When was the first race in PPMS history? There’s not an easy answer to that question, as that is best answered by the phrase “it depends.”
On Sunday, June 10, 1979, the scheduled grand opening was a three-division program featuring the Late Models in a 50 lap main event. Also on the card was Semi-Lates and Street Stocks, which were also known as Flyers. However, when the heats were finished, rain moved in and canceled the rest of the program, setting up double features for the next regularly scheduled race night on Sunday, June 17.
However, that would not be the next race. The next scheduled event was on Thursday, June 14, titled the “Open Wheel 100,” featuring Sprints and Modifieds. The scheduled 50 lap events for both classes were shortened to 35 laps due to excessive heat that day. Keith Kauffman was the Sprint winner that warm evening as Central Pennsylvania drivers dominated the event. Richard Lupo led from the start, leading the first 14 laps. Steve Smith passed Lupo for the lead on lap 15. Kauffman passed Lupo for second on lap 17, and went by Smith for the lead on lap 19. At the checkered flag it was Kauffman the winner over Smith, Lupo, Bobby Allen, and Steve Siegel. Ed Faulkner suffered injuries after his driveshaft broke, and he was transported to the hospital. Sprint cars at the time had not fully transitioned to predominantly winged cars, and this race was run without wings. Deek Scott took the lead from Ralph Quarterson on lap 10 of the Modified feature and went on to win the event. Deek’s father, legendary driver Herb Scott for whom we have a memorial event in honor of, was the flagman at the track. It was a special family moment in victory lane that night. Bob Wearing finished second in the Modified feature, with Blackie Watt third. The Stocks were also on the card with Rich Britton winning the feature event over Tim College.
So the first races were run on June 10, 1979, but not any feature events. The first features were run on June 14, 1979, the first regularly scheduled features on June 17, 1979.
Now let’s get to that June 17 show. The night started with the makeup features, followed by heats for the regularly scheduled show. The Late Model feature was first up, but an incident on lap 3 would bring the evening to an early end. Driver Herm Myers hit the inside wall in turns three and four, climbing the wall and hitting a light pole. The incident knocked out the lights along the length of the two turns, and repairs were too extensive to allow racing to continue. This forced another double feature program on June 24.
The 50-lap main event from the grand opening started with Brian Muehlman taking the early lead. Muehlman led the first 30 laps, before being passed by Bob Wearing on lap 31. Dave Hoffman, aboard the Brockett Spirit of ‘76 took second from Muehlman a lap later, and but was unable to challenge Wearing for the lead. Instead he battled with L.J. Dennis for second as they swapped the spot several times. Wearing was the winner, but Hoffman’s car slowed with issues as the white flag was waving. That gave second place to Dennis, with Muehlman third. Fourth was Chuck Maloney, with Jim Bertges fifth. Bob Puz was sixth, followed by “Ed Faulkner’s car,” Frank Perpetua, the “Jook’s Body Shop car” in ninth for whom we have the Jook George classic race, with Hoffman limping home tenth. This information came from an old copy of Tri-State Auto Racing News, shared online. The other makeup feature winners were John Johnson in the Semi-Lates, and Joe Gombach in the Street Stocks.
The makeup feature on June 24 was won by Joe Mihalic, Herb Scott’s arch rival in the PRA racing days. Lynn Geisler won the regular Late Model feature, the first of his track leading 76 career Late Model feature wins. Bud Kunkle won both Semi-Late features that day, with Street Stock wins going to George Simon and Larry Kugel.
The first track champions for the 1979 season were Jim Bertges in the Late Models, Bud Kunkel in the Semi-Lates, and Larry Kugel in the Stocks.
In 1980, Ohio driver Tye Long was the Late Model champion, as Kunkel and Kugel repeated their 1979 championship seasons.
1981 saw a new Late Model champion in Lynn Geisler. Paul Haught was the Semi-Late champ, with the Stocks won by Doug Dirt.
1982 had a fourth different Late Model champion, Roy Miller. John Beatty was the Semi-Late titlist, and the Stock champion was a young racer with a promising future ahead of him named Davey Johnson.
The first Late Model repeat champion came in 1983 with Lynn Geisler earning his second title. Sprints were a regular division that year, as they had transitioned into winged cars with Ed Murphy the champion. The Semi-Late champion was Dave Slovick, as Davey Johnson was the Stock champion for the second straight year.
The 1984 season saw Ben Miley as the Late Model champion. John Beatty earned a second championship in the Semi-Lates. Dave Gallo was the Stock champion.
There were all new champions in 1985. The Late Model champion was Fran Gower, with Bucky Johnson topping the Semi-Lates. Ron O’Patchen was the Stock champion, beginning a long run of dominance in the class. A new division competed for a single season, with Paul Calentri winning the title in the four-cylinder class named Baby Grands.
In 1986, two-time Stock champion Davey Johnson had advanced to Late Models and earned his first division crown. Ron Valenti was the Semi-Late champion. A new class added this year was the Limited Late Models, with Kip Moore the first champion. Their history continues today as the Crate Late Model division. Rich Curry was the Stock champ, as the existing Street Stock and Pure Stock divisions realigned.
Ben Miley earned a second Late Model championship in 1987. Modifieds raced for the first time weekly, as Bob Wearing earned the championship. Lou Bradich topped the Semi-Lates, which was the final one for the division. Kip Moore was the Limited Late champ for the second straight season. The Stock title went to Dale Kimberly.
The Late Model championship for the 1988 season ended in a tie between Tye Long and Lynn Geisler, as they were “co-champions.” The second season for the Modifieds ended the same as the first, as Bob Wearing winning both/all of the championships. Bobby Henry was the Limited Late champ. Ron O’Patchen won his second Stock title.
Ben Miley was the 1989 champion for the third time in the Late Models. Bobby Henry repeated as the Limited Late champion. A new Stock champion was Ray Yanko.
The 1990 season had a new Late Model champion, Bob Wearing, Jr. Sprints joined the weekly card for a four-year run with Bob Felmlee taking the point championship. John Beatty was the Limited Late champ, his third total title after the two in the Semi-Lates. Joe Vacca was the Stock point champ.
1991 saw Ben Miley winning his fourth Late Model championship. Dale Blaney was the Sprint champion. The Limited Late champ was Mike Johnson. Mark Schultheis took the Stock title.
Lynn Geisler won the 1992 Late Model championship for the fourth time. Dale Blaney repeated as the Sprint champion, as did Mike Johnson in the Limited Lates. Ron O’Patchen earned his third Stock crown.
In 1993, Lynn Geisler repeated as the Late Model champion, for his fifth title. The Sprint division ended its run with Ed Lynch, Jr. the champion. Mike Johnson “three-peated” in the Limited Lates. An added division was the E-Mods, with Kurt Halbedl the first champ. Rick Wachter was a new champion in the Stocks.
Lynn Geisler continued his dominance of the Late Models by winning the 1994 championship, his third straight with six total. Ricky Thomas captured the Limited Late crown. Kurt Halbedl repeated as the E-Mod champion. The Stock champion was Jeff Broniszewski.
In 1995, Ben Miley was the point champion for the fifth time. Mel Minnick, Jr. was the Limited Late champ. Larry Kugel was the E-Mod champ for the first time, giving him three total titles with the two early Stock crowns. Rick Wachter took the Stock championship for the second time.
There was a changing of the guard so to speak in 1996 in the Late Models. From this point forward, none of the former champions would ever repeat their titles. The new champion that year was Steve Baker, the leading Semi-Late winner. After winning two Stock championships in three years, Rick Wachter moved up to the Limited Lates and was the division champ. Larry Kugel topped the E-Mods for the second straight season. Ron O’Patchen claimed the Stock crown for the fourth time, ending the season with 58 wins in the division. At the end of the 1996 season, Lynn Geisler was the leading winner with 60 wins, all in the Late Models. Behind O’Patchen’s 58 wins, Davey Johnson had the third best total at the time with 47 wins, 29 in Late Models, 16 in Stocks, and two in the Semi-Lates. Ben Miley ranked fourth with 41 wins in the Late Models. Kurt Halbedl had the fifth most wins with 39, divided by 24 in the Stocks, 11 in the E-Mods, 2 in the Semi-Lates, and 2 in the Four Cylinders.
In 1997, Brad Malcuit was the Late Model champion, joining Jason Cisson in the Limited Lates and Ralph Hysong, Jr. in the Stocks as new track champions. Larry Kugel was the E-Mod champ for the third straight time, with five total titles.
Mark Banal topped the Late Model points in 1998, with Dave Wade in the Limited Lates joining him as a new champion. Wayne Tessean was a new champion also, in the E-Mods. Ralph Hysong, Jr. repeated as the Stock titlist.
In 1999, Lou Bradich was a new track champion in the Late Models, 12 years after winning the final Semi-Late title. Wayne Tessean repeated as the E-Mod champion, with Al Atallah the Stock champ. The Limited Late Models were interesting that year, as following the final race there was a three-way tie in points. This is part of the press release explaining what happened.
The 1999 Limited Late Model points race at Pittsburgh’s Pennsylvania Motor Speedway ended Saturday, September 11th, in a three-way tie for the title between Len Dobrosielski of Kennedy Township, and Rick Heim and Dave Wade, both of Pittsburgh. Following the races that evening, it was determined that Dobrosielski would be the champion because he had more feature wins (5) than Heim (4) and Wade (3). However, upon further review it was decided that only points races should be used to break the tie. One of Dobrosielski’s wins occurred on a non-points night, July 17th. This left Heim and Dobrosielski tied with four wins each. Second place finishes (on points nights) was the next criteria used, and Heim finished in the runner-up spot four times while Dobrosielski had three second place finishes. Heim wins the tiebreaker and will be recognized as the Limited Late Model champion. “This is the first time in the eleven years we’ve operated the speedway that we’ve had a tie for a championship”, said Miley Motorsports President, Red Miley. “My apologies to Len for a premature decision Saturday “, he added. “All three are deserving of the championship and should be congratulated for the way they raced each other all season.”
In the 2000 racing season, Mark Banal earned his second Late Model point title. The Limited Late championship went to Dave Wade for the second time. Larry Kugel topped the E-Mods for the fourth time, his sixth title. The Stock champion was Rich Apolito. Lynn Geisler led the Late Models with 63 feature wins, followed by Ben Miley with 41, Davey Johnson with 38, and Banal with 33. An even 450 Late Model features had been contested at that point. Wade was the leading Limited Late winner with 23 in 257 features, followed by Bobby Henry with 19, Bill Yakin with 18, John Flinner with 17, and Mike Johnson with 16. Kugel was the E-Mod leading winner with 49, followed by Wayne Tessean with 30 and Alan Dellinger with 27. Ron O’Patchen led the Stocks with 59 feature wins by a large margin in the 325 events held. The next highest win total was 23 for Joe Vacca.
Keith Barbara was the Late Model champion in 2001. George Kowatic was the Limited Late champ, as both drivers were new champions. Larry Kugel repeated as the E-Mod champ, with 5 division titles, 7 overall. Rich Apolito repeated as the Stock champ, as with many different names for the class, we will refer to it under the current name of Pro Stocks. A new division started in 2001, as the Hobby Stocks raced for the first time with Joshua Langer taking the title. Several different names were used for that class as well.
In 2002, 1999 Stock title winner Al Atallah had advanced to the Late Model division and topped the points. Limited Late honors went to Pete Loria. Wayne Tessean was the E-Mod champion for the third time. Stacie White was the Pro Stock champion, with Bill Robertson winning in the Hobby Stocks.
Three drivers repeated as track champions in the 2003 season. The Late Model champ was Al Atallah, his second in the division and third overall. Wayne Tessean topped the E-Mods, his fourth in the division. Bill Robertson repeated in the Hobby Stocks. The new Limited Late champ was Scott Gunn. Darryl Robison was a new champion in the Pro Stock class.
The new Late Model champion in 2004 was Dave Wade, with now three track championships including two in the Limited Lates. Likewise, new Limited Late champion Rich Apolito had three total, with two in the Pro Stocks. The new E-Mod champion was Shawn Domhoff. Larry Marks topped the Pro Stocks, with Ian Tomei the Hobby Stock champ.
2005 saw all five weekly divisions having new, first time track champions. The Late Model champion was John Flinner. Other point champions that season were Jesse Burroughs in the Limited Lates, Dennis Niederriter in the E-Mods, Craig Kamicker in the Pro Stocks, and Robby Torrens in the Hobby Stocks. Lynn Geisler led the Late Model win list with 65 victories in 570 total events, followed by Ben Miley with 52. Davey Johnson with 41, Mark Banal with 39, and Ed Ferree with 32. The Limited Lates had run 357 features, as Dave Wade was the leading winner with 23, followed by Bobby Henry with 19, Bill Yakin with 18, John Flinner with 17, and Mike Johnson with 16. Ron O’Patchen led the Pro Stocks with 59 wins in 431 races, and he was the winner of race number 431. Joe Vacca trailed with 23 wins. 274 E-Mod races had Larry Kugel with 69 leading Wayne Tessean with 58.
In 2006, the Late Model champion was Lou Bradich. It was his second Late Model title, third overall. A new Limited Late champion was Mike Cecere. Wayne Tessean was the E-Mod champion, for the fifth time. In the Pro Stocks, Craig Kamicker repeated as the point champ. The Hobby Stocks also had a repeat champion as Robby Torrens defended his title. A new division was added in 2006 for teenage drivers, and Rich Mason, currently the track’s race director, was inaugural champion.
2007 had a lot of first-time champions. The new Late Model champion was Jared Miley. Other first-time title winners were Kyle Lukon in the Limited Lates, Joe Anthony in the Pro Stocks, and Davy Lee in the Hobby Stocks. Wayne Tessean defended his E-Mod title, his sixth overall. The Young Gun division had co-champions in Dusty Curry and Mike Reft.
Jared Miley repeated as the Late Model champion in 2008. A new champion in the Limited Late Models was Mike Pegher, Jr. Wayne Tessean was the E-Mod champ for the third straight season, his seventh title. A new champion in the Pro Stocks was Jake Simmons. Eric Goldberg was the new champion in the Hobby Stocks, with Justin Pons a new champ in the Young Guns.
The new Late Model champion in 2009 was Brandon Burgoon. Kyle Lukon topped the Limited Lates for the second time. The new E-Mod champion was Daryl Charlier. A new champion in the Pro Stocks was Pat Weldon. The Hobby Stocks also had a new champion in Gary Koteles. Justin Pons defended his Young Gun title.
The 2010 season started with the addition of computerized scoring with the opening event on April 10, giving the opportunity to time every car on every lap of every race. The season ended with Mike Johnson as the first time Late Model champion, adding to his three Limited Late championships. 680 Late Model features had been run with Lynn Geisler the leading winner with 70, followed by Ben Miley with 54. Davey Johnson ranked third after winning race 680 for his 45th Late Model win in the 22nd Annual Pittsburgher. Steve Baker and Mark Banal trailed, with 41 wins each. As far as the Limited Late class was concerned, by this time it had transformed into the Crate Late Model class of today, though its history continued. The new champion that year was Mark Moats, Jr., who had won the 461st and final race that season. Dave Wade was the leading winner with 24. Daryl Charlier defended his E-Mod championship, as he ended the season by winning the 377th race for the class for his 31st victory in the division, trailing Wayne Tessean with 75 and Larry Kugel with 69. The Pro Stock point champion was Jake Simmons, for his second title. The season ended with 534 events run, as Simmons ended the season with 33 wins trailing Ron O’Patchen with 68. The Hobby Stock champion was Brian Huchko for the first time. The Young Guns also had a first-time champ in Danny White.
In 2011, the only repeat point champion was Jake Simmons in the Pro Stocks, his second straight and third overall. The other five divisions all had new champions. It was Michael Davis winning the Late Model title. The Crate Late Model champ was Colton Flinner. Ricky Stigerwald was the champ in the Pro Stocks. Todd Weldon took the Young Gun crown. The E-Mods ended their run as a weekly division, with Bruce Takach the final champion. 397 events had been run as the season ended, only six have been run since.
Michael Norris was the 2012 Late Model champion for the first time. Colton Flinner defended his Crate Late Model championship. Jake Simmons topped the Pro Stocks for the third year in a row, his fourth title. Joe Podolinsky was the new Hobby Stock champion. The new Young Gun champion was Logan Crewl.
2013 had another new Late Model champion in Alex Ferree. Kyle Lukon was the Crate Late Model champion, his third title. The new Pro Stock champion was Nick Kocuba. The new Hobby Stock champion was Christian Schneider. The Young Guns also had a new champion in Dylan Bolind.
Alex Ferree defended his Late Model championship in 2014. The first time Crate Late Model champion was Corey McPherson. Christian Schneider had moved up from the Hobby Stocks to the Pro Stocks, and like the previous year he was a track champion. Steve Pyeritz was the Hobby Stock champion, with Devin Black the Young Gun champ.
Alex Ferree “three-peated” in the Late Models in 2015 winning another championship. The 2015 season ending Pittsburgher won by Scott Bloomquist was the Late Model race 773 in track history. Lynn Geisler was the leading winner in the division with 76 wins, followed by Ben Miley with 54, Davey Johnson with 48, Steve Baker with 45, and Mark Banal with 41, as those totals stand today. Josh Holtgraver was a new champion in the Crate Late Models, as the season ended with 558 events held. Kyle Lukon was the leading division winner with 32, over Dave Wade with 24 and Tommy Schirnhofer with 22. The new Pro Stock champion was Bill Robertson, his second point title after one in the Hobby Stocks. The final event of 2015 won by Christian Schneider was race number 625 for the division. Jake Simmons had won the week prior for his 56th win, but he was second on the division win list to Ron O’Patchen with 68. The Hobby Stock champion made history, with Hannah Ramsey the first lady to win a championship in track history. 320 events had been run when 2015 ended. The Young Gun champion was O.B. Huff, with 190 features held.
The 2016 Late Model champion was Brandon Burgoon for the second time, in what would be the final full season for the Late Models. The rest of the 2016 champions were all first-time title winners. Topping the Crate Late Models was John Mollick. Other champs were Dave McManus in the Pro Stocks, Casey Grumling in the Hobby Stocks, and Ben Anton in the Young Guns.
In 2017, the Late Models raced in selected events, with Jon Hodgkiss the final champion. Justin Lamb was a new title winner in the Crate Late Models. Dave McManus defended his title in the Pro Stocks. Stephen Shelpman was the new champ in the Hobby Stocks. Ben Anton defended his Young Gun championship. Added to the card was an Open Four Cylinder class, as Matthew Rubright was the champion. The RUSH Modifieds raced in selected events, with Kole Holden the point champion.
Justin Lamb defended his Crate Late Model championship in 2018. The new Pro Stock title winner was Greg Beach. Stephen Shelpman defended his Hobby Stock title. Frank Magill was the Young Gun champ, and Andy Garlinger was the Open Four champ. Chas Wolbert topped the RUSH Modifieds in their selected events.
The new 2019 Crate Late Model point champion was Ben Policz. The Pro Stock point champion for the first time was Danny Rich, 22 years after his first feature win in the division on August 30, 1997. Stephen Shelpman “three-peated” in the Hobby Stocks. Susie Rudolph was the first lady to win the Young Gun championship, the second in track history. Andy Garlinger defended his Open Four title. Chas Wolbert topped the RUSH Modifieds for the second straight season in their limited appearances.
In 2020, Ben Policz earned his second straight RUSH Late Model championship. Dave McManus topped the Pro Stovks, his third championship. Stephen Shelpman set a new record earning his fourth straight Hobby Stock title. Noah Bubeck was the Young Gun champion, winning every 2020 point race along the way. His brother Philip Bubeck was the Open Four title winner. The RUSH Modified champion in their limited appearances was Kole Holden for the second time.