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the PITS 2010Central PA
by Dino Oberto
Tim Buckwalter honored as ARDC champion
The American Racing Drivers Club (ARDC) is a tradition rich organization that has been putting on Midget car racing here in the east for the past 73 years, making it one of America’s oldest such clubs devoted to the sport.
What is also a tradition is the yearly awards banquet. Although there have been many different gathering settings over that period of time, the past 25 years has been at Lobitz Catering Hall in Hazle Township and last Saturday evening that formal once again came together with drivers and teams joined in celebration of the 2012 season.
The top honoree of the night was 23-year old Tim Buckwalter of Douglasville who, in just his third year of racing Midgets, emerged as this year’s driver champion.
Looking back, the list of drivers past and present who have won ARDC championships are among the best in the Nation. To have one’s name chronicled on that influential register means respect and honor.
“It feels incredible to say that I am on that list of the many, many drivers in the history of this club who are champions. You look at who they are and it’s amazing to be included amongst them,” said Buckwalter.
“I hope that 20 or 30 years from now someone will be here at this a same banquet and be saying the same thing, that Tim Buckwalter is on that list.”
Three years ago Buckwalter came into the ARDC fold as a rookie and showed that he was worthy even then, notching one win and being named Rookie of the Year. That same season he also watched as his cousin, Steve Buckwalter, storm to the title. Last year Buckwalter won again and was a top five point finisher.
“When I started three years ago I don’t think the competition level was where it’s at now. This year you can get as many as 10 to 15 cars with ARDC that could win a race on any given night,” said Buckwalter.
For 2012 he showed right away that he was to be a title challenger by winning the first race of the season at Big Diamond. He then followed up with victories at Williams Grove and Winchester (VA). By season’s end he was credited with nine top five and 15 top ten’s in 24 starts. “I don’t think the three wins are what won the championship to be honest. It was consistency. We worked on the car every night at the shop and then brought it to the track each time knowing that my team and my components on the car where going to last me for a 20 or 25 lap feature,” he explained.
“We came in saying let’s go for the championship. If it works out it works out and if not then it is what it is. Not that we didn’t get as serious as we were but we kind of put the points behind us. We just went out and did our normal thing. Whatever we thought, we did, and that’s basically what it came down to.
“We were leading the points and then going back and forth with them. I think by falling behind a few times it not just motivated me but the whole team. It was so close all year between (Trevor) Kobylarz, (Nick) Wean and me. But near the end we said let’s forget about the points. Let’s go for good finishes and have some fun at this and I think that’s what won the championship.”
Buckwalter has been racing since an early age. He excelled in quarter midgets and karts then progressed into Micro Sprints and TQ Midgets. He is one of the region’s best when it comes to 270cc and 600cc Micro Sprints. This year alone he grabbed a handful of wins with that class.
When the time came to race with the Midget he turned to his cousin Steve who at the time was rated amongst the best in the country.
“I don’t think I would have ever gone the Midget route had it not been for my cousin Steve. He’s been there and I’m very proud to say that our car was the same one that he won his championship with also,” said Buckwalter.
In 2013 Buckwalter will be taking another step up the racing ladder as he has been given the chance to run a 358 dirt Modified which he will run weekly at Grandview Speedway.
“It’s back to the black and white thing. I just got that car in my shop and everything is so much bigger and heavier and totally different. It’s going to be a tough competition level. I like the quality, the safety and the engineering factor with the Modifieds,” Buckwalter said.
“When we came into the Midgets three years ago we were pretty much the same way with little knowhow. Coming into this Modified thing I have a lot of good backing and some good name guys helping me out. It will be a good learning year.”
He does plan to run as many ARDC shows as possible when not conflicting with the Modified.
World of Outlaw Sprinters prepare for shootout with PA Posse at Williams Grove Speedway
By Dino Oberto … “Keeping Track”
The country’s leading Sprint Car series, the World of Outlaws (WoO), will be heading to one of the country’s leading dirt tracks, Williams Grove Speedway in Mechanicsburg this Friday and Saturday for the Summer Nationals.
It’s one of the season’s must-see shows featuring the best of the best in Sprint Car racing. Anytime the infamous “Pennsylvania Posse” the regulars who ran weekly at the Grove, go up against the WoO, it becomes a showdown.
“They’ve been coming to Williams Grove since 1979 and they are our top draw as far as attendance is concerned and you see the best travelers against the best weekly competition in America and it’s really a great show for the fans and one of the reasons why it’s been so successful,” said Bruce Ellis, Williams Grove track announcer and prominent motorsports journalist.
“This is the toughest place for them (WoO) to come there’s no question about it. Over the last few years you can see how close the racing has been between the Posse and the Outlaws. We were actually on a roll with nine wins in a row until Sammy Swindell ended that with a National Open win in October 2010.”
Friday’s program will include a 25-lap feature paying $8,000 to win while Saturday’s Summer Nationals finale will climax with a 30-lap main boasting a $20,000 winner’s share. Car count should easily be in the high 40s to low 50s for this show.
This is the second of three visits by the WoO at the track this year. During the first visit in May tow of the greats in Sprint Cars racing, all-time track winner and champion Fred Rahmer and 20-time WoO champion Steve Kinser split the wins.
Last year in the prestigious event current track point leader Greg Hodnett posted a victory in the Friday night portion of the program while eventual WoO champion Jason Meyers claimed the high-dollar finale.
Heading into this weekend’s action Kinser, who drives for NASCAR Sprint Cup champion Tony Stewart, leads the standings and is gunning for an unprecedented 21 WoO titles. He has three wins this year including the win in May at the Grove.
Sammy Swindell’s is the most recent WoO winner with the $50,000 payday last weekend at the Kings Royal in Eldora Speedway in Rossberg, OH.
“It’s amazing that they have been able to stay at the top of their game for this many years. Sammy (Swindell) and Steve (Kinser) are battling for the World of Outlaws championship again. Sammy just won the Kings Royal which has been the biggest race in Sprint Car racing to date this year. So I guess experience really counts when it comes to Sprint Car racing because those two certainly have it,” said Ellis.
The thing is when Kinser, Swindell and all the others with the WoO roll into the Grove, it is by far the most competitive track they race with against the regulars.
“There are drivers that are Williams Grove regulars that already have a World of Outlaws win at some point in their career. Lance Dewease, Chad Layton, Mark Smith, Stevie Smith, Daryn Pittman. Tyler Walker will be here with a car from Minersville owned by Charlie and Dawn Skorokach,” said Ellis.
Then there is Rahmer. Among the Pennsylvania Posse they don’t get much better than “Fast Freddie.” His numbers are impeccable with 412 feature wins, 26 track and 33 series overall Sprint Car titles, not to mention 99 victories with a Modified Stock Car.
“If someone like Rahmer wins, a guy that they boo every week, if he beats the Outlaws it’s a standing ovation for him,” said Ellis.
“It’s an us against them philosophy. It’s like the Giants verses the Eagles. This is our guys against the Outlaws and that’s how it’s always been since Lynn Paxton won the first (Williams Grove) Outlaw race in 1979.”
This will be the 11th consecutive year that Williams Grove has held the Summer Nationals. Other Summer Nationals finale winners include: Donny Schatz, 2003, 2007, 2008; Danny Lasoski, 2004; Rahmer, 2005; Pittman, 2006; and Cody Darrah, 2009. Notably, Lasoski will be in the field for this year’s show, now the hired gun of the Zemco No. 1 Sprint Car.
The front gate opens at 5:30 p.m. with racing set for 7:30 p.m. Fireworks displays will be a part of both nights. You can also listen live as the Voice of the Outlaws, Johnny Gibson, calls the action on the DIRT Radio Network, featured on the DIRTVision Cybercast. Visit http://www.DIRTVision.com for more information.
Stan Lobitz honored by EMPA
At the 41st annual Eastern Motorsport Press Association (EMPA) convention held January 6-8 at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in King of Prussia, auto racing media members gathered for a series of press conferences, seminars and social interaction with a wide array of racing personalities. There is also a Saturday evening banquet where awards are given to a number of member writers and photographers for their past year’s work.
Likewise recognized during the weekend are a select group of racing affiliated persons both past and present and it was quite fitting that the honoree being named for the “Junie Dunlavey Sprit of the Sport Award” went Stan Lobitz of Drums.
Stan Lobitz receiving his award from EMPA Board member Dino Oberto and presenter Lynn Paxton Bob Yurko Photo
The award is named after the late NASCAR car owner who fielded Modifieds and Sprint Cup cars for over five decades. Dunlavely’s pursuit of excellence on a limited budget became legendary and he forged a life’s worth of respect from his peers while asking for very little in return.
In many ways Lobitz reflects the same qualities, especially when it comes to respect and admiration from his colleagues.
It all stems from his yearly Auction and Movie Party held each November at his Hazle Township catering hall where for the past 26 years he has without charge allowed a daylong event to take place and conclude with one of the infamous Lobitz home style meals.
Racing somebodies from across the country make it a point to attend the event. Some are quite famous while others may not be as mainstream but are stars in their own right and Lobitz treats each one like a celebrity. Drivers, mechanics, owners and officials who blazed a trail for today’s superstars are on hand for the festivities.
The whole purpose is to raise money for the Eastern Museum of Motor Racing (EMMR), located in York Springs. Local and regional racing history is their focus.
EMMR is one of the country’s finest auto racing museums. There is a remarkable collection of vintage race cars and artifacts as well as a research library of rare books, documents, and photos pertaining to the sport.
Through the Lobitz affair thousands have been collected, to date over $200,000 raised according to Lynn Paxton, museum curator and presenter of the Dunlavey award. Paxton is one of the all-time great sprint car drivers out of central Pennsylvania and was a master at Williams Grove Speedway. He is also member of the National Sprint Car and EMPA Hall of Fames.
“I am really, really thankful to everyone at EMPA for this award. It is very touching and I am honored,” said Lobitz.
“Racing has been very good to me. Its people are the greatest people in the world and to be in their company is a privilege.”
EMMR is not the only benefactor of Lobitz’s benevolence. As a longtime supporter of Midget car racing, the American Racing Drivers Club has made it a point to hold their annual awards banquet at his hall. The group has recognized him with a lifetime membership.
Lobitz is also a collector of vintage race cars and has an extensive collection. He has been a huge help to other collectors in acquiring needed parts for restoration projects.
He has also been a gem to the many racers throughout the Hazleton/Berwick/Bloomsburg areas, assisting them in an way he can.
On a personal note, Stan Lobitz is one of the key people who have had a sincere impact on my career, both as a motorsports writer and announcer. He has taught me well on some of the finer points of racing and has stuck behind me and supported me for many years. I have always heeded his words of advice and wisdom which are priceless to me.
Back in 1975, a small group of racing enthusiasts known as the Williams Grove Old Timers, gathered near Harrisburg. They shared a common interest in the early days of American motor racing and a desire to preserve the history of that bygone era. To serve this purpose, they immediately planned the construction of a public museum of racing history which has become the EMMR.
Thanks to the people like Lobitz who have an appreciation and deep regard for the roots of racing, history is able to live on through the labors of the EMMR.
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