TNN’s Eli Gold Goes Sprint Car Racing

From 2001: “He brings a credibility to the sport of Sprint Car racing,” stated Brad Doty authoritatively when asked about the addition of long time veteran broadcaster Eli Gold to the TNN productions of Pennzoil World of Outlaws television broadcasts. Gold is in his first season as the play by play man of TNN?s WoO events, a move necessitated by NASCAR’s move to FOX and NBC/TNN.

          And from all signs the move by Eli Gold into somewhat unfamiliar territory of Sprint Car racing has been an unqualified success, especially when one measures it by the resounding positive response by race fans and viewers.

          Indeed, Eli Gold helps make the sport of Sprint Car racing in particular, and dirt track racing in general, look good. Darn good.

          For if nothing else, Eli Gold is the consummate professional. The epitome of professional broadcasting with taste, flair and knowledge. He brings a hefty amount of class and authority to his broadcasts.

          Gold has been in the broadcasting game since 1972 when he started as a weekend reporter for the Mutual Broadcasting System. For nearly 28 years now Gold has handled a sundry of play-by-play duties including nine years as a professional hockey announcer in four professional leagues as well as the World Hockey Association.

          Then there is Gold?s work in football. In 1988 he became the play-by-play ‘voice’ of the University of Alabama Crimson Tide football and basketball teams, a job he continues to this day in addition to hosting the weekly football and basketball coach?s radio programs.

          Then there is the matter of Eli Gold’s love affair with auto racing.

          For almost 25 years Gold had been an announcer and a reporter for MRN Radio. MRN Radio broadcasts NASCAR events on a 400- station radio network. Last year Gold celebrated his 18th year as the host of the popular NASCAR LIVE weekly radio show on MRN.

          Gold’s tenure at TNN began in 1996. His first TNN Sports gig was the February 1996 NASCAR Winston Cup race held in Rockingham, NC.  A year later Gold signed with CBS for selected NASCAR and basketball broadcasts. In 1999 NHRA Winston Drag Racing was added to his ever-growing list of broadcast duties and was the one to broadcast the history making first time 330 MPH pass in NHRA competition.

          If anyone has any doubts as to whether or not Eli Gold has the chops one might consider that Gold is a three-time Alabama Sportscaster of the Year recipient as voted by his peers in the National Sportscasters Association. In addition, he has twice been named Alabama Sportscaster of the Year by the Associated Press, an honor he has also earned from United Press International.

          Pretty impressive credentials one must admit.

          But the best part of it is, Eli Gold has a true, passionate love for auto racing. Having spent nearly three decades around NASCAR Winston Cup racing, that is where Gold’s roots lie, but his interest in motorsports extends far beyond the gates of NASCAR. Gold just loves racing and his passion and interest comes through loud and clear.

          On screen Eli Gold comes across as a personable, warm, enthusiastic and well informed gentleman, with an emphasis on gentleman. In ‘real life’, he is all that and more. In speaking with Gold recently it was clearly obvious he was a man who, despite being an earnest professional, displayed a variety of positive characteristics that ranged from an honest humility to a sincere interest and passion for the sport of auto racing. Another trait that came through was his unwavering honesty.

          What you see on the screen is what you get in ‘real life’.

          With several Pennzoil World of Outlaw events under his belt now, I was curious as to what his perceptions of the sport were, especially due to the fact that, while Gold was familiar with the sport, he was the first to acknowledge that he needed to ‘study up’ on the history and become familiar with the current, inner workings of Sprint Car racing.

          If nothing else, Eli Gold is a quick study.

          “I am not a total neophyte to what the World of Outlaws was all about,” stated Gold. “So I did have some semblance of a working knowledge. And it’s like everybody has told me, no matter who I talk to, and I keep in close touch with my Winston Cup buddies who I work with. I’ll tell them I’ll be in Charlotte or wherever for a World of Outlaws show and they’ll say, ‘That’s great racing!’ Everybody says the same thing, that it is great racing. And it is.”

          “It’s been very good racing and it?s been exciting. And the thing I find very different about it is the length of the races, obviously. That was the biggest adjustment for me. After two hours of the telecast we?re going off the air and I’m just warming up (laughs)! Especially when you compare it to being on the air for five hours at Dover or the (Coca Cola) 600 race at Charlotte or whatever.”

          “An eight lap, or 12 lap event or even a 30 lap event, you turn around and your night is done. So all this great action is being crammed into two and two and a half hours. But it?s been good. I enjoy it. And I’ve been overwhelmed by the amount of stuff I have to learn.”

          Gold was quick to distinguish between the various forms of motorsports he has been involved in.

          “Other than the fact they have four wheels and a steering wheel there is no similarity to what I have lived for the last 26 or 27 years. So I have been working hard and doing my studying and dealing with Brad and dealing with our historian in the booth, Kevin Eckert. He is invaluable in his help.”

          “It’s coming along. I’ve got a long way to go yet. I’ve only done a couple, three races and my ‘comfort’ factor is still not where it needs to be. But it’s coming along and the racing is fine. It’s great! It’s just my comfort level with all that has gone on and the history of the sport, that’s where I am automatically kind of on edge when I walk into the booth. My history bank in NASCAR is fairly extensive where my history bank with dirt track racing of any sort is really very limited.”

          “So, it’s a lot of work. A lot of work!”

          But Gold isn’t complaining. He genuinely sounds like he is having fun and appreciates where the sport has been and where it is going. He is also genuinely grateful for the help and support he has gotten from his fellow TNN staffers.

          “Oh, yeah!” confirmed Gold. “Brad has been a wonderful help. I bet he wishes he had a dollar for every question I’ve asked him! And even when he is not formally giving me answers to questions he is still such a big help. Just by listening to him talk about something. We can be sitting around and such and such might have happened, whatever it might be, and he’ll say, ‘you know, we had the same thing at Sharon Speedway back in 1978 and yadda-yadda-yadda.’ Whereas I could have said, well, we had a deal like that back at North Wilkesboro back in 1976.”

          “He has that kind of encyclopedic memory and knowledge about Sprint Car racing. Even when we’re just talking in general I’m jotting down notes because you never know when something might come up. And he’s just been a wonderful, wonderful friend to work with. He really has. There is nothing that you can ask, regardless of how elementary, that he won’t give a complete answer to. He’s really trying to help me learn and that’s great.”

          The conversation soon turned to the fans and viewers. Gold is well aware of how Sprint Car fans take their sport seriously. They love it, are extremely protective of it, and most feel a stewardship to it. Sprint Car fans are among some of the most knowledgeable and critical of any fans or any form of motorsports. So I was curious to what Gold’s reaction was to the mostly overwhelming favorable response to his addition to the TNN/WoO broadcast booth.

          “The response has been nice and it feels good, it really does,” offered Gold. “I’m not much of one to go on these internet bulletin boards and chat rooms but I have. I don’t do it in NASCAR. I just don’t do it. But I have after our first three World of Outlaws telecasts just to get the temperature of the viewers. And you’re right, the response has been good.”

          “And of course there will always be some people who don’t like your work and that’s true in anything. But I think the fans and viewers respect the fact that I am not coming in trying to play the part of the expert. Fans see through that. I could not bluster my way through. And I think they respect the fact that I am doing a ton of homework.”

          “I don’t this, that or the other, but I?ll be a son of a gun if by the time the red light goes on the camera that I don’t have it written down in front of me. And if I don?t have a complete answer I can lean on Kevin Eckert, our historian in the booth who has gobs and gobs of information.”

          “I am not one of these guys who is afraid to take input from other people and give them credit on the air, which I have done with Kevin. I did the same thing in NASCAR and again, I have done 26 years of NASCAR between radio and television and had a gentleman named Bill Svoboda who traveled with us in NASCAR. Again, not everybody knows everything. And so if I used a guy in NASCAR after being there for 26years, I sure as heck am going to try and find the best available person for the World of Outlaws after only being there for three races. So we?’e working at it.”

          “We’re not just showing up, sitting down, and fluffing our way through a fairly easy two hour telecast. Brad is doing his work, I am doing my work and we’re trying to give the viewer as complete and as extensive coverage that they can get. We respect the World of Outlaws. No, I haven’t been a Sprint Car man my whole life, but that doesn’t mean I can’t respect Drag racing, or IMSA, or CART, or IRL or the World of Outlaws. I respect them all. And if I am on the air they will get my very best effort possible.”

          And the respect Gold has shown has been mutual.

          “Like I said before, Doc, it’s been great and I think it will just get better,” declared Brad Doty when asked about his working relationship with Gold. “He obviously didn’t know a lot about Sprint Car racing at first but he is definitely a quick learner and I?m surprised at how fast he has caught on. But I guess racing is racing. He brings a real credibility to the sport of Sprint Car racing. He is very well known in racing and NASCAR and has done nothing but help Sprint Car racing as far as I?m concerned.”

          Doty also senses the abundance of positive response since Gold?s inclusion into the TNN broadcast booth of WoO events.

          “I get that sense, too,” stated Doty. “Sprint Car fans are pretty critical and they love this sport and they’re the most knowledgeable fans of any sport, I think. And I think they might have been somewhat concerned with how he would portray the sport, and that’s OK. I think he has proven he is a true professional and has brought that credibility and deserves to be there. I think he does an outstanding job and I?m not just saying that. It’s been great. It really has.”

          Gold, who among all his many duties has a family with wife, Claudette, and daughter, Elise, and who calls Birmingham, AL home (he was born in Brooklyn, NY!!!), seems to feel at ease with the sport of Sprint Car racing and his enthusiasm is genuine. He just loves racing, although, like all of us, different forms of motorsports excite him more than others.

          “I am a fan of Sprint Car racing,” proclaimed Gold. “But I won’t lie. If there are two races going on the same night, one was NASCAR Winston Cup and one was Sprint Cars, I would probably still go to the Winston Cup race because that is what I grew up on. The same way Dave Argabright would go to an open wheel race, because that is what he grew up on.”

          “But, was I disappointed that I was not in town when the World of Outlaws ran at the Talledega Short Track? Yes! As a matter of fact I tried to rearrange my travel schedule around. I was going out of town to do an arena football game and I tried to change my travel schedule around so I could see the World of Outlaws at the Talledega Short Track and, unfortunately, I wasn’t able to.”

          “So yes, I am a fan. I’ve known (Steve) Kinser for years. I got to know him when he ran with us a number of seasons ago. I know Sammy Swindell from his NASCAR days. I know a number of drivers I have met over the years. Just like I know a bunch of Drag racing guys. But, yes, I am a fan of the sport, there is no doubt.”

          And no doubt about the contribution Gold is making to the sport of Sprint Car racing.

(c)2001-2008 DOC LEHMAN/Dirt America


Wayne County Speedway At 40

N.E. “Pete” Jacobs was a man who loved racing. And his passionfor dirt track racing was so great, and so heartfelt, that his passion lives on today through his grandsons and great-grandsons as well as a piece of real estate known as Wayne County Speedway. Pete Jacobs was the man who first conceptualized a racetrack on some farmland he owned south of Orrville, OH. Within months of his decision to pursue building a dirt track Jacobs and original track officers Wellman Lehman, Myron Werntz and Gary Bossler opened the doors to Wayne County Speedway on June 26, 1965.

Over the years Pete developed a real thirst for racing and began attending races frequently. He became a big Dean Mast fan and began following the open wheel ace, one of the Buckeye state’s best drivers. He eventually purchased a racecar and hired Mast as his driver. When son Ken got out of the Army and began attending races he soon started pestering Pete to let him drive. Pete didn’t want any part of his son racing, so he declined.

Eventually, in 1961, Ken decided he was going racing one way or another and began looking for a racecar to buy. He found one owned by Myron Werntz. For Christmas that year, Ken’s wife, Marriann, bought it for him.

Pete, ever the perfectionist, didn’t think Ken’s car was safe enough, and within time relented and put Ken in his car. The father-son team began running at tracks like Holmes Hilltop, Mansfield and others.

Back then purses were paid based on the front gate. Time and again the promoter at a certain track cheated the drivers until Pete couldn’t take it anymore. One night Pete confronted the chintzy promoter and told him next year there would be a racetrack in Wayne County that took care of the drivers, played fair and was honest. In speaking with several drivers that evening, including Myron Harris, Dale Tope, Ken Jacobs and others, when they offered to support the track as drivers and stockholders, Pete went forward.

That was late summer 1964. In late fall 1964 (Pete & Harve) Jacobs, Lehman, Werntz and Bossler came together as track officers to form a corporation for the track. Using 23 acres of his own land across the road from his home, Jacobs soon had his two sons onboard, Harve and Ken as investors (stockholders) in addition to Bob Auten, Clyde Shoup, Stanley Huffman, Glenn Davisson, Dale Tope, John Malcuit, Bob Condo, Rich Falk and a number of others.

On a warm Saturday afternoon, May 1,1965, Orrville Mayor Nelson Douglas led a contingent of dignitaries and enthusiastically leaned on a shovel and tossed high the first spade of earth, marking the beginning of construction of Wayne County Speedway, Inc.

Witnessing the ceremony were original board of director members Pete Jacobs, President; Harve Jacobs, Vice-President; Wellman Lehman, Treasurer; and Gary Bossler, Secretary. Opening night was June 26,1965, and the nearly 3,000 seats were packed as fans enthusiastically watched the ‘supermodifieds’ that would eventually evolve into Sprint Cars. The huge crowd prompted Pete to announce that additional grandstands would be constructed as soon as possible.

Earning the distinction of winning the first race was Eph Davis, who won the first heat and established the first track record at 21.36 in his open wheel modified sprint. The first feature event went to Myron Harris over Ken Jacobs, Eph Davis, Joe Carny, Dick Plew, Pee Wee Venables and Tom Ute.

The track experienced tremendous growth right out of the chute, both in fan and car counts. Some of the region’s biggest open wheel drivers descended on the track throughout its first season, including Dean Alexander, Royal Freed, Woody Holland, Dick Byerly, Pete Bonewit, Chuck Adams, Leroy Kendall, Jim Renner and Ed McClure. Jim Steurer claimed the first season championship.

In 1966 Pete and the board began experimenting with running two nights a week. On Saturday nights they would run open wheel cars and on Sunday nights full bodied (Late Models) cars. They continued this practice for four years.

In the spring of 1970 Pete began experiencing declining health. On June 2 Pete passed away in Orrville. He was 67 years old. He was buried at Crown Hill Cemetary in Orrville with many, many members of the racing community in attendance.

Pete had nearly six years to nurture and establish his track the way he wanted a racetrack to operate. Although the bulk of the business and management was left up to Harve Jacobs, Wellman Lehman and the board of directors, Pete had a vision and a concept that he lived to see realized.

Pete was a perfectionist and a detail oriented man. He was professional but had the proverbial heart of gold. One former track official told this writer that if Pete had his way, he would have let everyone in free.

Two years later, Pete’s wife, Viola “Babe” Jacobs, passed away.

The end of an era and the beginning of a new one came with Pete’s passing. The management reins were picked up by Harve and later the following year by Wellman Lehman who purchased additional stock and became president and promoter. The board of directors added new members during the 1970’s including Rich Falk, Bill Condo, Clyde Shoup, Dale Tope and John Malcuit and others.

A year after Pete’s passing the track hosted the PETE JACOBS MEMORIAL TWIN INVITATIONAL in honor of the track’s founder. This was the biggest race the track ever hosted up to that point and it offered the then unheard of (for 1971 standards) purse of $5,000 going to each of the co-headliners, Sprints & Late Models. Harold McGilton won the 50-lap Sprint Car feature while Bob Cannon took the Late Model event. Most of the Midwest’s top racers competed in the special event before a record crowd. It was a fitting tribute to the founder of the track by the fans, employees & drivers.

By 1966 Late Models were added and the first track champion for that division (that went under a couple different names until 1970) was Bob Miller of Akron, OH. As the 1960’s wore on drivers like Jim Case, Bob Cowen, Jim Woods, Don Hartline, John Middaugh. Jim Bolyard, Jim Gentry, Blaine Aber, Sam Stockton, Leo Doyle, Pee Wee Venables, Dale Tope, Sonny Werntz, De Genzman, Harold Snyder and others dominated Late Model racing at WCS.

Once the 1970’s arrived WCS took a more active role in booking bigger shows, including the original All Star Circuit of Champions, USAC and Lehman’s All Star Super Sprints. As the weekly shows grew Late Models quickly became the dominant class by the mid-70’s and in addition to large weekly fields a handful of higher paying ‘invitationals’ were staged each year including the crowd-packing Buckeye Classic which started in 1969 with Pat Patrick winning the inaugural race. The Buckeye Classic ran through 1983 when it was renamed the Buckeye Nationals.

During the early 1970’s Late Models took front and center stage once and for all and dominating drivers included Bob Cowen, Lloyd Wirt, John ‘Doc’ Simmons, Tom Jarrett, Bob Cannon, Ken Jacobs, Dave Haven, Danny Dean, Harold Snell, Jack Ashbrook, Jim Gentry, Blaine Aber, Woody Holland, Eph Davis, Dave Yobe, Jim Fleming, Don Goff, Roger Reuer, Wimpy Yarmen, Dave Benner and Dean Alexander who moved to Late Models exclusively after a couple seasons racing both Late Models and Sprints. Once the mid and late 70’s arrived new careers were in full swing with drivers like a young John Mason scoring the 1975 championship followed by drivers like Brad Malcuit, Ron Davis, and other competitors made WCS home, including frequent visits and wins from Pennyslvania’s Dave Hoffman, Bob Burris, Tom Durig, Tom Pattin, Ron Hartong and others.
As the 1970’s began to draw to a close veteran and newcomers who raced at WCS included Danny Gardner, Keith Berner, Frank Buccella, Bob Eicholtz, Jim Cushing, Dave Wirt, Denny Mullens, Jerry Moore, Mike Mizer, Bob Moskey, Denny Lorienz, Terry Tackas and others.

During the latter part of the 1970’s when the M.O.S.S. Sprint & Late Model series was formed Lehman booked several shows. When that organization dissolved two original M.O.S.S. owners, Bert Emick and Jerry Clum, reformed with original All Star Circuit of Champions owner Bud Miller using the ASCoC name in 1980 and bringing on investors and board members Wellman Lehman, Earl Baltes and Jean Lynch, Lehman booked both ASCoC Late Model and Sprint races.

During the inaugural season for the ASCoC Late Models in 1980 the very first race for the new organization was held at Wayne County Speedway on May 25 with Rodney Combs taking the series’ inaugural win. Four additional ASCoC Late Model races were held at WCS throughout the ’80 season with Delmas Conley and Danny Dean each winning one while Charlie Swartz won twice. WCS booked ASCoC shows for many years afterwards.

Even though WCS held many high-dollar Sprint Car events during the 1960’s & 1970’s, eventually, during the very early 70’s, the track began bringing in various sanctioning groups like USAC and Bud Miller’s original All Star Circuit of Champions. These events always brought in the country’s best open wheelers like Jan Opperman, Kenny Weld, Dub May, Lou Blaney, Steve Smith and many others. When the original ASCoC disbanded Wellman Lehman started up the All Star Super Sprint sanction in cooperation with a number of promoters. The series ran full-force from 1975-1977 as a touring series and ran each season at WCS. Rick Ferkel, Harold McGilton, Jim Darley, Don Hewitt and a host of other star Sprint Car drivers participated at WCS in these events which also saw appearances by very young drivers like Tim Richmond, Charlie Swartz, Sammy Swindell, Kenny Jacobs, Ed Haudenschild, Jac Haudenschild and others.
In 1984 when Carl Short, Frank Plessinger and Satch Worley formed STARS Lehman immediately booked two shows with the first STARS WCS race going to Ray Godsey on August 10, 1984 and Skip Furlow nipping Jim Gentry by inches at the checkers for the second STARS appearance during the inaugural year on October 6, 1984. Throughout the 1980’s and well into the 1990’s WCS hosted a multitude of STARS races. So many that for many years it was known as ‘The Home of the STARS’ until Hagerstown took that distinction.

During the early and mid-80’s besides a strong field of weekly cars, Donnie Moran, Mike Balzano, John Mason, Jack Hewitt and many other ‘touring’ drivers made regular stops at WCS as sanctioned events weren’t as prevalent in those days. In 1988 Moran was on a four-race win streak and a $500 bounty was put up and it took two weeks before John Mason could claim it.

In 1985 Don Gross assumed the management reins after Lehman retired and with them purchasing a large block of stock. With son Rick Gross initially at the helm WCS was renamed Buckeye Speedway. It wasn’t until 1998 when then-owner Harold Detillian changed the name back to Wayne County Speedway.

But the 1980’s, although marked by some slim and lean times for dirt Late Model racing, flourished at WCS with a strong field of regulars throughout the decade including Jim Gentry (who later went on the road with STARS for several years), Dean Alexander, Blaine Aber, Keith Berner, Tye Long, Brad Malcuit, Denny Denman, Mike Mizer, Dave Wirt, Ben Hess, Dave Ledford, Mark Banal, Don Gross, Jack Walker, Keith Altiers, Alan Chance, George Delaney, Mike Chance, Dave Mumaw, Dan Stotts, Roy Sheets, Andy Genzman, Ron Stuart, John Sauber, Allan Baker, Gary Hensel, Mark Uhler and Gary Dreibelbis to name a few.

In 1983 Sprint Cars returned to the weekly show at WCS and winning the championship that year Bud Jacobs. The Sprint Cars remained a weekly component at WCS through the 2003 season. During the time the Sprint Cars returned in the 1980’s drivers like Mike Latsch, Rusty McClure, Ed Hausenschild, George Prosser, Neven Root, Rick Preston, Gary Griffith and a host of others raced weekly at WCS.

As the 1990’s dawned Dean Jacobs spent a season or two and won a championship and the careers of Chad Kemenah and Rob Chaney started and both, among others, had considerable success at WCS. Others who raced Sprints during this period included Rodney Duncan, Todd Kane, Duffy Smith, Doug Stanley, Paul Weaver, J.B. Scarbrough, Nick Mulheim, Matt Lamborn, Garrett Jacobs, Ray Miller, Jac Neville, Lee Jacobs and many, many others through the 2003 season.

During the 1980’s the crowds at WCS remained healthy and strong. The track became an integral part of the Racing On Dirt TV show that was produced and broadcast locally and supported Bret Emrick’s radio show broadcast from WNCO in Ashland.

Several major events were staged at WCS during the 80’s. One included a night filled with NASCAR drivers. Back in the 1970’s Wellman Lehman often brought in such NASCAR heroes as David Pearson, Bobby Allison, Tiny Lund and others to compete with the WCS regulars. In July 1987 WCS hosted a Dirt-ROC event that put such luminaries as Cale Yarborough, Rusty Wallace, Davey Allison, Lake Speed, Michael Waltrip, Geoff Bodine, Joe Ruttman and Rodney Combs in Late Models in conjunction with a STARS show. A huge crowd attended with Yarborough winning the heat and pursuit. With Yarborough dominating the feature in Dave Ledford’s Late Model, Bodine cut down his left rear (“Cale didn’t need to sweep all the races,” quipped Bodine) with Wallace taking the win in Don Gross’ car. During the STARS program Larry Moore took the checkers.
Another memorable STARS race in 1987 was the annual Buckeye Nationals, formerly known as the Buckeye Classic. In that race all the top Late Model stars were on hand as Mike Balzano captured his career first STARS win in a 100-lap race that went non-stop from green to checker.

The following year a record-breaking crowd attended the July 2 races at WCS when the STARS Late Models were on hand along with the first-ever STARS Sprint Car race. Fans flowed into the facility at such a rate that announcer Bret Emrick had to implore fans to make room for others as ticket buyers were eventually told that it was SRO and they would likely have to stand. Bob Wearing, Sr., took the STARS Late Model win with Kenny Jacobs taking the inaugural STARS Sprint win.

During the 80’s WCS also became involved in other special Late Model promotions such as the STARS-Hardees Late Model Speedweek and as part of the STARS Triple Challenge Series with Skyline and Pennsboro speedways and for a period of time WCS and Muskingum County Speedway joined forces for a dual points fund.

As the 1990’s dawned the regulars at WCS pretty much remained the same but many new drivers during that decade began their careers and met with success including second generation racers Matt Bee Aber, Chet Alexander, Ryan Markham, J.R. Gentry, Doug Drown, Justin Chance, Bryan Durig, Eric Eicholtz as well as racers like Charlie Duncan, Mark Osburn, Rick Bond, Wayne Maffett, Jr., Dave Berkey, Dave Hornikel, Eric Myers, Randy Scott, Clint Coffman, Mark Gardiner, Jason Flory, Kristin Flory, Thomas Baker and George Lee.

It was also during the 1990’s that the Gross family (and other stockholders) sold their stock to Harold Detillian in 1995 who became the sole owner. But what happened next stunned Late Model fans. Detillian dropped the Late Models! As a fan of Sprint Cars Detillian made the 410 Sprints the headlining class in an effort to, “Make Wayne County the Williams Grove of the west,” as he stated. It was for naught as Sprint car counts dropped during the first year and even more in 1996, so much so that Detillian was forced to dropped the 410’s altogether and bring in 360 Sprints.

Along with dropping Late Models Detillian also dropped a huge fan count. The fans wouldn’t come out in force without Late Models and by 1997 Detillian had no choice but to bring them back if he wanted to remain in operation. Flagman Ed Fredericks also took over the promoter’s reins in 1997 and met with some success but Fredericks was unable to reach an agreement with Detillian beyond that season. Early in 1999 Detillian sold the track and it went through two separate ownerships until being sold to businessman and former Lakeville Speedway track owner Ernie Coffman and his family in early 2004 who remain as track owners.

With the 2005 racing season fans, drivers and sponsors now have a renewed sense of confidence and a positive outlook for the future with the Coffman family now in ownership roles. Former track owners and long time team owners, Coffman and staff have made a concerted commitment to take WCS into the new millennium and to provide Saturday night dirt track racing for several more generations to come.

Below are some facts & figures and stats from Wayne County Speedway in Orrville, OH from over the 40 years of existence. During the 1970’s there were a couple of support divisions that ran but no points were kept.

Wayne County Speedway 1965-2005 Original Officers Of Wayne County Speedway, Inc. June 1965

N.E. Pete Jacobs, President
Harvey Jacobs, Vice President
Wellman Lehman, Treasurer
Gary Bossler, Secretary

Wayne County Speedway 1965-2005
Original Board of Directors Of Wayne County Speedway, Inc.
June 1965

N.E. Pete Jacobs
Harvey Jacobs
Wellman Lehman
Gary Bossler
Robert Auten
Doyle Hoffman
Stanley Huffman
Myron Werntz

Wayne County Speedway
Original Track Staff – June 1965

Pete Jacobs, Promoter
Wellman Lehman, Treasurer In Office
Joe Harfman, Track Manager
Harve Jacobs, Announcer
Bill Halifx, Clock, Timer, Judge
Gary Bossler, Tape Recorder, Judge
Regina Jacobs, Lap Positions, Judge
Myron Werntz, Sign In Officer
Robert Auten, Sign In Officer
Bob McGovern, Pit Entrance
Ed Zernick, Flag & Infield
Earl Frederick, Flag
Dave Pierce, Infield
Art Myers, Infield
Geroge Holcomb, Pits
Chuck Brown, Pits
Tom Douglas, Publicity
Larry Rhine, Track Maintenance
Glenn Davison, Track Prep
Mariann Jacobs, Ticket Booth
Lois Bossler, Ticket Booth
Donna Venables, Ticket Booth
Norma Hinchy, Ticket Booth
Red Nussbaum, Janitor

WCS 1965-2005

1965-1970 N.E. ‘Pete’ Jacobs
1970-1971 Harve Jacobs
1971-1985 Wellman Lehman
1985-1986 Rick Gross
1986-1987 Jeff Hatfield
1987-1988 Doc Lehman
1989-1994 Rick Gross
1995-1996 Harold Detillian
1997-1997 Ed Fredericks
1997-1998 Harold Detillian
1999-2001 Wayne Phillips
2002-2003 John & Ilene Hess
2004- Ernie Coffman

WCS Track Announcers

Harve Jacobs
Jim Kelly Barker
Dave Ashley
Bret Emrick
Mike Swanger
Todd Tappel
Dustin Jarrett
Chuck Griffith
Harve Jacobs/Ryan Pearson

WCS 1965-2005
History of Late Model Track Champions

1966 Bob Miller Akron, OH
1967 Jim Case Akron, OH
1968 Jim Case Akron, OH
1969 Jim Woods Akron, OH
1970 Bob Cowen Loudonville, OH
1971 Bob Cannon Newark, OH
1972 John “Doc” Simmons Mansfield, OH
1973 Jack Ashbrook Wadsworth, OH
1974 Tom Jarrett Austintown, OH
1975 John Mason Millersburg, OH
1976 Tom Jarrett Austintown, OH
1977 Jim Gillespie Warren, OH
1978 Ron Davis St. Clairsville, OH
1979 Brad Malcuit Strasburg, OH
1980 Tye Long Cambridge, OH
1981 Dean Alexander Orrville, OH
1982 Brad Malcuit Strasburg, OH
1983 Brad Malcuit Strasburg, OH
1984 Dean Alexander Orrville, OH
1985 Jim Gentry Wooster, OH
1986 Brad Malcuit Strasburg, OH
1987 Blaine Aber Wooster, OH
1988 Jim Gentry Wooster, OH
1989 Blaine Aber Wooster, OH
1990 Keith Berner Millersburg, OH
1991 Blaine Aber Wooster, OH
1992 Jim Gentry Wooster, OH
1993 Jim Gentry Wooster, OH
1994 Jim Gentry Wooster, OH
1995 No Late Models
1996 No Late Models
1997 Jim Gentry Wooster, OH
1998 Mark Osburn Kingsville, OH
1999 Ryan Markham Ashland, OH
2000 Ryan Markham Ashland, OH
2001 Ryan Markham Ashland, OH
2002 Mark Osburn Kingsville, OH
2003 Mark Osburn Kingsville, OH
2004 Charlie Duncan

WCS 1965-2005
History of Super Modified/Sprint Car Track Champions

1965 Jim Steuer Mt. Vernon, OH
1966 Chuck Adams Bellville, OH
1967 Chuck Adams Bellville, OH
1968 Royal Freed Mansfield, OH
1969 Eph Davis Mansfield, OH
1972 Roger Wiles Creston, OH
1983 Gerald “Bud” Jacobs Orrville, OH
1985 Rusty McClure Ashland, OH
1986 Neven Root Wooster, OH
1987 Mike Latsch Shreve, OH
1988 Gary Griffith Sandusky, OH
1989 George Prosser Mansfield, OH
1990 Rick Preston Warren, OH
1991 Rusty McClure Ashland, OH
1992 Dean Jacobs Fredricksburg, OH
1993 David Harrison Bettsville, OH
1994 Rob Chaney Millersburg, OH
1995 Chad Kemenah Fremont, OH
1996 Chad Kemenah Fremont, OH
1997 Duffy Smith Massillon, OH
1998 Duffy Smith Massillon, OH
1999 Paul Weaver Fremont, OH
2000 Doug Stanley North Vernon, OH
2001 Doug Stanley North Vernon, OH
2002 J.B. Scarbrough Millersburg, OH
2003 Duffy Smith Massillon, OH

WCS 1965-2005
History of Ltd. Late/Charger/Pro Stock Track Champions

1973 Dave Ledford Orrville, OH
1974 Howard Snyder Dundee, OH
1975 Dave Ledford Orrville, OH
1976 Wayne Maffett, Sr. Mansfield, OH
1977 Wayne Maffett, Sr. Mansfield, OH
1978 Dean Alexander Orrville, OH
1979 Dave Ledford Orrville, OH
1980 Wayne Maffett, Sr. Mansfield, OH
1981 Dave Ledford Orrville, OH
1982 Lou Bemiller Mansfield, OH
1983 Bob Benjamin Apple Creek, OH
1984 Jeff Hudson Wooster, OH
1985 Jeff Drown Wooster, OH
1986 Lou Bemiller
1987 Jim Martin Wooster, OH
1988 Jeff Drown Wooster, OH
1989 Jeff Hudson Wooster, OH
1990 Jim Martin Wooster, OH
1991 Vince Fanello Lucas, OH
1992 Took Wiles Creston, OH
1993 Took Wiles Creston, OH
1994 Took Wiles Creston, OH
1995 Dave Berkey Wooster, OH
1996 Took Wiles Creston, OH
1998 Mike Lonas Mansfield, OH
1999 Wayne Maffett, Jr. Mansfield, OH
2002 Mike Lonas Mansfield, OH

WCS 1965-2005
History of Street Stock/Pure Stock Track Champions

1979 John Cole Crestline, OH
1980 John Banton Orrville, OH
1981 Roger Brenneman Wooster, OH
1982 Roger Brenneman Wooster, OH
1983 Mark Uhler Creston, OH
1988 Mike Giess Mansfield, OH
1989 Wayne Maffett, Jr. Mansfield, OH
1990 Wayne Maffett, Jr. Mansfield, OH
1991 Wayne Maffett, Jr. Mansfield, OH
1992 Bob Daughtery Mansfield, OH
1993 Mark Thompson Streetsboro, OH
1994 Ron Craver Navarre, OH
1995 Tim Cline Big Praire, OH
1996 Ron Craver Navarre, OH
1997 Rick Moore Mansfield, OH
1998 Mark Thompson Streetsboro, OH
1999 Ron Craver Navarre
2000 Mark Thompson Streetsboro, OH
2001 Troy Anderson Lodi, OH
2002 Troy Anderson Lodi, OH
2003 Troy Anderson Lodi, OH
2004 Mitchell Lam

WCS 1965-2005
History of Powder Puff (Late Model) Track Champions

1973 Mariann Jacobs Orrville, OH

WCS 1965-2005
History of Mini Stock Track Champions

2003 Tom Ogle Wooster, OH
2004 Mike Snyder

WCS 1965-2005
History of Modified Track Champions

2004 Larry Kugel, East Liverpool, OH

Wayne County Speedway
Annual ‘Buckeye Classic’ Winners

1969 Pat Patrick
1970 Marv Parenteau
1971 Ron Dolen
1972 Dave Benner
1973 Dick Crup
1974 Bob Wearing Sr
1975 Dave Yobe
1976 Tom Jarrett
1977 Bob Wearing, Sr
1978 Danny Dean
Race#1: Bob Wearing, Sr
Race#2: Bob Wearing, Sr
Race#1: Charlie Swartz
Race#2: Charlie Swartz
Race#1: Ray Godsey
Race#2: Billy Teegarden
Race#1: Brad Malcuit
Race#2: Jim Dunn
Race#1: Donnie Moran
Race#2: Ray Godsey
1984 Skip Furlow*
1985 Larry Moore
1986 Jeff Purvis
1987 Mike Balzano
1988 Charlie Swartz
1989 Donnie Moran
1990 John Mason
1991 Donnie Moran
1992 Larry Moore
1993 Davey Johnson
1994 Rick Eckert
1995 Davey Johnson
1996 R J Conley
1997 Rick Eckert
1998 Steve Francis
1999 Chub Frank

a. Name of race changed to ‘Buckeye Nationals’

Wayne County Speedway
Annual ‘Alpine Alpa 100’ Winners

1983 Donnie Moran
1984 John Mason
1985 Jack Boggs
1986 Jeff Purvis
1987 Jeff Purvis
1988 Bob Wearing, Sr
1989 Davey Johnson
1990 Mike Balzano
1991 Donnie Moran
1992 Donnie Moran
1993 Charlie Swartz
1994 Rick Eckert
1995 Bart Hartman


All Star Circuit of Champions

May 25, 1980 Rodney Combs
July 3, 1980 Delmas Conley
July 13, 1980 Danny Dean
Aug. 31, 1980 Charlie Swartz
Sept. 1, 1980 Charlie Swartz
May 31, 1981 Charlie Swartz
July 12, 1981 Rodney Combs
Sept. 6, 1981 Ray Godsey
Sept. 6, 1981 Billy Teegarden
May 27, 1982 Charlie Swartz
July 11, 1982 Charlie Swartz
Sept. 6, 1982 Brad Malcuit
Sept. 6, 1982 Jim Dunn
July 3, 1983 Charlie Swartz
Aug. 14, 1983 Donnie Moran
Sept. 5, 1983 Donnie Moran
Sept. 5, 1983 Ray Godsey


Aug. 10, 1984 Ray Godsey
Oct. 6, 1984 Skip Furlow
May 26, 1985 Jack Boggs
Aug. 31, 1985 Larry Moore
May 31, 1986 Jeff Purvis
Aug. 30, 1986 Jeff Purvis
April 25, 1987 Jeff Purvis
May 29, 1987 Jim Gentry
May 31, 1987 Jeff Purvis
July 11, 1987 Larry Moore
Sept. 5, 1987 Mike Balzano
May 28, 1988 Bob Wearing Sr.
July 2, 1988 Donnie Moran
Oct. 8, 1988 Charlie Swartz
May 21, 1989 Rodney Franklin
June 10, 1989 Davey Johnson
June 29,1989 Donnie Moran
Aug. 26, 1989 Donnie Moran
May 19, 1990 Donnie Moran
Aug. 24, 1990 Mike Balzano
Aug. 25, 1990 John Mason
June 8, 1991 Donnie Moran
Aug. 24, 1991 Donnie Moran
June 6, 1992 Donnie Moran
Aug. 29, 1992 Larry Moore
June 6, 1993 Charlie Swartz
Aug. 28, 1993 Davey Johnson
June 4, 1994 Rick Eckert
June 17, 1995 Bart Hartman
Aug. 19, 1995 Davey Johnson
Aug. 10, 1996 R.J. Conley
July 26, 1997 Rick Eckert
July 25, 1998 Steve Francis
July 31, 1999 Chub Frank


May 6, 2000 Chub Frank
Aug. 25, 2001 Bart Hartman
July 27, 2002 Bart Hartman
July 26, 2003 Keith Berner
Sept. 13, 2003 Keith Berner*
Sept. 14, 2003 Keith Berner


July 18, 2000 Chub Frank
July 7, 2001 Chub Frank

Xtreme DirtCar Series

July 6, 2004 Earl Pearson Jr.

Sunoco American Late Model Series

Aug. 3, 1995 Charlie Swartz

*King of the Hill race


(Bud Miller’s Original)
All Star Circuit of Champions
(Not complete)

June 20, 1973 Jan Opperman
July 5, 1973 Kenny Weld

All Star Super Sprints

July 2, 1975 Kramer Williamson
June 30, 1976 Kramer Williamson

World of Outlaws

June 14, 1979 Steve Kinser
July 29, 1979 Steve Kinser
June 9, 1981 Bobby Davis, Jr
August 6, 1984 Steve Kinser

M.O.S.S. (Midwest Outlaw Sprint Series)
August 3, 1980 Danny Smith
August 28, 1980 Rick Ferkel


July 2, 1988 Kenny Jacobs

WoO Gumout Series

May 20, 2000 Jeff Shepard


USAC ran many times at WCS in the 60’s/70’s but no records are available of wins.


July 2, 1980 Steve Smith
August 3, 1980 Danny Smith
August 28, 1980 Rick Ferkel
August 2, 1981 Kenny Jacobs
August 23, 1981 Lee Osborne
Sept. 13, 1981 Lee Osborne
June 11, 1982 Doug Wolfgang
August 1, 1982 Steve Smith
June 12, 1983 Dave Blaney
August 28, 1983 Rick Ferkel
Sept. 25, 1983 Rick Ferkel
July 1, 1985 Doug Wolfgang
Sept. 28, 1985 Jack Hewitt
August 4, 1986 Brad Doty
June 5, 1987 Kenny Jacobs
June 29, 1987 Doug Wolfgang
August 6, 1987 Bobby Allen
July 4, 1988 Rocky Hodges
July 3, 1989 Dave Blaney
July 2, 1990 Bobby Allen
July 1, 1991 Steve Siegel
June 29, 1992 Kevin Huntley
July 5, 1993 Rocky Hodges
July 4, 1994 Mark Keegan
July 3, 1995 Frankie Kerr
May 25, 1996 Dean Jacobs
July 1, 1996 Dave Blaney
July 27, 1996 Dave Blaney
May 24, 1997 Joey Saldana
June 30, 1997 Keith Kaufman
July 26, 1997 Dean Jacobs
May 23, 1998 Joey Saldana
June 28, 1999 Joey Saldana
June 26, 2000 Byron Reed
July 2, 2001 Travis Rilant
July 1, 2002 Byron Reed
June 30, 2003 Kelly Kinser

Below are two more stories on families that have made an impact and contributed to the success of Wayne County Speedway over the years.

Ed Fredericks: A Generational WCS Family
By Doc Lehman

For Ed Frederick dirt track racing has been a big part of his life with flagging races a huge part of that. His father, Earl Frederick, was the original flagman at Wayne County Speedway starting in 1965, a position he held until 1975 when his son, Ed, already the assistant flagman for two years, became WCS’s head flagman. Since that time Ed Frederick has flagged at WCS as well as over a dozen other tracks not including all the tracks he flagged at when he became the official STARS (ne; Renegade) flagman for a couple years in the 80’s. He also spent nearly a decade as Pennsboro Speedway’s head flagman and served as the promoter of WCS for a season.

So how does it feel to know you’ve been waving the flags and making calls for 32 years? “It makes me old,” responded Frederick with a smile. “Makes me feel real old, but it’s been 32 great years.”

Did Frederick ever think, back in 1973, that he would still be doing the job three decades later?

“No, no I didn’t,” responded Frederick. “I thought once he (Earl) retired I would be out of a job too but it kicked off real well and really, you had a lot to do with my 30 years here. Like when I was 18 I was the head flagman and I had a little chip on my shoulder and you used to calm me down a little bit, and then I calmed down and then you invited me to flag for STARS and I think that right there is what kept me in the business.”

Over the years Frederick has become one of the sport’s top and most trusted flagmen. A solid reputation, a colorful display of wielding the flags and a well-known reputation for fairness and consistency has made Frederick one of the best in the business.

Frederick, a true-blue family man down to the core, is also justifiably proud of the fact that there has been three generations of Fredericks who have handled the flags at WCS. In addition to his father and himself, Fredericks two oldest sons, Jeremey and Jerrod, served as his assistant for several years and now his youngest son, Jimmy, is serving his apprenticeship on the stand with the ‘old man’.
“There’s nothing any better than that,” said Frederick with a smile. “To have all three of my boys work with me at one time or another has been fantastic along with my Dad.”

So does Frederick see himself doing this in another 30 years?

“I’m hoping to, I’m hoping to. I have a good wife who supports me and my racing and she knows how much I love it. I would like to still be flagging but I’d also like to own a racetrack at some time or another. But yeah, I’d hope to be flagging another 30 years.”

One distinction his father, Earl, has, is having flagged on occasions in five different decades. Would the second-generation flagger like to accomplish that as well?

“I’m hoping I get at least six (laughs)!”

A Late Model Title In The Jacobs Family
By Doc Lehman

With the Jacobs family having been such a big part of Wayne County Speedway since day one, and such a presence in Sprint Car racing, it’s not surprising that members of the family who race have won championships there but what many don’t know is that one Jacobs won a season point championship in a dirt Late Model: Mariann Jacobs, the wife of Ken ‘Jake’ and mother of seven children including Sprint Car drivers Kenny, Bud and Dean.

Even though son Kenny started racing as a teenager, it was during the early 1970’s after WCS had dropped Sprint Cars from regular competition other than big sanctioned events by USAC, ASCoC and the All Star Super Sprints. By the time Sprints were back full time in 1983 he was a traveling national star with the ASCoC and World of Outlaws. Marriann’s husband Jake was one of the biggest winners at WCS in the Modified-Sprints and later in dirt Late Models and he won a couple Mid-Season Championships by the time he retired in 1974. Middle son Bud won the WCS Sprint Car championship in 1983 (and spent several successful years in a dirt Late Model) and youngest son Dean duplicated Bud’s feat in 1992.

But it was Marriann who was able to be the only WCS champion in a dirt Late Model.

In 1962, when Jake started racing, many tracks occasionally had Powder Puff races. Ken’s wife, Marriann, decided she wanted to give it a shot one night, so she approached father-in-law Pete and asked about driving his car. No way! Pete’s attempts to discourage Jake from racing didn’t work, but he definitely wouldn’t have any part of his daughter-in-law out on the track.

Marriann eventually found a willing owner and she drove her first race. She eventually began winning at Holmes Hilltop and Mansfield. In 1966 Wayne County held their first Powder Puff race and Marriann finished second to Suzie Plew. Eventually Marriann would win more than she lost and often drove cars belonging to Jim Gentry, Tom Patton, Harry Kane and George Magyar. She won often and won big.

In 1973 WCS held ‘lady races’ all season and counted points with Marriann going on to win the track’s season championship and points title. The following year she, like Ken, retired from driving.

What special memories does Marriann have of her own career? “Well, I remember competing in a demolition derby one time and two days later, I was real sore!” explained Marriann. “But the most special night was when Kenneth (Jake) and I both won features the same night!”

On August 2, 1970, Jake won the Late Model feature at Wayne County and was also voted Mid-Season Sportsman of the Year by the drivers. When the Powder Puff rolled out, Marriann took command in Jim Gentry’s #14 Late Model and won handily and several weeks later wrapped up the championship

Wayne County Speedway Today

If it wasn’t for Ernie & Pam Coffman, along with their offspring, Clint and Renee and families, there might not have been a 40th anniversary season at Wayne County Speedway (WCS) in 2005. As the 2003 season came to a close previous track ownership, the third in less than ten years, found themselves in financial dire straits, to say the least, and there appeared a chance that the track was done for. In fact, there was a better than good chance that the facility would have been padlocked for the 2004 season if Coffman, the owner of Coffman Corvette in Mansfield, OH, hadn’t taken the checkbook out and purchased the Orrville, OH 3/8 mile clay oval.

“The reason why I got involved in this thing was it was going upside down and I could not see Wayne County Speedway go away,” stated Coffman. “It means everything in the world. I want this place to grow and do well.”

Coffman, who owned Lakeville Speedway for a period of time in the 1980’s, started attending WCS in 1969 with driver Danny Dean. He has fielded a dirt Late Model team for his son, Clint, for the past 17 years. When the Coffman’s assumed ownership in 2004 Coffman slashed prices across the board, streamlined the business and staff and went about infusing confidence in race teams, fans and sponsors. It worked.

By the last race of the season, the non-sanctioned $5,000 to win dirt Late Model ‘Freedom Fighters 50’, attendance for that event almost eclipsed the previous attendance record set on July 2, 1988. If only 100 more people walked thru the turnstiles it would have broken the long-standing attendance record. Coffman was on his way.

With the 40th anniversary set for this season, and with the track back on sound footing, Coffman set about bringing the track back to the prominence it enjoyed for decades. Wanting to expand promotional offerings and entice sponsors to return, Coffman hired Tina Heil as the General Manager in charge of such things.

The Coffman’s are anxious, excited and thrilled with the response they have gotten the past couple months from teams, fans, media and sponsors and with 2005 the 40th anniversary season Coffman has also noticed an extra buzz in the air from the racing community that frequents WCS.

“Oh my, its amazing, its truly amazing,” commented Coffman. “You get people in here who have been here for 35 or 40 years this is their whole life. It’s just amazing.”
One thing Coffman did that turned people on was he immediately slashed prices across the board last year. Bringing in a higher quality of food and at the same time cutting costs proved to be a boon. As for the front-gate Coffman carried over the weekly adult admission price of $12.00 but decreed that all people age 15 and under were admitted free every week.). He also discontinued selling beer in an effort to make it more family-friendly.

“We don’t take advantage of anyone,” said Coffman. “Like the concessions, what’s wrong with making 85 cents instead of $1.85? And it’s like that with all our prices. That’s the thing to do here, sell quantity, make your money on quantity and make it affordable.”

For 2005 Coffman continued to keep prices at bay for the fans and teams and has went so far as to raise the purses in all the divisions. Additionally, WCS now allows not only all military personnel in for free but allows military spouses and children in gratis. With the return of confidence in the track from fans, teams and sponsors, Coffman sees his plan moving along swiftly as the building period he envisioned is ahead of schedule. Coffman is genuinely thrilled and appreciative of the support he has gotten from all quarters.

Heil is the third generation of her family to have a management role at WCS.
“I’ve been in the Corvette business since 1969 and when I have a passion for something its impossible to get it from me,” commented Coffman. “And I have a passion for racing and especially this racetrack. Danny Dean and I raced here forever and Jim Hooker and I did. This is just a place to have fun. When I’m dead it goes to my family. You’ll see us here for many, many years.”

“With our staff, I feel we have the best. We have Harve (Jacobs) back as announcer and he’s good! He’s a good announcer. Of course my daughter runs the concessions and my wife works the office. We have (Chief Pit Steward) Jason Shanklin and he’s really into it. I don’t think we have anyone here for the money.

Wayne County Speedway races a weekly racing program every Saturday night featuring American Payroll Advance Super Late Models, RPM Motorsports Modifieds, Thrifty Discount Muffler Pure Stocks and the Federated Auto Parts Mini-Stocks. Each Saturday night the gates open at 3:00 PM, hot-laps/qualifying at 5:30 PM and racing at 7:00 PM. General admission prices are adults $12.00, senior citizens $10.00 and 15 and under admitted free. Wayne County Speedway is also allowing all active military personnel, spouses and children to enter free with a military identification card to all events.

(c)2005-2008 Doc Lehman