Nestled within the trees only minutes north of a Pennsylvania county best known as “Amish Country”, a small place sits with horsepower and competition that could be easily compared to other well-known facilities around the country.
Clyde Martin Memorial Speedway, named for the track’s first flagman, is a 1/8-mile clay surface in Newmanstown, Pennsylvania that features five different divisions of close winged Micro Sprint racing on most summer Saturday nights. Because of its on track persona, it is also aptly coined the “Biggest Little Track in the USA.”
Governed by the Lanco Micro-Midget Racing Club, a reason behind the facility also being referred to as “Lanco,” a board of directors as well as officers and representatives make decisions throughout each year to present the best possible racing product as well as keep items economical for the teams. Founded in 1957, the club has been operating continuously to this day.
One of the club and track’s biggest events of the year took place this past Saturday night. The annual Clyde Martin Memorial, known simply as “The Clyde” to many fans and competitors, includes extra distance features for all five local classes in which only members of the club that have been present for at least half of the regular season races are permitted to participate. 10 laps are added on to their normal 25 lap length and double points are on the line, presenting an added amount of strategy. In addition, the storied tradition of the event includes the winner’s trophy being handed down from one year to the next until a driver is victorious for the third time.
On this night, the one to watch was a veteran driver by the name of Mike Rutherford, as he normally is a threat to win in multiple divisions every week. The Lititz, Pennsylvania racer won his heat and quickly made it to the front of the 270cc feature to begin his first attempt for victory. He would be successful in a car owned by Ken and Tony Kaylor, a driver and team combination that has been together for more than a decade and have been the track champions the last three years.
“I’ve got to thank them; they do an awesome job for me each and every week,” Rutherford told Speed51.com powered by JEGS after the night’s action. “I thought we were a second or third place car. We just kept rolling the top and managed to squeak out front and hold on for the win.”
Next up for Rutherford was the track’s fastest and most powerful class, the 600cc machines, which start on their own, opposed to the other four styles of cars which all need a push to start. He methodically diced through traffic, but in the end could only muster a third in this feature finishing behind previous week’s winner Jason Swavely and race winner Chris Panczner.
“I thought we had a shot at the win,” Rutherford mentioned. “We got bottled up trying to get by the leader. We’ve been struggling a little bit lately, so definitely nice to get a top three there.”
The final race of the night was for the Sportsman cars, a class that serves as both an entry level and for those that want to play around at the most affordable rate. Rutherford immediately climbed from the final row to being within striking distance for the lead. Unfortunately, his skill and the car’s strength would not be enough by lap 35 to track down and clear Ken Miller for the win.
“That car doesn’t really get the attention it deserves,” Rutherford admitted. “I left some things loose on it and I went out there and pushed off and the spark plug was getting ready to fall off, so I had to come in and get the pit crew to fix that. We started 23rd or 24th and we got to third in a hurry and then got second. It was definitely an exciting race for the win. We just came up a little bit short when a caution caught us at the wrong time.”
Other winners on this night were Chase Gutshall in the 125cc class and David Ravel in the 250cc Four Stroke division.
With other major dirt track events in the region taking place on the same weekend, fans from the area still flocked to Clyde Martin Memorial Speedway for some intense short track racing. More than 100 different cars across the five divisions were on hand to put on a show for those in attendance, showing the health of Micro Sprint racing continues to be strong after several decades.
Heath Hehnly has competed at the facility for several years and comes into 2015 as the two-time defending 600cc track champion.
“It’s a fun family atmosphere,” the Manheim, Pennsylvania resident remarked. “Everybody sort of knows everybody and it’s 15 minutes from home. It’s usually two grooves so you can get around there and race around. It is the best Micro track around.”
The track has been seeing resurgence in car counts in 2015 compared to the last handful of years, and Hehnly believes there are a few reasons.
“The time I have been in Micro racing it’s been up and down,” Hehnly stated. “What they did is they made a Sportsman class that is liquid cooled. It’s basically a 270 that you can’t have a stroke crank so a lot of the guys can enter the Sportsman class and go right to the 270 class. That’s become a real good class and the car count has really jumped and really helped bring it around. We’ve got these kids coming up and wanting to race the four-strokes and that stuff so the classes do keep growing.”
Hehnly has previously participated in indoor racing events such as the Atlantic City Gambler’s Classic and actively competes mid-week at Action Track USA in Kutztown, Pennsylvania without the wing on his Micro Sprint. His main amount of success has come at Lanco though, where he finished seventh on Saturday night. Although he came into the event with the point lead, 2015 has him working with different surroundings after his championship-winning owner retired at the end of 2014.
“The season has been pretty good,” Hehnly said. “It’s my first year with Gary (Hunter) so we’re working on communicating and he’s figuring out what I need and I’m figuring out what he does. We’ve been good here with a wing on and wingless we’ve been playing around a little bit. Hopefully we can continue our good year we’re having here.”
Rutherford has also taken his talents to other tracks on occasion, but admits that Clyde Martin Memorial Speedway has kept him involved in racing.
“Honestly, I probably would have retired years ago if it weren’t for coming back here and just spending time with friends. We’ll cool off, put the racecars away, enjoy a couple recreational beverages, and sit around the campfire.”
Clyde Martin Memorial Speedway is far from the only place that presents these characteristics. Grassroots facilities in many hidden away locales feature a laid back atmosphere that attracts tight knit communities in their own unique way.
– By Aaron Creed, Speed51.com Pennsylvania/Central New York Editor – Twitter: @aaron_creed
– Photo credit: Speed51.com