MAHONING VALLEY SPEEDWAY, AMERICA’S TRUE ACTION TRACK
By Kyle Hardner & Dino Oberto
Mahoning Valley Speedway opened its gates as a dirt track for the first time in mid-1950’s. Through 1962 the track ran a limited Sportsman division. Suffice it to say it was a bunch of coupes and sedans, powered by Flathead Fords and Chevy straight-sixes.
The Lehighton Stock Car Racing Association operated racing on the site. The club was responsible for track maintenance, etc.
Some of the earliest drivers at the track were Mike Muffley (a Mahoning dirt-track champion), Russell "Bups" Ahner (the leading dirt-track winner with 28 victories from '58-'62), Robert Stahler, Harp Wink (a champion in an old Pottsville, Pa., Stock Car Club), Bobby Bottcher (dirt Modified star Steve's father), "Ears" Mayberry and Rod Snyder Sr. (multi-time track champion Rod Jr.'s father).
The track itself in those days was somewhat primitive. The shape of the track was almost the same as it is today -- a quarter-mile circle. Amenities were few and far between. There was no outside fence. Only a dirt bank and a few poles separated the cars from the fans, who sat on the hillside to watch races (there were no grandstands). The pits were located right off the backstretch. Tires planted in the soil marked the infield.
The track was vacant from 1962 until '70, when it reopened as a paved track promoted by Fred Tedesco. Mahoning ran Dorney Park's Late Models and Modifieds from 1970-76, then replaced the stock cars to run Midgets every week at the renamed "Mahoning Yellow Jacket" Speedway. But only one or two Midget shows were run in '77 before the track closed again.
In 1987, Ward & Dottie Crozier reopened the track, installing grandstands (the old Nazareth National dirt track stands) for the first time. Lehighton area businessman Chuck Pollock and Attorney Mike Garfield became partners with the Crozier's in 1993 then took full control, along with New York’s Alex Friesen and national dirt Modified standout Doug Hoffman of Allentown, in '94. Under their guidance, most of the improvements to the facility (wider track, new building, paved walkways and enlarged pits) took place. At the end of the 1990’s the track got a complete repave.
By the mid 2000’s Hoffman and his wife, Gena, became sole promoters of the track. They introduced new high paying series for the Modifieds such as the Poker Series, began a class for dirt Modifieds and steadily had the track on an upward swing of popularity.
At the end of the 2011 season the Hoffman’s gave up their lease and in came current promoter Floyd Santee of Slatington. A successful businessman, former racer and a car owner to his son, two-time track Modified champion Chip Santee, took Mahoning Valley to new heights. All divisions got increases at the payout window and the drivers responded with great car counts. Under Santee’s watch the grandstand also saw a spike in attendance and today, thanks in part his great guidance, Mahoning Valley has become a top showplace among America’s weekly short tracks.
Each week the grandstands are filled with enthusiastic fans from throughout eastern Pennsylvania, along with invaders from New Jersey, New York and New England.
In the headline Modifieds competitors’ race in some of the most fan pleasing side-by-side action seen anywhere. Late Models, long a staple at Mahoning, have some of the sleekest looking cars with highly talented drivers behind the wheel. The Street Stocks have become one of the nation’s top support classes as car counts reach 30 each week and opposition runs deep throughout the pack. Youth is being served as well through the exciting Pro 4 and Hobby Stock classes and the Dirt Mods provide a unique and very exciting style of racing that has to be seen to be believed.
“We’ll sell you the whole seat, but you’ll on need the edge!” “Line em’ up double file and unleash em’ on the quarter mile!” “The product.” These have all become popular catch phrases of Mahoning Valley Speedway.
At Mahoning Valley the champions are heroes, the drivers are intensely competitive, the fans exemplify passion, and the staff is a core group of hard working dedicated people. Together, under the direction of Floyd Santee, is why the racing at this tight bullring is considered to be a gem amongst America’s short tracks.