The half-mile facility in Western Pennsylvania known as Jennerstown Speedway saw a variety of major racing events take place back in the days prior to its closing in 2008. During the off-season a group of three gentlemen, who had been renting the dormant place for autocross competitions, decided to purchase and restore the track to racing condition. By May 2014 they were ready to bring it back to the community but have faced a few bumps in the road, some of which have been beyond their control. A month later, things are starting to look up.
The headlining division of Late Models saw a season record 10 cars on the property Saturday night, three of which came over from CNB Bank Raceway Park in Clearfield after a low car count cancelled their scheduled 75-lap show and two regulars from Motordrome Speedway after their Friday night event was rained out. The 10-lap heat races set the stage for the night with longtime track regular Barry Awtey holding off Jennerstown first timer Travis Fisher in the first heat, and former ASA driver Jayme Beck edging defending Motordrome champion Garry Wiltrout by a nose in the second heat photo finish.
Unfortunately, Wiltrout’s luck would sour as a blown engine before the start of the 40-lap feature would sideline him. Former ARCA Truck Series racer Cody Quarrick and Fisher started from the front row with Fisher jumping out to the early lead. Awtey would quickly grab second and hunted down Fisher, taking the top spot a quarter-way through. He then set sail to the victory in the caution-free feature.
Awtey was happy with his fourth win of the season and the turnout for the night, but hopes things continue to improve.
“I’m hoping we get more cars here, and better racing so it keeps going,” said Awtey.
At the beginning of the day, the Northeast Pennsylvania standout Travis Fisher didn’t have plans to compete at Jennerstown. But since they were already halfway there, they decided to try out the facility and were very pleased.
“This place is awesome,” Fisher said enthusiastically. “Everybody here is great. This place is definitely my number one at this point. I’ve run at some different race tracks here and there, and this place definitely takes the cake.”
Fisher came over to congratulate Awtey for the win in victory lane, and after his first time racing the many time track champion in the western part of the state he was far from disappointed.
“I finished second to the guy that’s, you know, a legend here,” said Fisher. “If I have to finish second it would be to somebody like that. A great racer, great runner. We started freeing up a little too much there early on in the race and just couldn’t get off of four the way I’d like, but other than that it was a phenomenal run and I loved it.”
Awtey had a great time racing Fisher as well and hopes he comes back again.
“He’s definitely a good driver, and if he’d come here more often he’d be a threat that’s for sure,” said Awtey.
Jayme Beck, who became the first woman to win a Late Model feature at the facility the previous week, finished third. Veteran Rick Boyer was fourth and Ohio’s Tom Fares Jr. rounded out the top five. Fares, who had legendary Gary Balough working on his team, was another driver that came over from Clearfield and had to adjust from their originally intended plans of racing a longer distance.
“The car was set up for Clearfield so we changed a bunch of stuff,” said Fares. “We really weren’t ready in the beginning of the day, but by the end of the heat race we felt pretty good. We started gaining at the end, and I think other people’s stuff started falling off. If it had been a longer race I think we would have done better, but we’re happy the car is still in one piece. We can make it better for next time.”
The Hobby Stock division held their biggest feature of the season with a distance of thirty laps, but it was Late Model regular Cody Quarrick that stole the show. Additional winners were Anthony Aiello in the Chargers division, Chris Brink with his third-straight Modified victory, and Teddy Gibala in the Street Stocks.
In addition to the racing itself, Jennerstown Speedway management has been putting together additional events to attract the fans. On this particular night there was a pre-race C123 flyover and a parade lap by the Legion Patriot Riders in honor of the Wounded Warriors. In addition, two Hendrick Motorsports tires that were used at Charlotte Motor Speedway were given out as door prizes and an Import/Sport Compact show and swap meet as well as Autocross competition took place throughout the weekend.
Even though the season started off slow with a rainout on grand opening weekend, the staff has continued without flinching by putting together a host of various shows surrounding the racing action. A 75-lap Late Model event will be coming up in two weeks along with a motorcycle show and a cruise-in/drive-in movie night preceding it. With their biggest car counts in four out five divisions this past Saturday night, it looks like the best is still ahead.