Written by John Straitiff | Photos by Penny Kay
Since the invention of the automobile, Americans have been daredevils wanting to race against each other. The need for speed is as American as baseball and apple pie. “The Great American Sport” of stock car racing is thriving and thrilling thousands at two dirt tracks in Jefferson County. Each weekend May through September, Friday nights at Thunder Mountain Speedway and Saturday evenings at Hummingbird Speedway, the grandstands are filled with excited racing fans, each with their favorite drivers and usually hated rivals. Over the loud speaker the announcer barks, “Here we go! Out of turn number four, put’r to the floor and make’er ROAR!!!” The green flag waves, and, in unison, drivers mash their throttles, dumping fuel into monstrous motors, launching cars and drivers like rockets on wheels down the track to the thunderous scream of American muscle at full throttle.
I have spent almost 30 years on the microphone calling motorsports events. I am currently the track announcer at both Thunder Mountain and Hummingbird Speedways. If you have never experienced heart pounding excitement that the thrills and spills of dirt track racing can provide, here’s the 4-1-1 on the 2019 local dirt scene.
Thunder Mountain Speedway is what I call a motor track, sort of like a tether ball. You need a big powerplant under the hood and well handling race car to handle the wide sweeping turns and long straights that require drivers to maintain momentum to find victory lane. Super Late Model, Semi-Late, Street Stock, Pure Stocks and Front Wheel Drive make up the weekly racing program. The BRP Modified Tour will make three appearances, Penn Ohio Series, ULMS Late Model Series and the huge 2-Day ThunderFest with the Stephanie Eckl Memorial for the Ultimate Super Late Model Series highlight the 2019 schedule.
Hummingbird Speedway and legendary promoter Louie Caltagarone celebrate their 55th Anniversary this season. “The Bird” is more of a bull ring with tighter turns and shorter straights. This track provides close door-to-door racing where slicing through traffic is the needed skill to win. Super Late Model, Semi-Late, Street Stock, Pure Stock, and Front Wheel Drive divisions provide the racing excitement. 60’s Night, 70’s Night, Fan Appreciation Night, Ina’s Street Stock Memorial Shoot Out, and the season finale Super Late Model Special are noteworthy events in this season.
So, this summer, grab the cooler, a blanket, and some sunglasses for some good old All-American dirt tracking fun. And remember, if you don’t have dirt in your beer, you’re not at a real race. For more information on race schedules, go to VisitPAGO.com/events.