The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

September 6, 2013

Motorsports: Kauffman's career to end Saturday

Kauffman's career to end Saturday

Daily Item

---- — By Shawn Wood

For The Daily Item

PORT ROYAL -- Keith Kauffman will wrap up his Hall of Fame career this weekend during the 46th annual Tuscarora 50 at Port Royal Speedway.

"Win, lose or draw, Saturday will be my last race," said Kauffman, known to fans as "The Man from Mifflintown."

Kauffman, 63, is the track's all-time winningest sprint car driver with 129 career victories.

He announced his retirement at the start of the year and enters the final weekend sixth in points.

"I have no regrets and I just have to accept it and move on," he said. "I've been doing this for a long time and someone told me once that you'll know when its time to quit. This is that year and I said when I decide to quit, that will be it and I won't get back into a race car again."

This weekend's racing is sanctioned by the All Stars. Tonight's 30-lap feature pays $5,000 to win while Saturday's 50-lapper pays $12,000 to win.

Kauffman is a 13-track sprint car track champion having won his first title in 1978. He's the only sprint car driver to win four straight titles from 1978 to 1981. His last title came in 2007.

He is a two-time winner of the Tuscarora 50. His last win in the event came in 2003.

"My dad, Robert, was a member of the Juniata County Fair Board so I would tag along with him to the races when I was young," Kauffman said. "We used to sit in the grandstands with my mother and two sisters and watch the races."

Kauffman said that he enjoyed watching the likes of Mitch Smith and Dick 'Toby' Tobias race at the speedway, but he did not have an overall favorite driver.

Kauffman's journey over the past 43-years -- he started racing when he was 20 -- began in a 30x90 super modified in 1970.

"The first 10 years of racing, I owned my own cars," he said. "We bought a sprint car one time but it wasn't very good and I was doing this on my own money. It took me a while to learn about the sport."

His first race car, which helped get him to get noticed by car owners, was a Travis Craft that used to be owned by legendary car owner Al Hamilton.

"That was around 1975 when I got into my first good sprint car," he said. "I didn't get my first ride with a car owner until around 1980."

Kauffman used to work at the speedway.

"I took tickets and sold cushions for 10 or 15 cents for people to sit on in the grandstand even before I started to race here," he said.

Kauffman's wife Cathy runs the novelty stand at the track while daughter Rebecca and son Chase both work for the state.

"I'm sure I'll go back and watch from time to time, I've never seen a race from the stands before, it will be something new to see a race from the stands," he said.

The track honored Kauffman recently and named its family section in his honor.

"That was very, nice," he said. "It's hard to believe that they would do something like that."

Reflecting on his career, Kauffman, who was born and raised on a farm, said, "If I had not started out by myself, I would not have gotten into a position for someone else to see me drive. People forget that the only way I could get started was to have my own car and it took a lot of money, time and hard work to get things going and to keep things going until someone else saw me and wanted me to drive for them. We didn't have a lot of money back then and we don't have a lot of money today."

Kauffman noted that records are made to be broken and that someday he believes his 129-career win mark might be surpassed.

"I did this because I enjoyed it," Kauffman added. "One thing led to another and it's been a lot of fun. It takes a lot of time and effort and money to do it this long, but it is something I've always enjoyed."

"Anytime you win a race, however big or small, it's all about the competition," he added. "It didn't matter if the race paid $100,000 or a few thousand to win, it's all about winning the race and that's what drives all of us racers."

The weekend's racing will bring to a close the 2013 point championship for the track. Selinsgrove's Blane Heimbach, who has five wins on the season, is looking for his first-ever 410 sprint car title. He leads defending champion Chad Layton of Harrisburg by 215 points.

Last year, Dale Blaney of Hartford, Ohio, became the first All Star driver to win an All Star-sanctioned event at Port Royal when he won the Night Before the 50 feature.

Doug Esh is the defending winner of the Tuscarora 50. It was his second win in the event.

Fred Rahmer is the one of three drivers -- Doug Wolfgang and Lance Dewease, the others -- to have won the event four times.

The racing card includes the late models tonight and the pro stocks on Saturday.

Racing each night is at 7.