Short track racing boasts a family lineage that reaches far back to its roots. The region of Northeast Pennsylvania asphalt racing is no different with third and even fourth generations of well-known last names continuing to make their own name in the sport.
The Beers family has been one of the more recognized in the area for decades, infamous for residing on Mud Lane in Northampton, Pennsylvania on the same street as the successful Hirschmans. The patriarch, Dale Beers, fielded several winning cars starting in the 1960s at numerous tracks that were open for business at the time. He passed away in 2005, but his honor continues to live on through his sons Jason and Eric. Jason has won in Street Stocks at Mahoning Valley Speedway (PA), but it is Eric who has turned heads since the early 1990s.
While Eric Beers, a former competitor on the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour, continues to win races and titles at his home track, he has been helping groom along two more racers. His daughter Kailyn began racing Pro 4 cars, a unique class featuring mainly Ford Pintos, weekly a few years back. Then in mid-2015, Kailyn’s younger brother Austin gave the ¼-mile a try in the Hobby Stocks.
“I grew up doing the same thing they did, going to the tracks every Saturday night,” Eric Beers, who holds a record 53 Modified victories at Mahoning Valley, told Speed51.com powered by JEGS. “It’s neat to see the next generation coming through and that the fire is there that they want to do it.”
Kailyn picked up her first career Pro 4 feature victory a season ago and remains in the hunt for the season title with another teenager Johnny Bennett, whose father John sits fourth on the all-time Modified win charts at Mahoning Valley.
“It’s pretty awesome being able to run at the same track my dad runs at,” Kailyn said. “He’s won a couple championships there and I’m fifth in points now so hopefully I’ll win a championship. Not going to get my hopes up, but it’s nice to have me, my brother, and my dad all racing at the same track, and my boyfriend (Eric Beers’ Modified teammate Jack Ely) too.”
While many families were out at parks and gatherings having cookouts and welcoming in the summer during Memorial Day weekend, the Beers family was at Mahoning Valley on Saturday night and then ventured over to nearby Evergreen Raceway Park (PA) the next afternoon doing the preferred recreation they are most familiar with.
“When you come out of the womb and your dad leaves right after you’re born to go to a race it’s kind of in your blood,” Kailyn Beers indicated.
Diehard Modified fans may remember the name Austin Beers from winning the Pedal Car races at the young age of three years old during the annual North-South Shootout at Concord Speedway (NC) years ago. Still only 14 years old, he is winning races in the entry level Hobby Stock class and spoke about his recent foray on a second slightly larger track surface.
“It’s very fun; I enjoy it a lot,” Austin Beers commented. “Getting to run a full-size car with all these 20 year olds is really fun, getting on the track and having some fun on the weekends. (Evergreen) you have to brake getting into the corners and (Mahoning Valley) you just lift and get on the gas.”
Eric Beers most recently had the opportunity to coach Austin to a victory in the class filled with rising talent in April.
“It’s really great to see them win,” the multi-time track champion at both Mahoning Valley and Evergreen noted. “The biggest thing for me is just to see them learn. They’re improving every week. He’s been starting like 15th because he’s second in points down there and driving into the top five. In that class, it’s not that easy. He’s doing a real nice job. (Kailyn)’s doing a good job out in her class. It’s just neat to see them growing and improving every week.”
In regards to aspirations for the future, obviously the climate has changed where kids are hurried up the ladder if they want to make it big time, but both look to take things one step at a time and continue the tradition locally.
“I just want to see how we run this year and then we might move up next year and see how it goes,” Austin Beers said. “I love following in my dad’s footsteps.”
“Right now we’re just going to stay in the Pro 4 for a little and see how much I can improve,” Kailyn Beers added.
When one thinks of Northeast Pennsylvania, the name Spencer is synonymous. Jimmy Spencer found the most success, reaching all the way to the Cup level and winning NASCAR Modified championships. Today his grandnephew Brayden has been impressing fans in the stands with his early-career performance.
With most youth in racing, it was not at the weekly short track in full-size cars that the experience began. With guidance from his father Ed Spencer III, a former Busch North (now K&N Pro Series East) competitor and Factory Stock champion at Evergreen, and grandfather Ed Spencer Jr., also a former racer, Brayden has excelled from kid karts to cages and into the Four Cylinders with multiple feature victories.
“It’s just going out there and having fun and doing the best with it while you have this,” Brayden Spencer mentioned. “They work on the car every week and it’s just very helpful. If I didn’t have them I don’t know what I would be doing right now.”
While not feeling any major pressure, the 13-year-old who most recently won a Four Cylinder feature at Evergreen on Memorial Day weekend, has immediate and long-term goals set high.
“Hopefully I’ll win a lot at Evergreen and I just want one win at Mahoning,” Brayden Spencer said. “I hope to go into Street Stocks and Modifieds and just grow and grow until I’m maybe in NASCAR.”
The Arthofer family has combined for over 100 career victories in Mahoning Valley’s history. Now another third-generation racer, Avery Arthofer, is already showing speed like a veteran in the Mahoning Valley Hobby Stock division with three career victories in only her second season.
“It’s pretty cool to know that I’m able to carry on generations of my family to the race track,” Arthofer, who graduated from Quarter Midgets at nearby Blue Mountain Speedway where she began to scratch the racing itch at the young age of six, commented. “Soon my sister will be racing here so that we can all race here together. My dad’s still racing Late Models and then I have my cousin who’s helping out in the Hobby Stocks a little bit.”
The teenage racer joined her father Lorin II, a winner in multiple divisions as well as her mother Kristy, a former Street Stock competitor, grandfather Lorin Sr., and uncles Jason and Darin as feature winners last year.
“I’m not sure what’s ahead,” Avery Arthofer continued. “I’m just going with the flow until the next season comes up and this one finishes as well.”
Perhaps one of the longest-running names heard by fans at their local tracks is Wambold. George Wambold was a legendary competitor at the Dorney Park Speedway, ending that track’s tenure from 1967 to 1986 with the most Modified victories. After its demise, he predominantly raced at Mahoning Valley and sits fifth on the all-time Modified winner charts there joining the aforementioned Eric Beers and John Bennett.
His son Brian, a 1988 Pro 4 champion and Michael along with grandson BJ Wambold have all competed on the speedway, but most recently winning has been granddaughter Tiffany Wambold. She has amassed a good amount of success in racing since starting at age six, moving up to Micro Sprints and All-Star Slingshots throughout most of her teenage years. But it is back at Mahoning Valley where she has since made a home in the Hobby Stock division at the track her grandfather once dominated.
“I came off of dirt because this is where my grandfather ran so they wanted me to come here,” Tiff Wambold recapped. “Started out in a Street Stock and that didn’t end so well, so they gave me one of these. The first time I finished with it I won in my dad’s car, and then I started dating Shayne (Geist, part of another multi-generation family at the track) and I started driving his car last year. He bought a Street Stock so he just gave me his old car. He built a new car last year and I raced the old one so now I’ve got the new car.”
Now in her 20s, Wambold is content with running at her home track week after week. Already this year, Wambold and Avery Arthofer were part of a trifecta of different consecutive female winners in the Hobby Stock division, a record more than likely unmatched anywhere else.
“It’s all I’ve ever known because really I’ve been coming here since I was a baby, watching my grandfather and then we went from there and now we’re here every week,” Tiff Wambold explained.
Grandfather George, now 78 years old, even took his turn back behind the wheel early in the season.
“It was fun, but it kind of made me nervous though because he was out there and I didn’t want anything to happen to him,” Tiff Wambold admitted.
These stories demonstrating that blood runs deep only scratch the surface in Northeast Pennsylvania. Modified aces Lou Strohl, Don Wagner, and Todd Baer are among those that each has kids racing at various levels on Saturday nights. The names and relations between competitors go on and on.
-By Aaron Creed, Speed51.com Central NY & PA Editor – Twitter: @aaron_creed
-Photo credit: Speed51.com