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2nd Quarter 2023 Newsletter

June 6th, 2023 | Blogs 6th, June at 1:32 PM

Southern Penna. Historic Auto Racing Commission

2nd Quarter 2023


No one ever said this would be easy, and as we have learned the task of raising a large sum of money to build a structure is daunting. But we’re not folding our tent, instead we’re using the facility we already own. The Museum Board made the decision at the end of 2022 to close the mini-museum store on Richard St. in Bedford. We benefited from the exposure with our name on a permanent storefront in downtown Bedford, but unfortunately it did not lead to any substantial revenue sources that we sought. However, we thoroughly enjoyed each and every diehard race fan and casual visitor that stopped in our store. In addition, the support we received from the Chamber of Commerce and the intown Businesses has kept us inspired as we continue to maintain a positive outlook for the future. I’ve stressed before that this Museum is not about us, but instead the essence of our mission is to celebrate the thousands of race related participants in our region that pioneered the sport, and at the same time recognize the tracks they made famous. Many of those tracks were closed for one reason or another and unfortunately no longer exist, except for the memories.

The Board Members are turning their immediate attention to our facilities at 232 Mann St. in the Orchard Hts. section of Bedford, a property we already own. The former Gus Frear shop has served as our meeting room and memorabilia storage site for the collections we have received. Thanks primarily to Board Member Don Metzler, the garage room was cleaned, organized, and upgraded with new lights and paint to accommodate our needs at that time. However, we now plan on refurbishing the building in order to exhibit items both for display and to sell. This room, although not huge, also presents the possibility of conducting a seminar or round table discussion for groups of up to 40 people. The former large machine shop is presently utilized for storing vehicles, including several vintage race cars. We have discussed enclosing the corridor between the two buildings which would permit direct access and open up possibilities using both buildings simultaneously. A year ago, once again thanks to Don, a new metal roof was installed on the large machine shop. Consequently, now additional upgrades to this building are structurally feasible. We are only beginning this phase of our journey; in fact, the project is still in the discussion stage. The fact we own these buildings makes good business sense to improve these facilities and establish a home for the Southern Pennsylvania Historical Auto Racing Commission at the present time. We’ll keep you updated as plans develop.

Our web page, (Museum of Speed at Bedford), has gone through a major face lift. We plan on keeping the new look fresh and up to date, something we were unable to accomplish on the old site. One of our main objectives is to sell some of our nostalgic merchandise online, such as photos, hats, shirts, collectable scale models, etc. We should now be able to control this media information outlet more efficiently in the future.

This winter we acquired the Frank Dunkle racing collection in Everett, consisting of a large assortment of NASCAR memorabilia. Frank was a lifelong racing participant and fan beginning in 1955 when the South Penn Speedway in his hometown was built by Jack Sponslor. Frank was primarily responsible for writing the first rule book for the track while also playing a major role in forming the Hobby Auto Racing Association who operated the track’s weekly events. A consistent driver, Frank finished in the top 10 in points 7 out of 8 years racing at Everett’s ¼ mile oval. After taking time off for business reasons he returned to the tracks driving his familiar #98 in the dwarf car division. Frank was a winner both on and off the racetracks, and we are honored to own his collection.

One memorable visitor we had in our Richard St. store this winter was Roger Johnson from Ligonier. He confirmed an event at the Bedford fairgrounds from 60 years ago that I vividly recalled despite only being 12 years old. Roger and his dad Kenneth were sitting up on the hill in turn 4 during a 200 lap October modified race sanctioned by NASCAR and promoted by fame race Director Sam Nunis. In the late stages of the race a wheel came off of car #145 as he negotiated the south end of the speedway. With no wall or fence to intercept the errant missile the tire bounced up the steep shale bank gaining momentum while heading directly for the Johnsons. As the tire cleared the cliff Kenneth dove on his 9 year old son, Roger, to shield him from the direct impact. Roger was spared from serious injury; however, his Dad took the brunt of the blow causing the impact to shatter his leg. His injury required an extended hospital stay while the healing process took 9 full months before Kenneth could return to work. In order to generate some family income Mrs. Johnson turned to racing and began creating beautiful images of the race cars the top competitors drove on the Penn Western Racing Association circuit. And Roger, who avoided disaster because of his Dad’s sacrifice, received only some brush burns and was able to return to school the next day with one heck of a story. Over the years others claimed to be the one at the center of this story, but without a doubt when 68 year old Roger Johnson began disclosing his story I knew it was a firsthand account.

Check out our contact information to make comments, suggestions, share stories, volunteer for events, or just to say hello. Till next time……………..

4th Quarter 2020 Newsletter

May 9th, 2023 | Blogs 9th, May at 6:50 PM

In Conjunction With The
4th Quarter 2020

I feel relatively sure we have never experienced a year that we were more glad to see come to an end than 2020. As we continue to confront the virus and process its deadly impact, we now have reason to be optimistic as vaccines are slowly being administered. So, let us keep the faith and respect each other in the process.

Many speedways either cancelled or altered their winter banquet routine, Bedford was one. We will recognize the 2020 Bedford Champions from each class. In the Super Late Models Jeff Rine captured 4 feature wins in the Elbin 92 and pulled down his 6th point title, closing within 1 of all-time leader Jack Pencil’s 7. Spike Moore was both the Late Model Sportsman champion and theleading feature winner with 3 victories. In the Modifieds Mike Altobelli Jr was the driver to beat garnering 5 feature wins while earning his first point championship. Consistency was the name of the game for Semi-Late point champ Bill Replogle as he captured just 2 feature wins in this always competitive class. Pure Stock point champion Dalton Ritchey picked up 3 feature wins and numerous up-front finishes on his way to his first title. In the 4 cylinder class it was the consistent driving of Darren Howsare and his 2 feature wins that earned the point championship. Overall, 2020 had to be deemed a success on the Bedford track despite all the unique distractions and challenges for the Speedway’s Officials. The fan base also deserves enormous credit for supporting the track each and every week. The Museum of Speed also wishes to congratulate all last year’s point Champions, and each and every driver that towed into the Bedford pits last year. Thank you.

In this episode of the historical corner, we conclude our examination of the controversial pari-mutuel wagering referendum confronting the voters of Bedford County in the spring of 1965. To illustrate how far back this topic was discussed, on July 18th, 1953 the Bedford Gazette sports editor ran a story that highlighted the revenue generated for Allegany County and the State of Maryland each time the Cumberland
Fairgrounds conducted a session of legalized pari-mutuel horse racing. He emphasized the amount of vehicle traffic heading south through Bedford County towards the Fairgrounds each time they raced, business and tax revenue leaving Pennsylvania.

Fast forward 12 years and now of all locations Bedford County found itself one election day short of receiving a coveted State issued pari-mutuel permit for the fairgrounds. The referendum on the spring ballot gave every eligible voter in the County the right to approve or defeat the projected $6 million sports complex that would include a legalized horse racing operation. ‘For some it was the economic opportunity of alifetime, but for many it was a moral issue that required a virtuous response. Primary
election day, May 18th, dawned sunny and pleasant. On a day when few County races of any significance were being contested voters poured into the polling houses in unprecedented numbers to voice their opinion. Early returns that evening, mainly from Bedford Borough and Township, tallied at one point almost 1,600 votes approving the referendum. Optimism among the supporters ran high well into the evening, back slaps and hugs were in order. But as the evening drug on and the smaller rural precincts reported their results, the vote lead dwindled along with the mood in the room.

Ultimately the no’s prevailed by defeating the referendum by 655 votes out of more than 13,000 votes cast that day, a day that will forever have undetermined significance in County history. We can only speculate what might have been. But we do know six years later in 1971 Pennsylvania legalized public gambling when the lottery was instituted. Some of the same people that vehemently opposed the horse racing referendum now patiently stood in line at local outlets to purchase their gambling tickets. So apparently to some it was not really a moral problem with wagering, but perhaps with the fear of the unknown. The opportunity was dead, so the developers packed up and left town.

The Fairgrounds once again seemed destined to be silent with little activity other than the 7 days during fair week each summer. However, that would change a mere two months later when Breezewood businessman Roy Morral worked out an agreement with the Fair Association to promote weekly auto races beginning after the
1965 Fair. Within a 3 month span Bedford transitioned from hosting a professional sports complex which included horse racing, to a weekly auto racing track that continues today. If the wagering referendum was approved there is absolutely no way auto racing would have continued beyond the 1965 Fair race. The track and facilities would have been modified to accommodate horses and only horses. So in essence as a lifetime auto race supporter, I’m grateful how everything played out, yet I still wonder what if. Fifty-five years later we celebrate and embrace our rich auto racing heritage at Bedford and thank the car racing enthusiasts that unintentionally paved the way for horsepower rather than horses by rejecting the 1965 referendum.

On a regretful note, the Museum of Speed’s annual February preseason fundraising party has been cancelled for this year. A decision was required last month to have proper time to not just rent a venue, but also organize all that is essential to assemble such an event. The Museum’s Board of Directors will miss this opportunity to promote our sport while sharing an evening with a lot of great race fans and some of our region’s all-time best racers, past and present. We will also miss one of our key early season fundraising events, but like you we’ll make some adjustments and withstand the shortfall of revenue normally generated from this social ·gathering. We wish to thank everyone that has supported our previous parties and look forward to future events.

First practice at Bedford, March 27th. Follow us on the web at, museumofspeedatbedford,, or email at, [email protected].