The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

Sports

June 20, 2014

Motorsports: Kerr remembers the good old days at Selinsgrove Speedway

LONG POND — It’s been nearly 14 years since Frankie Kerr wheeled a sprint car around the track and admitted that he’s too fat and he’s not willing to get into shape to get behind the wheel of a race car again.

But when he was at the wheel, Kerr was one of the best in the business in 410 sprint car racing.

Driving for car owner Bob Fetter, of Sunbury, they dominated Selinsgrove Speedway for two straight years and came oh-so-close to winning the track title in 1989.

“All we had to do was to win the last race of the year and the title was ours,” Kerr said. “We missed four races that year with racing at Eldora (Ohio) and Knoxville (Iowa). And on the final lap of the last race, I got a flat tire. Jimmy Nace got by me for the win and the title.”

Kerr has not been to the speedway lately as his role as crew chief for Front Row Motorsports and driver David Gilliland, which keeps him very busy.

“We’re off Easter weekend and in July and that’s when we take time to catch up with family,” he said.

Kerr, who lived on the Isle of Que during his time racing for Fetter, was born in Bensalem. His father owned midgets and he was one of five kids.

“Dad came home one day and asked which of us boys — there were three of us —  wanted to race and I said I did,” Kerr said. “I started out in quarter-midgets back then.”

To support his racing habit, Kerr began to work on rebuilding his fellow racers’ engines. It would be the outlet he used when he quit driving to make his move to NASCAR.

“We had moved to Ohio and I was driving the 23s sprint car for Bob Shoff and we were having another great year and it was June 28, 2000, when I quit,” he said. “We had won at Freemont Speedway (Ohio) the night before and we were on our way to KC Raceway (Ohio) when the truck started having troubles. I said that it was the perfect time to quit.”

Kerr built his own dirt modified in 1966 when he was 15. He raced in Delaware and Pennsylvania. He won the last sprint car race at Nazareth in 1983.

“I sold my modified on a Sunday and bought a sprint car the next day,” he said of changing divisions in 1982.

“I had always built my own stuff and when I was looking to settle down with the kids (Frankie Jr., now 23, and Samantha, now 20), I wanted to be a responsible parent. I was already making stuff for folks in NASCAR and people said I should either open a speed shop or come down to North Carolina and start a new life.”

He moved to North Carolina in 2000 and in the middle of 2003, he became a NASCAR crew chief.

Yet, Selinsgrove Speedway is still very special to him.

“I won my first race at Selinsgrove in 1983 and we were leading the $50,000-to-win National Open at Selinsgrove when Mark Kinser got by me on the final lap,” he said. “Selinsgrove Speedway is one of the best tracks in the country.”

Kerr said that Barry Camp, the late Jim Nace and Donnie Kreitz were among the toughest competitors he raced against at Selinsgrove.

“For me, the people at Selinsgrove, the atmosphere, there’s no better place,” he added.

Kerr has always been a dog lover and he continues to own dogs today.

“Back in the day at Selinsgrove we had a black labrador named Ralphie,” he said. “Every Saturday night, he would go over to Steve Siegel’s (fellow 410 sprint car driver) pit, get a can of beer from his cooler, open it and drink it.”

Kerr believes that Tony Stewart is the most naturally gifted race car driver while Steve Kinser is the absolute best sprint car driver in the world.

“Tony can jump into anything and within five laps, he’s up to speed,” Kerr said. “The Tony Stewart’s and A.J. Foyt’s of the world, they come around once every 20 years.

“There’s nothing like driving a race car and there never will be,” he added.

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