Dirt Track Memories

6/28/2024
Mike Union
Back in the late 1960s, I used to attend Sunday night dirt track races at Hesston Speedway in Huntington Co., PA. It was on a two-lane road out in a rural area and is still active.
 
At the time, the field was mostly Tri-Five “283” Chevys with the majority being 1957s. You could smash one up, find another one, and be back to racing in a week. Junkyards were loaded with parts. Prepping the cars was cheap and easy as the safety regulations were rudimentary, and these were still daily drivers for us high school kids on a budget.
 
A few 427 Fords and others showed up, but the old Chevys predominated. I remember when the first Camaro arrived in 1968 when I was 18. It blew the doors off the older cars with its short wheelbase and improved suspension hugging the turns.
 
 
This could be a rough track. I remember seeing exhaust manifolds falling off cars, and the cars would continue to race with fire coming directly out of the engine. Some would bounce through the turns with the right front wheel off the ground. Wheels with axles still attached would come off and roll through the pits. There were many yellow flags for caution, red flags for restarts, and black flags for driver ejections.
 
Early in the race after the track was watered down, cars would slide and mud would fly. Most radiators and windows being covered with screens which would need to be cleaned off in the pits. Later in the race, the track would dry and dust would become a problem and sometimes obscure the track. You would need three things when you got home: a shower, clean clothes and a car wash.
 
This track raced classes up to semi-lates with only a few special initiation and novelty races scheduled. It had rickety old wooden grandstands on the flag stand side and an elevated area on the other side of the track where you could park and watch the race from your car. They had funky concession stands and bathrooms. It was cheap family fun, and the fans all had their favorites. You could even drink beer in the stands.
 
The noise was deafening, especially during the full-field starts. Your hearing could be affected for several days.
As an aside, rumor was that three things were not allowed in the pits: peanuts, women, and the color green. These were by-passed over the years.
 
I remember two driver fatalities during those years. I also attended races at the local Bedford Fairgrounds, the oldest surviving dirt track in PA which is still racing today.
 
Mike Union……………………….Duncansville, PA
 
P.S. I have been a subscriber for decades and have done business through your magazine, both buying and selling.
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