Jennerstown Speedway Complex
|Owner||Jennerstown Speedway Complex LLC|
|Former names||Jennerstown Speedway|
|Length||0.522 mi (0.840 km)|
Jennerstown Speedway Complex is a racetrack in Jennerstown, Pennsylvania. Built on land that was once home to the Jenners Fair the track had its start as a in the 1920s as a flat, half-mile dirt track. After several changes, advancements and owners the track closed in 2009 until early 2014 when it was reopened. Previously a NASCAR certified track, racing greats such as Dale Earnhardt, Sterling Marlin, Ken Schrader, and Darrel Waltrip.
Jennerstown Speedway, one of the oldest short-track facilities in the United States, has undergone a number of transformations leading up to today’s state-of-the-art motorsports complex.
Constructed in the late 1920s as a flat half-mile dirt oval, the Jenners Fairgrounds, as the speedway was then known, played host to ‘big car’ racing (forerunners to the sprint cars of today) during the 1930s. Among the leading local drivers of that era were Butch Gardner and the ‘Pennsylvania coal miner’, Mike (Little) Serokman.
Following World War II a smaller, lighted dirt quarter mile track was built in the infield in 1953. Laird Brunner became the first weekly promoter to present stock car racing, which had replaced the midgets as the post-war entertainment craze sweeping the nation. At that time the half-mile was abandoned. The half mile track was again rebuilt in 1967 and was used briefly. Brunner was followed by the successful promotional team of Carmen Amica/Dick Basserman, who guided the speedway during the early 1960s. Other promoters during the quarter mile era included Lou Smith and George Kittey. The half-mile was restored and briefly used in the mid-1960s, but was quickly closed again due to poor track conditions. During this early era, drivers such as Fuzzy Rubritz, Blackie Watt, Jimmy Burns, Joe Viglione and Johnny Grum thrilled motorsports enthusiasts at the track which featured outlaw and Penn Western Racing Association-sanctioned contests.
In 1967, local businessmen John Frambaugh, Sam Turrillo, Bill Philson, John Philson, Doc Whiney, Harry Horne and Piney Lasky purchased the grounds and completely rebuilt the track into one of the fastest half-mile dirt ovals in the nation and immediately began a major modernization project. Over time Lasky became the sole owner of the facility, and in 1987 made the decision to move Jennerstown to the next level by paving the track and bringing asphalt racing back to Western PA for the first time since the Heidelberg Raceway closed in 1973. Lasky upgraded the grandstand and concession areas, as well as affiliated the track with NASCAR, and brought major sanctioned events to the Somerset County speedplant.
After Lasky died unexpectedly in 1994, his son, Stanley Jr., took over and ran the operation for the next five seasons, before selling to former speedway late model champion Steve Peles and Hooters Restaurants founder, Bob Brooks, in 2000. After three seasons, Peles and Brooks sold the track to Dave Wheeler, who initiated an immediate upgrade in operations. Wheeler repaved the oval in 2004 with a $350,000 polymer-based racing surface.
At the end of the 2008 season, it was rumored that the track, which was beginning to fall into disrepair, wouldn't reopen. In February 2009, Wheeler said in an interview that the speedway won't open this season and is listed for sale. Claiming he wouldn't be able to continue his full-time job and run a speedway, Wheeler also blamed a decrease in attendance as another reason to cease operations.
Race enthusiasts and racers themselves, new owners Bryan Smith, Rob Beck and John Taylor held a meeting at a local fire hall to discuss the details of the former raceway. After a larger than expected crowd made up of mostly drivers and owners, it was decided the heavily vandalized track would reopen in May 2014. Aside from the usual races, also planned were events such as swap meets, car shows and educational classes.
- "Jennerstown Speedway to Reopen for 2014 Season". Myracenews.com. 6 December 2013. Archived from the original on 28 April 2014. Retrieved 3 November 2015.
- "About". Jennerstown Speedway. Retrieved 3 November 2015.
- "Remember When: Piney Lasky" (PDF). Speedway Productions. Retrieved 3 November 2015.
- "OBIT: Stanley "Piney" LASKY, Sr., 1994, Hollsopple RD, Somerset County, PA". USGenWeb Archives. Meyersdale Library. Retrieved 3 November 2015.
- "Jennerstown Speedway won't open, is for sale". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Associated Press). 17 February 2009. Retrieved 3 November 2015.
- Ganassi, Michelle (2 February 2014). "Racers returning to Jennerstown Speedway in May". Our Town News (Johnstown, PA). Retrieved 3 November 2015.
- Dunmyer, Christine (18 January 2014). "Drivers, owners work out Jennerstown Speedway details". Daily American News (Somerset, PA). Retrieved 3 November 2015.