By Shawn Wood
For The Daily Item
BIXBY, Okla. -- The first time Jerry Stone saw Jim Nace drive a sprint car was at Hagerstown Speedway.
What happened during the race is something which Stone has never forgotten.
"He crashed that day and had one of the funniest crashes I had ever seen," Stone recalled. "This took place before I even knew him. He spun out and they had 55-gallon barrels full of water around the inside of the turns. He hit this thing and it spun him around like a top. As the car spun around, it stood up on its tail and when it stopped spinning, it fell back against the wing and just laid there.
"It was one of the craziest crashes I had ever seen."
This Saturday, Selinsgrove Speedway will honor its only five-time 410 sprint car champion with the 31st National Open Jim Nace Memorial.
This is the fourth straight year the track is honoring Nace, and, in a shift from the past few years, this year's feature is 44 laps rather than two 22-lap features. Joining the 410s on the card are the late models.
The National Open is the third appearance of the season by the 410s at the track. Greg Hodnett won the opener on March 10, while Brent Marks won the Ray Tilley Classic on May 26. The final 410 show of the year is set for Sunday, Oct. 6.
Pat Cannon is the two-time defending champion of the Open. Fred Rahmer is the only five-time winner, while Todd Shaffer has won four times.
Stone's arrival in Pennsylvania in 1985 began with a conversation in 1979 at Phoenix, Ariz. in the Western World Classic.
"One of the regulars at the time, (the late) Smokey Snellbaker, came along and ran into me on the track once I had stopped flipping and we both rode in the same ambulance to the hospital," Stone said. "We had a follow-up visit with the doctors a couple of days later and I got his phone number and we got to talking about how good the racing was back there and how many tracks they had and I started to get the interest then."
Stone has single wins at Selinsgrove, Williams Grove, and Hagerstown, along with a Speedweek win at Path Valley.
Another late driver that was instrumental in helping Stone get settled in the area was Kramer Williamson.
Stone helped Williamson get a ride in a Silver Crown car at Nazareth when his car owner needed a driver while Stone had other obligations.
"Just like Jimmy, Kramer always had a smile on his face and they were good-natured people," he said.
Stone had three straight top-10 finishes in the point standings at Selinsgrove from 1985-87.
"I always liked racing at Selinsgrove; it suited my driving style," Stone said.
Stone noted that he would run 30-40 races a year when he lived in Kansas but he could run between 85-100 races a year in Pennsylvania.
"It was so competitive that it made everybody better," he said. "The better people you run against, the better you are. I had good teachers who taught me how to race in Wichita. When I moved to Pennsylvania, I didn't have much knowledge chassis-wise and it was quite a learning experience for me. When I moved back, I could see a difference in my racing. It was a good experience."
Stone said he still has friends in Pennsylvania that he talks to and he has never forgotten how nice the fans treated him.
Nace, who passed away in 2009 following a seven-year battle with cancer, was responsible for getting Stone -- who competed in just two Knoxville Nationals -- to come back to the track during the annual event.
"Jim was always fun to talk to, but when you are racing 85-100 times a year, you don't have time for a lot of visiting," he said. "I got to know Jimmy better about eight years ago."
Stone flew in one autumn to visit his son, who still lives in Manheim, and they went to a race at Susquehanna Speedway Park.
"That's when the cancer was getting serious and, if I remember right, Jimmy was going to run the Grove that week and then quit to tackle the cancer 100 percent and he did. He fought it really hard," he said. "I talked to him that night at the track and we got to be friends then and he's the one that got me to come back to the Nationals."
Stone said that he re-told the story of Nace spinning like a top at the Nationals one year. He said Jimmy still didn't see the humor in it.
"Not long before Jimmy died, we spent time with him at his house and he got out his old pictures. To hear what racing meant to him ... it was a great day," Stone added.