The feature story for today's motorsports page was to have been about Kramer Williamson -- the 1978 Selinsgrove Speedway track champion -- as the United Racing Company is at Selinsgrove on Friday for a stand-alone feature as part of its 2013 season.
Instead, we are writing another column about the passing of a sprint car driver, the third such this year.
Last Friday at Williams Grove Speedway, I spent time with Kramer and his family while getting photos for the feature. It was quite a shock when the news came on Saturday that he was hurt and airlifted to the hospital.
I first met Kramer in person in the last 1980s at the Flemington Fair Speedway (N.J.) through my late mentor Bill Singer, the track's announcer. Williamson was on Friday night the same as when I first met him -- big hearty hand shake and that big smile of his.
While taking photos for the feature during the evening last Friday, I decided to get a family photo. It is so sad to look back and know that was the last one they ever had taken.
Williamson succumbed to serious injuries on Sunday afternoon following an on-track accident in a URC-sanctioned event at Lincoln Speedway last Saturday.
No one had a more recognizable car than Williamson's famed No. 73 Pink Panther.
His 25 sprint car wins at Selinsgrove is tied for ninth with Barry Camp and he won the 1978 track title. That year, he also won the Williams Grove track title and the National Open at the Grove. His first Williams Grove title came in 1976.
Among the tributes to Williamson this weekend, the Empire Super Sprints will have the word 'Hoosier' on the tires colored pink and a pink 73 will be placed on the each driver's wing.
All of the tracks in Central Pennsylvania will take up a collection to help offset the medical expenses for the family and a 'Pink Out' will take place at Selinsgrove where fans and racers are encouraged to wear pink to honor Kramer's memory.
Back in 2008, Williamson and fellow URC driver Glenn Fitzcharles, of Pottstown, were inducted into the National Sprint Car Hall of Fame in Knoxville, Iowa.
Fitzcharles tells the story of the night's induction ceremony in the following manner:
"Our families were sitting at the tables next to each other at the ceremonies and they called me up first to be inducted," he said. "A few drivers later, they called Kramer up. Well, he gets to the podium and says, 'I can't believe this, all the years I've been chasing Fitzcharles to beat him in racing and he beats me into the Hall of Fame, I can't believe this. I finished behind him again."
The room, according to Fitzcharles, was filled with laughter.
"I think his personality, his humor and the time he spent talking to the fans along with the Pink Panther car will be his legacy," Fitzcharles said.
Another Hall of Fame inductee, Bob Trostle, of Des Moines, Iowa, teamed with Kramer on several occasions running at Knoxville, Syracuse and Australia.
The first time Williamson raced at Knoxville, he qualified for the Knoxville Nationals.
"That was impressive," Trostle said. "They ain't too many people that just walk in here (Knoxville) and make the A-Main. He made the feature with the car that Steve Kinser won with the year before."
What impressed Trostle the most about Williamson was that he was a smooth driver.
Trostle was a Knoxville regular and it took him seven years to make the A-Main at the Nationals and 17 years before he won it.
Williamson was runner-up to Dave Blaney in the 1983 Rookie of the Year at the Nationals with a 12th-place finish. He finished 21st in 1984, his second and final start.
Trostle recalled a conversation about breakfast one morning at Syracuse before the sprint car race during Super DIRT Week.
"Kramer had a camper in the infield and he asked me what I wanted for breakfast," Trostle said. "He said 'we have eggs and oatmeal.' I said, 'I'll have eggs.' He then asked me how did I want my eggs and I said 'up'. His reply was, 'oh, you like dippy eggs?' "I never heard them called dippy eggs before," Trostle said with a laugh.
"He's a true good guy that everybody looked up to and everybody just loved him," he added. "One thing I'd like to see happen is to see the Pink Panther car spend a year here in the Hall of Fame."
Camp, of Beavertown, first met Williamson in the pits at Williams Grove Speedway when Williamson first raced sprint cars.
"He was a heck of a race car driver, he was good from the time that he got there," Camp said. "They are a really nice family and I remember Debbie and Sharon selling passes at the pit gate back in the day at Williams Grove. He and the Pink Panther became an icon, we just loved the entire family."
Camp noted that Williamson was an engineer, a mechanic and a father.
"He was just good at everything he touched," Camp said. "There was nobody that had more talent than he did. He understood his race car."
"His family can be very proud of the man that drove the race car."
Retired Daily Item copy editor and auto racing columnist Dave Herrold covered Williamson's career at Selinsgrove.
"Kramer was a longtime friend of mine, and he had also gotten to know our son, Mike, over the last 10 or so years," he said. "When we would see him at a race he always had time to talk to us. Three years ago, I 'retired' after 61 years of attending and covering races. Mike said that, since that time, whenever Williamson was at a race when the URC sprints were competing, Kramer would ask him how I was doing."
No one had a more recognizable car than Williamson's No. 73 Pink Panther. It would only be approiate that the stand-alone URC race held each year at the Selinsgrove Speedway be named the 'Kramer Williamson Memorial' and pay $7,300 to win. It would be a fitting tribute to a great man.
God speed Kramer and thanks for the life-long memories.
n Shawn Wood covers motorsports for The Daily Item. Email comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.