A Few "Dorney Park" Memories
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A Brief (and incomplete...) History of the Dorney Park Speedway
by Wayne W. Urffer
The Speedway was built in 1938 as an attraction on the grounds of the Dorney Park amusement park outside of Allentown, PA. The one-fifth-mile oval was originally intended to be a dirt midget track, and the midgets raced there throughout the 1940s, although the track was paved in its second year of service. The full-size stock cars began racing at Dorney in the 1950s, and in 1960 they did away with the big modifieds in favor of the less powerful Sportsman cars. In 1970, the "hobby" cars (essentially street stocks) were dropped in favor of the more technologically sophisticated Late Models. The track continued to offer weekly Sportsman and Late Model racing until it closedanother victim of insurance costsin 1986. And even though the "sheet metal Gremlin" eventually became the body of choice for the Sportsman division, there were still a few coupe- and sedan-bodied cars racing around the Park in 1986!
Although many local race fans considered Dorney Park a poor cousin to some of the other area tracks, the Speedway had a very loyal following. Whats more, several veterans of racing at the Dorney Park Speedway went on (and continue) to achieve great things in other race settings.
Freddy Adam, the sixth-winningest modified driver in Reading Fairgrounds history, was the last modified points titlist at Dorney Park (1959). Charley Gilmore twice won Sportsman titles at the Park (1968, 1969), as did current NASCAR FMS competitor Tony Hirschman (1977, 1978). Red Coffin, Ronnie Dunstan and Cookie Hause all won Sportsman features at the Park in the early-to-mid 1960s, and went on to success on various eastern dirt tracks. Current NASCAR competitor John Andretti (Marios nephew) had a brief career in the Sportsman division, scoring a feature win in 1982.
Warren Mutter was a standout in the Hobby cars and the Sportsman division in the 1960s. Carl Collis competed at the Park in the mid 1970s, scoring feature wins in both the Late Model and Sportsman divisions. Glenn Carter (Rags son) scored a couple Late Model feature wins in the early 1970s. (Mystery driver) began racing Late Models in 1977, finished second in the points standings in 1978, won the title in 1979, and almost immediately moved on to a successful career in dirt modifieds.
I have many great memories of the races at the Park, but one night in 1972, when I was a few weeks shy of 11 years old, stands out. After the show, my Dad gave me a dollar to buy the Area Auto Racing News. I should have given back 75 cents in change, but when I got to the souvenir stand and saw the photo of my favorite driver, Charley Gilmore, for a dollar, I couldnt resist. Boy, was Dad mad! That dollar was a lot of money for a tire repairman with a wife and two kids. He yelled at me right in the middle of the exiting crowd of race fans, all eyes were on me and I was embarrassed, but I think that made me cherish my Charley Gilmore photo all the more.
I also have fond memories of my other favorite Sportsman drivers: the #0 coupe of Georgie Donmoyer, the #23 coupe of Cornelius "Bimpy" Marx (points champion in 1961 and 1965), the #88 sedan of Donnie Hersh (the first Sportsman champ at the Park in 1960), Tony Hirschmans black and silver #60 Valiant, and Dave Cicons beautiful burgundy and yellow #43 Falcon.
Other outstanding Sportsman cars, in my mind, were the pink #1 coupe of the rough-rider Jack Jones, the low-slung #06 sedan of Fran Hardner, Frankie Gravers "unlucky" green #83 coupe and Kenny Shades pink and white #4 Camaro.
Dorney Park was a great place to watch racing, and was one of the last places in the area to see the old coupes and coaches compete regularly. I miss it a lot!
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Your Dorney Park Comments!
John Hagadus 04.30.13
Those legendary battles with guys like bimpy Marx,jimmy Ryan cookie hauze.,Tom Rooney.,Zorro engler how I could go on and on and on if you ever want to talk old. Dorney racing give me a call at firstname.lastname@example.org be prepared for hours on end of chat!!!! Yep! Those were the good old days
J J Hagadus 11.01.12
My name is J J Hagadus aka lil john. Tom Snyder owned the Russ Frantz #10a 69 Camaro car. I did the body work and paint back in the late 80's when Russy ran at Donkey Park. His legendary battles with Johnny Markovic in the Broadway Speed Shop special# 91 Camaro. Russ always was in contention for the points championship in those years - the good old days!!!!!
I'm also the nephew of Johnny Toth who not only raced at Dorney in the sixties, but won 9 features events in the hobby car days. Also, my cousin Louie Hagadus raced hobby cars also!
I live in Florida now and have Dorney Park Speedway on my mind every day because of all my pictures I have on display when I found your pics on line, I couldn't resist dropping these lines down memory lane. Thanks for the memories!!!!!!!
Ruth A 03.24.12
Does anyone remember the black 13 driven by James (Windy) Miller? Would like to have a photo if you have one of my dad. He loved to race and it has not left my blood either..
Darryl Stahler 06.27.11
Red Rhodes (Rhody) drove for Hoffman #33, blue w/silver wings and number inside of the wings. He also drove for my father, Harold Stahler. I want to say 1956-1957. The first night out Rhody won the feature in the duece (2). Later Sonny Oswald drove. I have a picture of Smokey Dengler w/# 65.
Richard Guy 10.20.10
When I first started racing Mini-stocks with the AMSA, we would race there on some holidays, (I raced there on Memorial day and on a Labor Day). As a teen, it was great because we would race at the track, and then a bunch of us would go mix it up in the bumper cars. The track itself was so flat, I was warned that if someone spit on it, it would get slippery. One guy I was trying to pass had a broken left axle, and as he rolled out of the corner, the axle would come almost all the way out, and then would go all the way back in when the guy went into the corner. Dorney was so narrow, nobody could get by the guy. Like all of the other tracks we ran and that are now gone, Dorney holds special memories for me.
Melanie Kern 08.18.10
My father was Bill Lavenburg. He drove the #22 car in the early 60's. He won the championship 2 times. After my mom made him stop racing because it was costing to much money my father was still at the race track, and so were we. He was one of the officials on the track, I can remember one time watching my dad take off running because one of the cars came racing thru the infield. My dad was also the person that would dismantle your car if the other officials thought you were running illegal. I can remember being 3 years old and mom would try to get my brother and me to take a nap before the races, she would fall asleep but not me I was to excited. I would have a sore throat every Sat night from yelling so much. One of my best memories was leaving the race track I was the one that always went with dad, I would be looking out the back window watching the car on the trailer behind us. After the races there was always a large group that would go to the Paddock. Daddy always ended up carrying me out to the car. My dad had also built some cars for some of the other racers, I was to young to remember who but I still remember what the car looked like. I miss those days and I sure do miss my DAD, he was my hero
Randy Sanford 03.20.10
Lets not forget an important part of Dorney history, I mean besides the special events like Joie Chitwood's Hell Drivers,,, Nope even more important to the show... A very classy and Theatrical starter dressed in his Indian Show Uniform running between the rows of cars waving the green... Old Indian Tex Enrite... A true showman not only at Dorney but also Morristown Speedway (Sorrano's), Flemington and who knows where else...
Dorney Park was an almost every Saturday event for me during race season between 1963 when I moved to Limeport until I joined the Army and 1967... Oh and just so he's not forgotten as I haven't seen him mentioned was my favorite from the years,,, Granny Geek... #25 Black 40 ford coupe.... Go Granny go Granny go Granny go.....
Best to all
Mark Williams 11.24.09
My Dad started taking us to Dorney in 1970 I was 10 and my brother was 8. The first time we were there we said we liked #7 Charley Gilmore because he was the fastest car on the track. We later got to know the Gilmore ' s and became Charley and then Monks pit crew and are still together today. We even raced at Mahoning this summer and had our whole crew back together. Since those Dorney days we have traveled all over the place to many races and have been around for some great feature wins by Charley and Monk as well as some tough nights but it all started after a company picnic that our Dad to took us too and we stayed for the races up the hill at Dorney Park Speedway.
I can still name and give the car numbers of many of the Sportsman and Late Models from the early 70's. Even though we moved over to Grandview on Saturday nights I think my fondest memories are of that fifth mile asphalt oval.
Mark Williams email@example.com
Jon Manoskey 09.23.09
My Father in Law now owns the #44 1937 Ford Coupe that was driven By John Ruth and Sponsored by the Emmaus Bicycle Shop. Does any body have any photos of it from back in the day? My email is firstname.lastname@example.org
I lived in NJ as a child but spent a few weeks each summer with my aunts and uncles in Pa and they would bring me to Dorney Park races. I was in awe of the action and excitement that was there. The deer behind the grandstands were an added bonus ! I would stand by the fence as the cars pulled onto the speedway and wave to the drivers. Only one driver waved to me every time he went past. I took that memory and name back to Northern New Jersey.
We would gather daily to race our bicycles around the "track" we created. I had friends who were Mario and AJ and Richard Petty.....on and on. They all thought I was nuts for being CHARLEY GILMORE the driver who waved to me at the races!
I grew up with Charlie Gilmore being my idol even though I never formally met him. I grew up to build and race cars as well as build engines and components for other racers with Charlie always in the back of my mind. One night I was at a gathering playing cards when someone said to me...hey you used to race.....so did the guy aside of you.....IT WAS CHARLEY GILMORE !
I told my story to Charlie and became friends with him and have learned so many things thru his memories and knowledge. I am one of the lucky people who actually got to meet their childhood idol ! Charley you are still the greatest and I am..... *** Still the BIGGEST Charlie Gilmore fan EVER***
Henry Schaadt 01/11/09
In the 1960's thru 80's, we went to Dorney park almost every week. We also went to Nazareth, Harmony, and Flemington. When it came to racing, We all found that Dorney Park was the best. The dirt track dust and not being able to see anything in a crach made the paved track a favorite for anyone who went. And Rob R. is mistaken, the track was never closed for years in the 1960's. There was a drivers strike one sat night.. anyone remember?? that plot of land even had a baseball field on it in the early 1900's. Thanks Henry Schaadt
Tom Moyer 09/18/08
I went to almost every race during the sixties and seventies my best memory is when Charlie Gilmore won the Firestone 100 which was really twin 50 lap races in which the field was inverted after the first 50 and Charlie went on to win both 50 lap races. What I remember from that night is that even the fans that didn't like Charlie cheered for him when he took the lead because it was such an accomplishment
I grew up at Dorney Park, Sanatoga & Hatfield. My dad was mechanic on a car owned by Sam Myers and driven by Billy Quiksell, Earl Reifsnyder and Rocky Ewing. We had Number 1 & 45. I remember all the great drivers that raced at all three tracks. Harry Moore use to sneak me into his car for hot laps. I was about 7 years old. By son-in-law works on Tom Sheets car at Grandview. His grandfather was Tommy Sheets. My mom knocked out Warren Mutters mechanic one night at Phila.
I have always loved racing and later on I worked for Nascar scoring for 15 years. Still love racing today. Love to see the old pictures. Would love it anyone had pictures of either Billy, Earl or Rocky. I only have a few left from my dad. But I think my most vivid memory of Dorney Park, was the night they parked the cars on the frontstrech and refused to race. The fans went nuts and started tearing the grandstands apart.
If anyone would like to talk about the old time. I now live in Hawaii and you can email me at email@example.com
Craig Snyder 12/10/07
I only went to Dorney Park a few times. I did work on Nate Correl's late model and later his modified at Mahoning.
I did have the opportunity to attend a race during the last season. I sat between turns 3 and 4. I got dirtier that being at Flemington? My face was full of tire rubber and I still had fun.
I'm glad we had a chance to race against al lot of Dorney drivers at Mahoning. Mahoning is still going to be around next year run by Doug Hoffman?
My Dad ran a Sportsman at Nazareth in the early 1960's. He told me one night at Dorney park Speedway he didn't like to run at the park. He would call it bumping cars. My Dad was a fan of dirt. Even though he loved dirt, he still liked to go to Dorney Park.
My Dad raced a 1937 Ford humpback sedan in the early 1960's. It was light blue with a gold 12. That is all I know. I never saw a picture. I did see the 11x Tobias he ran at Nazareth in 1973. That was a Sportsman too. My Mom and Dad were divorced and there was no one to take me see him race? He did take me to sit in the 11x though. I don't know if he ran the 11x at Dorney?
I believe the owner wouldn't let that car run at Dorney?
Thank you for the memories. I'm glad I grew up attending some great local races. I've been to Nazareth, Harmony, Flemington, Reading, Mahoning, Evergreen, Orange County and Convention Hall in Atlantic City.
Craig C. Snyder
Jason Reitz 11/22/07
What a unique track. Dorney Park launched the racing careers of Doug Hoffman and Tony Hirschman, not to mention Don Hoffman #73, who now works as a car chief for Ken Schrader Racing. At what other track could you walk into an amusement park during intermission, buy ride tickets, and ride a few rides until the racing resumed. This area has been and is blessed with several top-notch short tracks. Hooray us!
I remember Dorney Park for its donkey races, demolition derbies. And who doesn't remember the Flying Farmer"Paul Bauscher"... Him and Wambold always were trying to beat eachother. Then there's Todd Geist who to this day still races at Mahoning, Freddy Hamm, Big Jim Romig... We loved the track but it'll never be forgotten.
We use to drive from philly every week to go to the speedway........I remember Charlie Gilmore and somewhere in my collection I have pics of a lot of the guys that raced there.....
I liked it because they raced the same cars our team ran.....I always loved the old coupes 39's and even some 32's they were fairly cheap to have and run even in those days.....our team ran the old Hatfield speedway, and Atco NJ and any track that we could tow to from Philly.
I seem to recall a driver Smokey Dangler who I believe had an artificial leg. I think he was from Reading.........what a driver.......also Richie Havens who I believe drove a sedan, one of the few non coupes. He was also hell on wheels....
I know its what they call progress but I miss the old Dorney Park and the old speedway.........but I guess at this stage of life, a lot of the things that are not there anymore, will just have to remain fond memories. Thanks for the web site it is great.
Michele Smith 02/08/06
I can't remember exactly the years that I went to this great track, but I was about 10 or 11, so....it was probably 84 or 85. I know it was up until it closed. My uncle Bill Dorshimer and his brother, Ricky Dorshimer (who drove #69) both raced there. As I as only a little "girl" at the time, I'm not sure what models they were. I LOVED that track. It was so much fun. The atmosphere was awesome. The driver that stands out most in my mind was George Wambold. My aunt was always holler'n about him! It was SO funny! I still walk around the park today with my 6 year old son and point out where the track was and all. He just looks at me with amazement and says he wishes it was still there. We are complete NASCAR fans in my household and it all started with Dorney Park Speedway!!! Thanks for this great page!
Michele Smith (Northampton, PA)
Rob Renninger 12/26/06
I am dating myself, but I never spend to much time at the Dorney Park Speedway in the 1970 & 80's.. it was the late 1950's and early 1960's that I spend my youth sitting on the homestretch every Saturday night in good old Allentown, Pa. With the closest track on Saturday night being Hatfield, which was still a 1/2 mile asphalt oval, we enjoyed out trip to Dorney to watch the likes of #6 Jack Rudy, 3A Dick Havens, 59A Tommy McAndrews and my mother's cousin John Harpel. It was an extra special time because the shop that owned the black and white #28 Perkiomen Special that John drove was right next to my elementary school in Pennsburg, Pa. Stoudt's radiator shop was home to several black and white #28 coupes during this time. We would sit in our class room... 1958-59... and hear the motors rev up, we could hear them banging out the dents from a Saturday night wreck... we could smell the fuel. My buddies and I couldn't wait until school was over to see what they were working on for the Saturday night trip to Dorney Park Speedway.
We would occasionally be surprised to find other modifieds sitting in the parking lot of Stoudt's shop waiting for needed radiator work or a welding job to fix crash damage. It was an exciting time that ended all to quickly. As I remember it the last race at Dorney of this era was held in 1959 or 60. It was a bad night for crashes.... I would say over half of the field in the pits was involved in crashed... not fender benders...but really horrible... destroy the car crashes. The following week when we arrived at the track we were told the race was canceled because of a lack of cars..... I believe they said there were only had 12 entries that last night. I can still hear the announcer stating that since there were so many bad wrecks the week before many cars were not ready..."you can not build a stock car in a week" he proclaimed.
What really happened was Hatfield was paying more money and all of the cars flocked to the new Hatfield track. Dorney didn't repoen again until Jerry Freid took over promoting the track in the late 1960's, but for me and my buddies it was not the same. We went back a few time but by that time we were in the Friday night Reading, Saturday night Hatfield and Sunday night Nazareth mode. Sadly I feld that we had outgrown the small track at Dorney Park, the speed and excitement of the "big" tracks had our attention.
It was shortly after that closing in the early 1960's that we switched our Saturday night habits to Hatfield which was now a 1/3 mile dirt track. It almost felt like being home.. because there were the Dorney Park guys... yup.. Dick Haven in the 3A, Tommy McAndrews in the 59A.... that were now joined by the likes of Freddy Adam, Bill Williams, Harry & Mose Moore and all of the other guys that made Modified Stock Car racing so unique and enjoyable at that time period. Oh yes.... my man Jackie McLaughlin would occasionally join the field at Hatfleld, but that is another story for another Vault thread.
Thank you for letting me share my memories of over 50 years ago.... remember the COUPES!!!
This was the greatest racing of all time I grew up going there in the 70's and 80's. I have so many pictures from the track. I go to dp now and walk around and can remember where the pits were and the track parking everything about it. It was just so great and so much fun seeing those 57 chevy's move around that track. Great memories will never die
Rich B 01/18/06
It was sad the day that Dorney Park Speedway was closed for a rollercoaster and for me because that was my first date I went on with my wife of 20 years. Shes still with me, too bad the track aint ...Rich
Barry Pursell 11/25/05
Does anyone know how I can get a picture of Sam Hill? He drove the #02 late model bud car at the Dornery Park. Thanks, Barry Pursell. NFLCards2008@aol.com
Joe Wood 03/18/05
Does anyone have any information about the 8/26/51 race held here and won by Johnny Dubois? i.e. Number of laps? Model of Dubois' car. It was the 1951 Nascar Short Track Late Model Division. Any info. would be helpful. Joe Wood: firstname.lastname@example.org
Jerry Hart 01/14/05
I just got an issue of strapped in/pretty cool to see a pic of John Andretti in the #44 coupe!
It's great to find a page dedicated to Dorney Park Speedway! The pictures brought back so many memories. My brothers and I literally grew up at that track on Saturday nights. My uncle, Don Hoffman, raced the #73 Late Model in the late 70's and early 80's. During intermission, we would climb under the bleachers in turns 3 and 4 (there was a fenced in area where the park had a bunch of deer) and follow a short trail to a fence overlooking the pit area. My Dad would meet up with us to tell us where our uncle would start in the feature.
His latest project is the restoration of the #87 '56 Chevy that Rick Karpuek raced at Dorney from 1977-1979. It was literally dragged out of the weeds of a junk yard. It now has a new floor and, with a little luck, should have fresh paint by the end of the year. I believe he plans to race it at vintage racing events. I've attached a picture of the car taken before any work was done and I'll try to remember to forward an 'after' shot when it is complete. Thanks again for the memories!
I grew up a DP speedway. Seeing these few pictures brings back a lot of memories.
As a kid in the mid and late '70s I was there every week with my parents. This was because my uncle raced in the sportsman division and my father helped him out.
In a box, in my basement, I have every single "Park Report" from 1975 thru 1980. I even have some from the early 80's but during that time my uncle had quit and we started going to other tracks.
Keep up the good work. Troy
Guy from Trexlertown 01/11/04
I DROVE IN THE VERY LAST DEMO DERBY AT THE TRACK . ALSO MY COUSION DOUG HOFFMAN RACED THERE FOR BIT. I ALSO MISS THE TRACK! THANK YOU !!!
"The View From the Third Floor"
From 1958 to 1960 my family and I lived in a house that stood at 3625 Union Street. The house has since been demolished to make way for park expansion. Our rear yard backed up against the wall along a portion of the back stretch coming out of turn 2 at the Speedway. Each Saturday evening during racing season our family and friends had a front row seat to all but the third and fourth turns as we watched the races from the comfort of our third floor family room. On one occasion there was a rather spectacular crash coming out of turn 2. A tire from one of the racers let go and jumped the fence directly into our back yard. Of course we kids made a mad dash downstairs and into the back yard hoping to collect a souvenir. By the time we got to the spot where the tire had come to rest, a crew member was already there demanding the return of his tire.
There was an urban legend making the rounds for a while that after every race a cleaning crew from Dorney Park had to come and wash down our house. This was not true but as kids we enjoyed the notoriety.
I remember watching and cheering for Freddy Adam who I recall was a bit of a local legend. I believe he drove a yellow car, at least that is my recollection. Great childhood memories!
Guy from NJ 12/23/03
I'm looking for an old late-model to restore. Does anyone know were there is one ? Thanks. Guy from Jersey. Contact at: GLRCVOGT2@cs.com
Steve S. 12/23/03
WORKED AT THE PIT GATE AT DORNEY PARK UNTIL THE FINAL RACE. ME, MY DAD AND MY BROTHER....
THE TRACK WILL ALWAYS HOLD A FOND MEMORY. I GOT TO MEET ALL THE GREATS (DOUG HOFFMAN, CARL COLLIS, JOHN ANDRETTI, AND THE FREAT ROGER HEFELFINGER (WHO I AM STILL GOOD FREINDS WITH TODAY), TONY HIRSHMAN AND MANY MANY MORE
REST IN PEACE - GONE BUT NOT FORGOTTEN..
ONE GREAT PROMOTER JERRY FRIED
STARS WERE BORN AT DORNEY PARK SPEEDWAY.
I was a great fan of Dorney Park races...I miss them, but time goes on.................will you have a full picture of Dorney Park track and how big the track was? ...p.s. my favorite driver in sportsman was Paul Bausher (note from 3-Wide: This whole section is a result of Wayne Urffer's dedication to the track and we hope to add more in the future. Thanks)
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