Lebanon Valley Speedway

A TRACK HISTORY
 

 

Laid out in 1953 in a cornfield and the Lebanon Valley Airport, the speedway was owned by the Spanier family and leased to  and operated by a Massachusetts group consisting of Edward Radke, Robert Scott and Harold Beitzel. The gentlemen had hopes of developing a state of the art race track drawing Massachusetts, Vermont, Connecticut and New York State drivers and teams to this centralized location.

In 1953, the interstate systems were not yet developed and Route 20 was one of the main east west routes for getting to or from Albany and Massachusetts. Route 22 was a main road for North South traffic.  

There were three sanctioning bodies in the area. The Eastern States Racing Association, Big Car Racing Association and the AAA. These associations often used fairgrounds to organize races and it was becoming quite popular.

The Pittsfield group were focused on gaining cars from State Line Speedway in North Bennington Vermont, Route 66 Speedway in Averill Park New York, Pine Bowl Speedway north of Routt 66 Speedway and Arlington Speedway in Poughkeepsie New York.

 

 

During the preparation of the half mile oval, fences were put in, grandstands were erected and the barn was lettered with 'Lebanon Valley Speedway. All of these preparations developed a significant debt (for 1953 standards) and they assured the banker that he would be easily repaid. The grand opening-day show was cancelled due to a Sunday rainstorm and the following week's scheduled 50-lapper was reduced to 26 circuits when competing drivers declared the track turns too dangerous. Hully Bunn from Cropseyville New York won the inaugural 13 mile main event on June 28, 1953 in front of an estimated crowd of 2,500.

 

In 1954, Lou Spanier gained ownership and at the end of the 1955 season, Lebanon Valley gained its signature 'high banks'. A timely project as no record of racing in 1956 can be found. The 'high banks' have become a trademark of Lebanon Valley Speedway ever since making Lebanon Valley Speedway a track that demands power along with keen driving skills. Racing resumed in 1957 under the promotion of Spanier and the Lebanon Valley Auto Racing Association. Race day moved from Sunday afternoons to Friday evenings and midway through that same season the switch was made to Saturday nights where it has remained for more than 50 years. Before the 1950s came to a close, future DIRT MotorSports Hall of Famer Howie Westerveldt established a single-season record that stands intact today. In 1959 the Ravena New York racing pioneer won 17 features, was runner-up three times and placed third once in 21 events.

 

In the late 1950's, I was exposed to the wonder of the Valley by friends related to the Goodermote's and Carr's of Stephentown, Cherry Plain and Berlin New York. We rooted for Dee Goodermote, Toby Goodermote and Warney Carr. Warney had moved to Trenton New Jersey but returned every Saturday night to race at Lebanon Valley.

 

The years with Doug Garrison, Stretch Van Steenburg, D. D. 'Rebel" Harris, Howie Westerveltd, Frankie Schneider, Link Pettit, etc, etc, etc, was a great time to experience Lebanon Valley Speedway and has left many fond Saturday night memories. I also remember running from the fourth turn to the first turn to the fourth turn to the first turn wearing one of those little orange racing helmets that they sold at the concession stand carrying those little checkered flags they also sold. (did I just write what I was thinking? I hope not). I have also noticed that small kids still wear those little helmets at the track. How many did the Valley buy?

 

The Valley staged its first 200-lap race in the mid-1960s and it was won by Frankie Schneider on Oct. 3, 1965. With the exception of 1976-79 the double century grind has been a season-ending highlight every autumn. The reigns of promoter were eventually passed from 'Uncle Lou' Spanier to his nephew Howie Commander in 1970 and he remains at the helm as the new millennium presses on. Lebanon Valley joined the DIRTcar fold in 1980 and has boasted some of the top drivers on the entire circuit including past Syracuse Rite Aid 200 champions Kenny Tremont, Billy Decker and five-time Valley points king Brett Hearn. All three open-wheel veterans rank among the top-10 on DIRTcar NorthEast's all-time Big-Block Modified winner's list since the organization was formed in 1976.
 

We are looking for information and photos about the Valley's history.

If you would like to add to our project, Please contact us at:

hotrod@lebanonvalleyclassics.com

Lebanon Valley Classics