NEWMANSTOWN – Though they share no common red-cell plasma, those who frequent Clyde Martin Memorial Speedway are like one big happy family. Partly because racing has this way of finding its way into one’s blood stream.
Clyde Martin Speedway may just be Lebanon County’s best-kept, dirt-racing secret. Yet those who are privy to the secret are kept coming back for more by the track’s homey feel, the management’s attention to detail and of course, its family atmosphere.
Nestled in a remote wooded area due south of Schaefferstown, just east of Route 501, Clyde Martin Memorial Speedway is one of two dirt-racing tracks located in Lebanon County – and much too often considered the locale’s ‘other’ racing venue. But, operated by the Lanco Micro-Midget Club, Clyde Martin has done an admirable job of carving out its own niche in the area racing community over the last five decades.
“Yeah, it’s true, racing does get into your blood,” said Kenny Mohler, the president of the Lanco Micro-Midget Club. “I’ve raced most of my life. And I travelled all over the country doing it. A lot of the racers here started racing quarter-midgets. Racing’s a family thing, and it carries over to here.
“We’re all a big family,” continued Mohler. “You can have an argument with someone one week, and the next week you’re helping them fix their car. For me, it goes way beyond ‘on a personal level’. And there’s a lot of people who put in long hours to make this a success.”
Clyde Martin Memorial Speedway moved to its current southeastern Lebanon County location from Ephrata in 1963. The venue is named for Clyde Martin, Lanco Micro-Midget Club’s first flag man, who was killed in an automobile accident in 1957.
“You’ve got to have a good balance of everything,” said Mohler. “We need to run it as a business, because that’s what it is. But you’ve also got to take care of your drivers, because they support you. People wouldn’t show up if you didn’t take care of the drivers. You’ve got to have a good balance and make an effort to give them the best race track you can, the best facility you can.
“When it was in Ephrata, it was a flat track,” continued Mohler. “Actually, we still have some of our original members. We put in the banking, and we put a lot of money into clay. With the banking, speeds are much faster. We had to spend money to upgrade and keep everybody safe. But we have three-wide racing on most nights, from the inside wheel to the guard rail.”
On an average summer evening, Clyde Martin’s racing program attracts an average of 115 cars, throughout its five classes. Racers and their families, friends and families come from all across the Mid-Atlantic Region to test their skills on the track’s challenging oval.
“We get people coming from New Jersey and Delaware, sometimes even North Carolina and Massachusetts,” said Mohler. “And there’s a lot of Lititz, Manheim and Reading drivers. We have people who drive two-and-a-half hours to race here every weekend, and they drive right by other race tracks.
“I think at this level, racing is probably growing,” added Mohler. “We’re on an upswing. A couple of years ago, things were hitting people with traveling. This year, we had an average of 20 cars (in each division) or more a night. That’s good! A lot of people have tried to step up (their level of competition) and didn’t have the funding. We have a lot of drivers this year coming from quarter midgets. It really helped us a lot. But it’s also a benefit of the club’s hard work.”
The popularity of NASCAR has sky-rocketed over the past three decades, to a point where big-time stock-car racing has assumed its place alongside America’s major sports. But if one were to go back even further, the sports’ popularity will always be rooted in dirt.
“With us, we’re going to continue to run the five divisions,” said Mohler. “We’ve done a lot in the last three years to improve the facility, and that’s done a lot to bring in cars. On a weekly basis, we’ve made it more interesting to fans. We continue to grow our car count. I think we’re headed in a really positive direction. As long as we can keep it balanced, I think we can continue that way.
“It’s a good package that makes people want to come here,” Mohler continued. “I’ve heard a lot of guys make the comment, ‘If you can win here, you can win anywhere in Pennsylvania.'”
“One of our biggest things is finding different ways to get people here,” said Mohler. “We want to get the word out and get people here the first time. But that’s true of every dirt race track. We struck a deal with Blue Ridge Cable 11, and it doesn’t cost us an arm and leg to be on TV. Attendance has gone up since we’ve been doing it.
“If you go out to the Turkey Hill at the intersection of Routes 501 and 322 in Brickerville and ask them how to get to the race track, they can’t tell you,” Mohler added. “Which is really bad, considering it’s five miles away. It’s more popular, but you’ve got to hear about it.”
Division Point Standings
Point Standing as of 8/18/14:
|2014 250cc 4 Stroke|
Point Standings as of 8/18/2014: