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HISTORY IS PRESERVED AT LATIMORE VALLEY SPEEDWAY

By Mike Kerchner - staff writer for National Speed Sport News.
This article originally appeared in NSSN July 28, 2004



York Springs, PA – It’s no secret that the majority of auto racing during the early days of the sport was held at fairgrounds ovals around the country. Thus, it is only fitting that the sleepy grass-covered hills of the Latimore Valley Fairgrounds hosts what may be the country’s finest auto-racing museum.

Having heard great things about the Eastern Museum of Motor Racing for years, we took advantage of a rainy day during the World of Outlaws eastern swing to make our first visit to EMMR.

It won’t be our last.

What amazed us the most about the incredible collection of artifacts and memorabilia assembled was the magnificent manner in which the museum captures the complete national auto racing scene, while remaining completely true to its local roots.

Open-wheel racing, NASCAR, Indy car and drag racing are all represented in the museum, but the focus is clearly on the drivers and tracks that made Pennsylvania one of the country’s top auto-racing states.

The first exhibit you see inside the two-story building is dedicated to the history of racing at Latimore Valley Fairgrounds.

The oval track remains a short distance from the museum, and still hosts vintage events several times per year.

The main showroom houses midgets and sprint cars from the very early history of the sport to the most recent. For example, the line of sprint cars begins with a 1940s Miller-Schofield Special and 10 cars later ends with Greg Hodnetts’s Apple Motorsports No. 12.

One of the most interesting exhibits is Tommy Hinnershitz’s garage. The reproduction of the Flying Farmer’s garage includes the exact interior and furniture, which was stripped from the original and fixed into the exhibit.  Included with a race car and tools in the exhibit is an interesting Miracle Power (a Hinnershitz sponsor) display.

While you gawk at the many obscure items on the shelves and work benches in the garage, you hear Hinnershitz discussing his racing career via a video screen located adjacent to the garage. There’s an interesting scale model of Gasoline Alley in Patterson, N.J. located in the corner, and all the walls are lined with photographs and promotional posters touting races mostly at Pennsylvania tracks.

In the numerous display cases scattered throughout the museum, you may look at items associated with drivers the likes of Ted Horn, Buster Warke and Bill Schindler.

You will see trophies, old goggles, helmets and other items. Other displays feature gone-but-not-forgotten tracks like the Altoona Board Track (the exhibit includes actual boards from the racing surface), Hershey Stadium and the reading Fairgrounds, as well as tracks (Williams Grove, Lincoln, Port Royal, Silver Spring), which today make up the heart of Central Pennsylvania’s racing scene.

As you move into the second display room, several unfinished Hiram Hillegass race cars sit with blueprints hanging on the walls above them.  Next you move to the engine room, where engines too many to count, are lined up in a row from oldest to newest. 

Among those featured are Hals, Rileys, Offys and an outboard. There are samples of cars and a display case devoted to the Soap Box Derby, as well as various drag-racing cars and drag-racing memorabilia. Next, you see the Indy car corner, which includes photos and other paraphernalia dedicated to Indy car racing.  It features Rodger Ward’s 1963 Watson roadster and one of Andy Granatelli’s cars, which was driven by Mario Andretti.

The stairway to the second floor is lined with countless event and advertising posters for tracks throughout Pennsylvania.  The second floor is mostly dedicated to stock-car (particularly NASCAR) racing, with various early-day and more recent cars, including a Ricky Rudd-driven Tide Ford.  Also included on the second floor is a display, including a solar-powered car, which looks to the future of auto racing.

The final room we visit is the library, possibly one of the most complete in auto racing.  The room filled with glass cases includes an entire wall of material donated by NSSN Editor Chris Economaki.  It was haunting to see our own handwriting on display via a note we wrote to Chris several years ago, which accompanied an artifact that had been given to him, and is now part of the museum.  Through the years, we’ve made a tradition of touring the Gettysburg Battlefield during our visits to the Central Pennsylvania sprint-car circuit.  From here on, the Eastern Museum of Motor Racing.








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Photo used in header courtesy of Rick Mandelson