70 Years of Williams Grove

By Todd Heintzleman
If you compare the sprint-car victory list from Williams Grove Speedway with a list of members from the National Sprint Car Hall of Fame,  you will find a lot of the same names.

Over the past 70 years, some of the best drivers to ever strap into a  sprint car have tamed the Grove’s long straightaways and tight corners — guys like Tommy Hinnershitz and Jan Opperman, Kenny Weld and Doug Wolfgang, Steve Kinser and Sammy Swindell, plus local heroes like Lynn Paxton and Fred Rahmer.

This season marked the 70th anniversary of the historic half-mile speedway, located in the heart of sprint-car country in central Pennsylvania, 10 miles from the state capitol of Harrisburg.

Longtime Williams Grove owner Morgan Hughes, who purchased the speedway and adjacent park from the Richwine family in 1971, died in April 2008. His daughter, Kathy Hughes, has taken ownership of the speedway with Justin Loh as the general manager.

In the beginning, it was guys like Hinnershitz, Vic Nauman,  Joie Chitwood, Mark Light and Ted Horn winning races at the Grove.

While the Grove was already on the national racing map, the 1970s secured its place there.

Late central Pennsylvania promoter Jack Gunn brought Opperman to Williams Grove in 1970 where he became one of only a few men to ever win at the Grove in their first attempt.

“That got my attention,” Paxton said. “You didn’t come into Williams Grove and win. He’s the only guy I’ve ever seen do that.”

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