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Popular speedway set to reopen after owner agrees to sell

By Maria Miller
JENNERSTOWN, Pa. -- A popular speedway has been sold to a new owner and is set to reopen after being closed for five years. The announcement was just made Thursday, but already the news has spread fast as an entire town, with roots deep in history, anxiously awaits its return.

"(I remember) seeing the cars going around the track, the excitement of the fans, the smell of the race fuel and the tires," said John Taylor, a member of Sports Car Club of America and ZeroTime Entertainment, the group recently purchasing Jennerstown Speedway.

For years Taylor recalled what a typical Saturday night at the speedway was like until it was closed in 2008.

A former racer himself, David Wheeler said the main reason he purchased the speedway in 2003 was to keep it from closing. But when he became the president and CEO of his own company in 2007, he said the hours became too much.

"I just couldn't do both things anymore, but yet I wanted to see racing survive," said Wheeler. "It was kind of an awkward situation, so rather than parting the track out or selling it as real estate, which I could have quite a few times, I just held on to it and hoped we could get weekend racing back in Jennerstown."

While the speedway sat idle, Wheeler did let the Sports Car Club of America use the track during the summer months for auto cross events. But when the group, made up of Taylor, Bryan Smith and Rob Beck, recently decided it wanted more, Wheeler struck them a deal.

"Every time we go in there it's just been kind of sad to see the place empty and growing up with weeds so we were trying to figure out ways to do something in that place," said Smith. "I guess we just decided to approach the owner and here we are."

"I've been going there since I was 6 months old and my dad raced there for 25 years," said Barry Awtey. "I couldn't tell you how much of my life I spent there."

For the past five years, Awtey said he's had to travel to race his Chevy late model and said he can't wait to be reunited with his original racing family.

"You see almost everybody and the same people. It's like a family," said Awtey. "Everybody goes there that loves racing and I'm excited about it coming back."

"I don't really think people realized how much income was drawn to the area until the track closed and I've heard a lot about that over the past few years," said Wheeler. "It's hurt some businesses and slowed things down so it's going to be good for everybody."

The speedway has been a target for vandals over the years. The front office was stripped of it's copper wiring. But the group said it already has an electrician ready to fix up the office and said the rest of the work will be clean up and a paint job. They hope to have a grand Saturday night reopening in May.

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Edgar Snyder

Washington Times