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Msg ID: 2512140 55 years ago - Harmony Speedway opens +0/-0     
Author:Greg Collins
6/7/2018 10:59:44 AM

55 years ago, on Friday, June 7, 1963, the D-shaped 5/8 mile Harmony Speedway opened.   Speedway builders and co-promoters Carl Van Horn and Dick Crouse presented modified-sportsman and novice stock car racing under NASCAR sanction. 

The first racing event held that evening was a heat race for the novice division.  The winner was Fred Fritsche (P19), he was followed by Lee Sofield (14A) and Dudie Babey (B).  The second novice heat was won by Stan Ploski Jr. (27), he was followed by Paul Nulton (505) and Bob Hullfish (161).  Modified-sportsman heat races followed.  Sammy Beavers (77A) won the first heat, he was followed by Bob Pickell (A2a) and Les Farley (808). The second heat was won by Billy Cramer (22C), he was followed by Charlie Cregar (A4) and Hoop Schaible (95).

Fred Fritsche won the 15-lap novice feature, he was followed by Nulton, Ploski Jr., Abe Levengood and Babey.

Sammy Beavers won the 25-lap modified-sportsman feature, he was followed by Cramer, Pat Wohlgemuth (168), Spud Murphy (2A), Schaible, L. Farley and Augie Lieber (57A). 

Fan favorite Al Tasnady (707) experienced transmission problems during the evening.  Jackie McLaughlin was on hand but did not compete although he did take a pickup truck out onto the track for a few laps.

Coverage of Harmony’s opening races was featured the following week in the very first issue of Area Auto Racing News.

Were any 3Widers at Harmony Speedway for the opening night?  Your memories?

Msg ID: 2512157 55 years ago - Harmony Speedway opens +0/-0     
6/7/2018 1:20:04 PM

Reply to: 2512140

First time I was there was when Leon's Tri-State organization took over.

Msg ID: 2512158 55 years ago - Harmony Speedway opens +0/-0     
6/7/2018 1:24:23 PM

Reply to: 2512157
Same here, the 1st race I ever attended at Harmony was the 1971 season opener.

Msg ID: 2512159 55 years ago - Harmony Speedway opens +0/-0     
Author:Greg Collins
6/7/2018 1:56:07 PM

Reply to: 2512157

That would have been the 1971 season.

Msg ID: 2512160 55 years ago - Harmony Speedway opens +0/-0     
Author:Ernie Saxton
6/7/2018 2:05:43 PM

Reply to: 2512159

If my memory is working correctly I got to announce much of the season.

One of the problems I found with Harmony was the track was too far away from the grandstands and fans lost the real feel of the action. I think there was a drag strip between the oval track and grandstands.

Keep in mind that I am old and sometimes my memory does not work that well.



Msg ID: 2512174 55 years ago - Harmony Speedway opens +0/-0     
Author:Greg Collins
6/7/2018 4:21:06 PM

Reply to: 2512160

Ernie, you are correct:  the location of the 1/8 mile drag strip (which began operation in 1964) between the track and grandstands did indeed impact any “closeness” the fans were used to experiencing at Nazareth, Flemington, Middletown, Reading. 

I distinctly recall your presence as the announcer at Harmony for much of the 1971 season.  I specifically recall that one Sunday afternoon you were on the receiving end of verbal comments by angry fans leaving the grandstand in response to top modified drivers Will Cagle, Bobby Bottcher and a few others having to leave the track before the modified feature event was run.  Those drivers were hopping a small plane at a nearby farmer’s airstrip in order to fly to Lebanon Valley for the monthly open competition race held on the first Sunday of the month.  Harmony track officials had adjusted the schedule that day in an effort to complete the modified portion of the show as quickly as possible but were unsuccessful.  I recall the boos ringing out when you made the announcement that those drivers unfortunately would be leaving the track and not competing in the feature event.  I was sitting a few rows down from the press box and observed and heard their displeasure.  You just happened to be the track representative in their line of fire as they climbed to the top of the concrete stands and headed out to their cars in the parking lot.  You remained professional and didn’t fire back.   

Msg ID: 2512181 Hmmm.... +0/-0     
Author:John Mc
6/7/2018 5:45:37 PM

Reply to: 2512174
Pretty sure my dad got his 1st mod win that day and I remember he always felt it was kind of hollow because those guys weren't there. A win is a win, but I think it bugged him a bit. The drag strip was an issue for spectators, but dad loved Harmony. He said you had to get thru the dogleg wide open to be fast there...but the writing was on the wall regarding Tri-state, so it was back to Flemington. That and the ride from Pt Pleasant twice a weekend for the McManns was brutal.

Msg ID: 2512259 Hmmm.... +0/-0     
6/8/2018 10:39:31 AM

Reply to: 2512181

I missed one of your Father's Harmony wins as I was crashed out in the car. It was fence repair night. It might of been the night Pace in the 125 ended up in the cornfield. There were a couple fence repair delays and it was after midnight and one of the few times I couldn't hold out. When Pop woke me up the first question...Who won? McCaughey. I'm pretty sure that was in the 301. He sure did find his way around that track.

Msg ID: 2512357 Hmmm.... +0/-0     
Author:John Mc
6/9/2018 8:26:25 AM

Reply to: 2512259

It was the purple McMann 4, they got Harmony figured out pretty well the 2nd half of that year.

Msg ID: 2512276 John Mc +0/-0     
Author:Greg Collins
6/8/2018 11:57:49 AM

Reply to: 2512181

John Mc, understand those thoughts, yet there was certainly nothing “hollow” about your Dad’s next modified feature win at Harmony that year:  on August 21 he brought the McMann #4 across the line ahead of Walt Olsen, Will Cagle and Bobby Bottcher, the top runners at Harmony that year.

Msg ID: 2512179 55 years ago - Harmony Speedway opens +0/-0     
Author:Rob Renninger
6/7/2018 4:59:05 PM

Reply to: 2512140

I was also on hand for the first Tri-Track race.. and yes the track was to far away from the grandstand and I felt like the cars virtually stopped at the sharp first turn.  Between the two I felt the racing was rather boring in spite of the fact that the field had all of the big guys there, minus Frankie.  I never went back.


Msg ID: 2512335 55 years ago - Harmony Speedway opens +0/-0     
6/8/2018 10:16:45 PM

Reply to: 2512140

Went to the first race with Pat Wohlgemuth he finished third!!

Msg ID: 2512356 Bill123 +0/-0     
Author:Greg Collins
6/9/2018 7:27:12 AM

Reply to: 2512335

What memories do you have of that evening of Harmony‘s first race?  What was Pat’s impression of the track?