Dorney Park Reunion & HoF Ceremony Held
ALLENTOWN, Pa. – The fourth annual Dorney Park Speedway Reunion/Hall of Fame ceremony held Sunday at the America on Wheels Museum was perhaps one of the most well attended to date as new to this year’s show was a first ever Mahoning Valley Speedway reunion/HoF induction.
Put together by local racing historians Bob and Dale Snyder, it was fitting to include Mahoning Valley Speedway as part of the day’s activities as the paved quarter mile oval in Lehighton has become the legacy of Dorney Park after its closing in 1986. It was the following year that Mahoning then began operations after being ceased for a number of years. The racing has since lived on and thrives under the promotion of Floyd Santee.
The 2013 HoF induction was a who’s who of Dorney and Mahoning stars and each had well-earned their entry into the respective Halls.
For the Dorney Park segment the first to be added was popular Jim Kemmerer. “Big Jim” as he was best known won 23 features at the Park and was always a weekly threat for reaching the checkered flag first. Accepting on his behalf was his widow Janice who spoke of Jim’s love for the sport and the closeness with everyone he enjoyed during his career at the famed fifth-mile.
Late Model standout Rick McNeal was up next. A multi-time champion of the Late Models, McNeal was part of a fierce group of full fender racers that boasted some of the highest car counts at the time of his driving that made qualifying quite intense let alone racing in the feature. McNeal proved his worth as one of the all-time best and his championships speak volumes of a stellar career.
Before rising to fame as a five-time NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour nation champion, Tony Hirschman cut his eye teeth racing Late Models at Dorney Park which served as the springboard to his illustrious career. He also raced at Mahoning Valley where he collected his first career win in 1976. His time behind the wheel has since been well documented by his countless wins and championships. His entry as one of the 50 best Modified drivers of all time stems from his humble beginnings at Dorney Park.
Hirschman’s son, Matt, has carried on the racing name and winning ways of his talented father, becoming a household name in the world of asphalt Modifieds throughout the Northeast.
Last of the Dorney Park admissions was Roger Heffelfinger Sr. As a gutsy, tough-as-nails racer, Heffelfinger won for virtually every car owner he ran for and won all of the big races Dorney had to offer and on more than one occasion. His career spanned four decades where he amassed more than 50 feature wins and multiple championships. Heffelfinger also went on to win a championship at Mahoning Valley. His son, Roger Jr., was equally as good, winning at Dorney, then Mahoning where he would garner a championship as well as Evergreen Raceway.
In 2011 Heffelfinger’s grandson, Austin Kochenash, continued the family legacy when he won the Late Model title at Mahoning and entered in a rare achievement of becoming a third generation to attain a track title there.
As mentioned when Dorney Park ceased operations at the end of the 1986 season, fans and racers where left searching for a place to watch weekly asphalt racing. Enter Ward and Dottie Crozier who had the insight to seek out a facility and luckily Mahoning Valley, which had been dormant, was available. There tireless work and dedication to bring life back to the track paid off as the transition from Dorney to Mahoning became an amazing success.
It was fitting that they would become the first official inductees into the Mahoning Valley Speedway Hall of Fame.
One of the true driving stars of that ‘80s was George Wambold. He had previous been inducted into Dorney’s HoF and when Mahoning fired back into action Wambold stormed to the top of the wins and championship charts. For nearly two decades he held the all-time career Modified wins record. His installment is well justified from his outstanding driving career.
The final member called into the spotlight as Lorin Arthofer Sr. An amazing individual who raced hard yet showed unequivocal amounts of respect towards his fellow racers. Of his many wins, none was more popular than a 1989 Race of Champions Tour victory over George Kent which gained him a guaranteed starting birth to that year’s RoC at Pocono Raceway.
His sons, Jason, Darin and Lorin II followed successfully in his tire tracks and with daughter-in-law Kristy, the Arthofer’s are considered Mahoning’s first family of racing. Together they are credited with in excess of over 100 feature wins and numerous division championships. His granddaughters, Peyton and Avery, race quarter midgets while under the watchful tutelage of their famous granddad.