The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

August 16, 2013

Shawn Wood's Inside Track column: Hall of Fame needed


Daily Item

---- — Last Saturday's tribute to Kramer Williamson was a fitting end to a long week for many of us.

With the sprint car family dealing with its third on-track death since May, one has to wonder just how quickly will this season end with hopes of a safer 2014.

Resilient as racers and race fans are, there is just so much you can take when it comes to the sport's ugly side. But in comparison, it was a lot less safe and more fatal back in the day.

If Selinsgrove Speedway track announcer and public relations director Steve Inch wasn't in racing, he'd make a great preacher.

Inch's tribute to Williamson was well thought out and well said.

From the story of how Kramer came from his wedding to race at the track to hearing that the family greeted friends and racers alike until 12:30 a.m. at his viewing, it speaks volumes about the numbers of lives he touched.

The fact that Sharon, Felecia and Kurt Williamson came to the track, 48 hours after they buried Kramer, it shows the respect they have for the speedway along with the love they have shown over the years to the racing community.

The sea of pink on display by the fans, drivers and officials was beyond incredible. It goes to prove why the fans at Selinsgrove are the best around.

Adding to it was the touch of pink at sunset. I guess it was Kramer's way of letting us know that everything will be OK.

I don't recall an ovation at the speedway before that was as loud as it was when the ceremony ended. It almost blew the roof off the covered grandstand.

As I was listening to the ceremony, I got to thinking: why isn't the speedway honoring the past greats that have entertained us for so many years?

Daily Item sports editor Harold Raker and I don't see eye-to-eye when it comes to rooting for sports teams, but we had a lengthy conversation on Monday and agreed that the track needs a Hall of Fame.

So, why does the speedway need a Hall of Fame?

Well, for starters, one just needs to look at opening day -- July 20, 1946 -- and see what the principals involved achieved in the sport.

The late Chris Economaki, the dean of motorsports writers; was the track announcer, Bill Holland won the race and went on to win the 1949 Indy 500; and second-place finisher Robert "Red" Byron won the first-ever NASCAR beach-sanctioned race and was its first champion.

Throw in that Joey Chitwood Sr., of the famed daredevil family, built the track and there's more than enough to say we have history at the track that no other speedway can boast about.

You do have to give a tip of the cap to Port Royal for honoring its living legends each year.

I'm not saying Selinsgrove has to do exactly the same, but is one night out of the year asking too much to say "thank you?"

I don't think so.

Now, here comes the interesting part: where do you put a Hall of Fame and who gets in?

To tackle the latter issue first, those who get into the hall would be voted on by the media only. No fans, no officials, no employees of the track would be eligible to vote which is how they do it with other sports and that would ensure fairness.

If there isn't room on the grounds, which are owned by the Dauntless Hook and Ladder Company, then maybe a grant could be sought to find a place in town and or build a place near the grounds that could house the hall.

Either way, it is time that Selinsgrove Speedway paid tribute to those who risked their lives to entertain us.

It's better to say thank you in person rather than posthumously.

n Shawn wood cover motorsports for The Daily Item. Comments can be sent to sports@dailyitem.com