RACING EXPOS CONNECT FANS WITH NASCAR

This weekend the stars of NASCAR got together with the stars of country music in Nashville, Tenn., for the fifth annual Sprint Sound and Speed festival. Fans were treated to performances by country artists, and got the chance to meet Dale Earnhardt Jr., Tony Stewart, Kasey Kahne, Kyle Busch and others.

While this is the fifth year of Sprint’s festival in Nashville, fans in the Northeast have been treated to one off-season motorsports expo for 25 years now.

In 1986, Len Sammons put together and promoted a racing expo in Valley Forge, Pa., in the hopes of attracting race fans and competitors. That event has carried on through the years and on January 22-24, the Greater Philadelphia Expo Center in Oaks, Pa., will host the 25th annual Motorsports Race Car and Trade Show.

“We were really surprised that there were people who came the first year and we were equally not as prepared for as many that came,” Sammons recently told DirtTrackDigest.com. “We had a staff of maybe six or eight people that where helping me that year and now we’re up to about 75 people working the show.”

After spending the majority of the year focused on racing, the off-season meant time for Pop Warner football games and Sunday chores. The nearly two months without racing was a nice break, but soon the lack of action had me looking forward to Daytona. Before the season kicked off in February, one thing that always got me ready for the upcoming year was the motorsports expo in Pennsylvania.

Living in New Jersey, my family and I would trek through the cold, snow and ice each year to Valley Forge, then later to Fort Washington, to get a look at the newest race cars, dream of buying a quarter midget, talk with local racers and see some of NASCAR’s finest drivers.

STERLING MARLING (left) and HARRY GANT (right)

Over the years I was able to meet NASCAR legends such as Bobby Allison, Richard Childress, Sterling Marlin, Harry Gant and others. One of the first years, we stood in line for what seemed like hours to meet "The King" Richard Petty, only to have the line cut off a few feet ahead of us.

During another trip, while walking around the RVs on display, we stumbled upon Ken Schrader standing by himself. We introduced ourselves, asked for a picture and an autograph, then stood and talked with the Cup Series star for the next few minutes.

One thing this motorsports expo always did was to connect the fans with the drivers during the off-season months. NASCAR drivers usually go out of their way to accommodate fans’ requests while at the track, but events like this during the off-season show that these stars truly appreciate the people that fill the stands and tune in each week.

“People drove through snow and ice to see us for a couple seconds, it’s a very flattering experience, something that you’re very grateful when you’re in this position when you have people that care about you, care about what you do, how you do it, how you influence their lives,” Tony Stewart said of this weekend’s event in Nashville. “To be able to take a day like this, take our time and spend it with the fans is something that’s pretty cool for all of us.”

The upcoming event in Pennsylvania will be no different for the fans in the Northeast. NASCAR Hall of Fame nominee Bobby Allison will be on hand signing autographs, along with Kasey Kahne, Marcos Ambrose, Nationwide Series driver J.C. Stout, crew chief Frankie Kerr and former crew chief turned television analyst Jeff Hammond. Also scheduled to be attending are drag racer Morgan Lucas and World of Outlaws Sprint Car driver Danny Lasoski.

While this is not the only racing expo out there (NASCAR Preseason Thunder in Daytona and the Canadian Motorsports Expo also come to mind), this event is one that has withstood the test of time. 

For 25 years now, fans have been treated with some of the sport’s biggest names – Petty, Earnhardt, Gordon, Wallace. The atmosphere is always fan friendly and the prices affordable. This year a three-day pass is $30 for adults and only $10 for children six and up.

So, if you are in the Northeast and need your racing fix, head out to the motorsports expo and don’t forget your Sharpie marker and a camera, you never know who you might run into.

JOHN ANDRETTI
 

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