For the past 10 racing seasons, Dad and I have been making the trip up to central Pennsylvania to watch sprint car races at Lincoln Speedway and Williams Grove Speedway. My work schedule doesn’t give me many Fridays and Saturdays off, so we take advantage of as many as we possibly can. This year, we were fortunate that my weekends off in this rotation fell right into the heart of the season, so we have been able to go quite a few times, including this past Friday night. We got to watch my favorite local driver, Fred Rahmer, start 10th in the 410 feature and finish 2nd. Impressive as always. Following the race, while we were watching the 358 feature, Mr. Rahmer was confirming his plans to retire at the end of the season.
10 years ago, I went with Dad and some of his co-workers to Susquehanna Speedway in Newberrytown, PA. They were running school bus races, so of course all the bus drivers wanted to go. I had no idea there was a race track about an hour from our house. We always went out to Hagerstown anytime we wanted to watch some dirt track racing. We get to Susquehanna that night, and the school buses are on the track, running it in and getting it ready for that nights program. When the track is ready, they get the buses off, and the sprint cars start coming out for hot laps.
I had seen the World of Outlaws on TNN back in the day, so I knew what a sprint car was. I knew Tony Stewart owned WoO team, so I was familiar with his driver Danny Lasoski, and every race fan in the country had heard of Steve Kinser. That was about the extent of my knowledge of the sport. When the first set of cars came out for hot laps and the track went green, I knew I was hooked. The speed of these machines on a dirt track is unbelievable. It really is something you have to see and experience to appreciate. At that point, I had forgotten all about the school buses and wanted to see more sprint cars. The racing program continued, and soon, it was time for the feature race of the night, the A-Main for the sprint cars. Like Dad and I do at every track, we each pick a car to pull for. If I recall, my dad picked Brent Kluge since he was from Fallston, which we thought was awesome. I picked the car pictured above, the 88H of Fred Rahmer. I knew nothing about Fred Rahmer before that night. Before they took the green, I didn’t know how old he was, if he had ever won before, or even if he was any good. I saw that one word on the wing of his car that made me pick him, Chevrolet. I made a good choice. On that night, he won.
The 2nd sprint car race I went to was the 2004 Summer Nationals at Williams Grove, featuring the World of Outlaws. I went there all excited to see the 20 of Danny Lasoski and Steve Kinser, the two guys I was familiar with. Since Tony Stewart was my favorite NASCAR driver, I figured I would pull for his car, and Lasoski was his driver. I bought a t-shirt as soon as I got there and put it on. I found a seat on the backstretch, and got ready to see some racing. Out came Lasoski for his hot laps, and he got booed by most of the people there. Steve Kinser came out, and I expected a lot of cheering for him. Boy was I wrong. Those people booed the hell out of him, flicked him off, and went nuts. I had a World of Outlaws program, and every single car that was on the cover of that program was not welcomed warmly to the track. Anybody else was cheered and applauded. I explained to the person next to me that this was my first WoO race, and asked why everybody hates the outlaws. His response has been stuck in my head ever since. ”F$#% the Outlaws. Pennsylvania Posse Forever”.
I knew at that point, I better find a local driver to cheer for too, or I may not make it out of Pennsylvania alive. About that time, Fred Rahmer was coming out of the pit area, and my decision was easy. He struggled that night for the most part, having to take a provisional to race in the A-Main if I recall correctly, but he went from starting last, to finishing 8th. Very impressive considering the level of competition he was up against that night. Lasoski actually won, and I went into the pits following the race and was able to shake his hand. He was very nice, signed my shirt, and told me he hoped I would be a sprint car fan for the rest of my life.
The third race I went to was back at Susquehanna Speedway in the middle of September. Fred Rahmer clinched the track championship that night, and won the feature. Since that year, I’ve lived and breathed sprint car racing as much as possible. Even though I can’t go to as many races I would like, I keep up on the internet, through Twitter, and subscribe to the Area Auto Racing News. I even decided that my bachelor party should be held at Williams Grove during the first WoO appearance of the year. We took about 10 guys in a school bus, ironically, up to The Grove. Everybody who went that night was impressed at what those men and machines did on a clay surface. That night will always be special because it’s the only time I’ve gotten up enough courage to talk to Mr. Rahmer. He was very kind, and I have a picture of the two of us from that night. For some reason, I am still intimidated by him, and don’t want to do anything that would make him mad, even though I’m sure he would be just as kind as he was that night.
For the last 10 years, the entire time I’ve followed sprint car racing, I’ve been a Fred Rahmer fan. When this season is over, I know I’m going to feel lost. I don’t know who else to pull for. I have certainly been spoiled, pulling for one of the greatest drivers to ever wheel a sprint car. I’ve seen him on TV at the Knoxville Nationals and World Finals, I’ve heard him interviewed on Winged Nation, and I’ve enjoyed knowing that if there was a big show on the east coast, my driver would be there. Mr. Rahmer certainly deserves to retire after the amazing career he’s had. I am happy for him and his family, but I sure am going to miss him.
Mr. Rahmer, thank you for getting me hooked on sprint car racing. Thank you for showing me the great racing that takes place fairly close to our home near Baltimore. Thank you for giving me reason to wake up my house after reading that you won another feature. Thank you for the kindness you showed a drunk guy celebrating his last weekend as a bachelor. Thank you, for everything.