s racing heroes at the Waynesfield special events, including National Sprint Car Hall of Fame inductees Bob Hampshire, Jack Hewitt and Rick Ferkel.
“We may involve the NRA (360 c.i. sprints) in a show. All of the shows will be very good paying events,” Helms said. “I grew up watching Rick Ferkel and Jack Hewitt and all the great drivers Bob Hampshire had in his cars. These three gentlemen mean everything to racing in Ohio and the region.”
The Bob Hampshire Classic will honor the Alvada, Ohio former sprint car owner and mechanic. Hampshire scored an All Star championship in 1985 with Hewitt behind the wheel and was the mechanic on several of Kody Swanson’s four USAC Silver Crown championships.
Last year the Bob Hampshire Classic was held at Waynesfield Raceway Park under the All Star Circuit of Champions sanction. Former NASCAR Truck Series champion Christopher Bell scored the May win.
Ferkel, who lived in nearby Findlay and Tiffin most of his life, recorded nearly 400 sprint car wins during his driving career. He now helps his son, Ricky, who competes in sprint car racing in Michigan.
Last year Helms helped promote the inaugural Rick Ferkel Classic, sanctioned again by the All Stars, at Atomic Speedway near Chillicothe, Ohio. Cole Duncan scored the victory.
Waynesfield has played host to the Jack Hewitt Classic for 10 years. Hewitt is the only driver to win all four features in one night during Eldora Speedway’s Four Crown USAC Nationals and until last season was the all-time leader in USAC Silver Crown wins.
Lee Underwood scored the Jack Hewitt Classic win at Waynesfield in 2018 as the event was sanctioned by the Buckeye Outlaw Sprint Series.
“In keeping with tradition, the Hewitt race will be a non-wing sprint car event and could be sanctioned by BOSS,” Helms said. “We are also discussing having winged sprints with this show, possibly with the FAST group.”