Speedway Hall of Famer Hampshire prepared cars for more than 30 drivers

·7 min read
Fremont Speedway Hall of Fame inducted 10 individuals in 2022. Front row, John Raubenolt, representing his father, Bob Raubenolt, Monte and Vicki Collins, Al Harrison and Bob Hampshire. Back row, Hall of Fame trustee Rich Farmer, inductees Dan Roepke, Bryan Scott, Dale Blaney, and Adam and Willie Steinbrick, representing father Chuck Steinbrick, and Hall of Fame trustees Randy Mapus and Brian Liskai.
Fremont Speedway Hall of Fame inducted 10 individuals in 2022. Front row, John Raubenolt, representing his father, Bob Raubenolt, Monte and Vicki Collins, Al Harrison and Bob Hampshire. Back row, Hall of Fame trustee Rich Farmer, inductees Dan Roepke, Bryan Scott, Dale Blaney, and Adam and Willie Steinbrick, representing father Chuck Steinbrick, and Hall of Fame trustees Randy Mapus and Brian Liskai.

Vicki and Monte Collins have nearly 70 years of combined service to Fremont Speedway.

Clyde driver Bryan Scott won three straight trach championships in the 305 sprint division. He took 21 career feature wins at Speedway.

Woodville driver Dan Roepke joins previously enshrined uncle Jim "Smiley" Roepke and aunt Christina Roepke as another branch in a family legacy.

Ten individuals were inducted Saturday into Fremont Speedway Hall of Fame.

Drivers

Dale Blaney, of Hartford, Ohio, was the “All Star King” at Speedway during his illustrious career. “The Low Rider” recorded 24 career feature wins at Fremont, 18 with the All Star Circuit of Champions to lead all competitors in series wins at the track. A 2016 inductee into the National Sprint Car Hall of Fame, six-time All Star champion, six-time All Star Ohio Speedweek champion, 2000 winner of the King’s Royal, 1998 winner of the Historical Big One. Blaney has 137 career All Star feature wins to lead all competitors, is a two-time winner of the Brad Doty Classic and is a three-time winner of Fremont's Jim and Joanne Ford Classic. Dale joins brother Dave, who was inducted in 2016.

Roepke's cousins work at the track. His grandfather, Harold Van Ness, and uncles Jim and Norm Van Ness were inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2014, having fielded race cars at the track for many years. Roepke’s brother, Alvin, still races at Fremont and Roepke is always there to help. He fielded dirt trucks for his son, Daniel, who won 12 features at Fremont. Roepke's son Chuck also fielded a dirt truck that won a championship and numerous features. Roepke raced street stocks at Fremont in 1984 and 1985, picking up the track championship in 1985. He ran in the six cylinder division in 1986. When the dirt truck division was created at Fremont in 2000, he was one of the first four trucks to compete, winning on opening night and taking the track championship that season. He won 22 Fremont features.

Scott started racing in 1993 after serving in the United States Air Force. He'd saved as much money as he could and bought out the entire operation of Butch Schroeder for $10,500. He owned his own race team through 2002 and picked up a few rides with other owners during the 2003 season. He was Fremont Speedway tech inspector in 2004 and in 2006 raced a 410 sprint car for hall of famer Rich Farmer. Scott picked up a few rides in the 305 division racing at Fremont, Attica and Sandusky in 2007, after which he retired from racing. He was Speedway champ in 2000, 2001 and 2002.

Car owners

Al Harrison, Columbia Station, was born and raised in Bettsville. He started helping his cousin, hall of famer Darl Harrison, in the early 1950s on his super modified team. Al and Darl bought a dirt champ car in 1971-72 and ran with the United States Automobile Club (USAC) for nearly five years. The car was sold and Harrison was out of racing until 1986 when he bought an engine for David Harrison’s pavement car. The following year Al bought a sprint car and started racing at various tracks with David driving the car. Al then bought a second car and put driver Rusty McClure behind the wheel. David won the championship at Buckeye Speedway (Wayne County Speedway) in 1993 and McClure was second. David Harrison ran for Al for approximately 10 years. Al wanted to run more All Star Circuit of Champion events and some World of Outlaw races and when David expressed his desire not to travel that much, Harrison named Rodney Duncan as his driver. Duncan drove Harrison’s car for nearly six years and when he too wanted to slow down on travel, Jason Johnson was named driver. During his tenure as a car owner following the All Stars, Harrison finished third in points with Duncan behind the wheel in 1999 and second in 2000. Johnson finished second with the All Stars in 2003.

Chuck Steinbrick, Marblehead, began his racing life in the 1950s. Steinbrick fielded cars in the 305 sprint division with drivers including Bruce Roby, Lenny Benyak, Spike Schneider, Willy Steinbrick and Jerry Narbecki. Schneider won the 1989 championship at Attica with Schneider behind the wheel. Steinbrick, along with his sons, Willie and Adam, fielded 410 sprint cars for drivers Randy Hammer, Andy Shammo, Chad Kemenah, Al Hager, Mike Lutz and hall of famers Tim Shaffer, Jim Linder and Mark Keegan. Kemenah drove Steinbrick’s sprint car to the track championships at Buckeye Speedway (Wayne County Speedway) in 1995 and 1996 (14 wins on the season). Keegan piloted Steinbrick’s cars to 22 wins, taking the 1999 and 2001 Attica championship and the 1999 K-C Raceway (Atomic Speedway) title. Steinbrick’s career included notable team wins as the Lorain County Speedway mid-season champion in 1955, with Norm Sawl as the driver, the 2000 Mercer Raceway All Star Circuit of Champions Western Pennsylvania Speedweek event and the 2001 All Stars Ohio Speedweek event at Fremont.

Mechanics

Bob Hampshire of Findlay drag raced a Corvette for 10 years, starting in 1964. He shifted to go-karts for a few years, then mini-stocks at Limaland, Findlay, Mansfield and Eldora. In 1979, Hampshire purchased a car from hall of famer Rick Ferkel and made the decision to become a car owner and mechanic and hired Jay Pilcher to drive. He hired Johnny Beaber and finished fifth in the All Star Circuit of Champions points. Over the next few years, Hampshire owned and prepared cars for Rick Unger, Ferkel, Keith Kauffman and Jac Haudenschild. But it was in 1985 that the legendary relationship began with hall of famer Jack Hewitt. The duo netted over 100 feature wins running with and without a wing and in USAC’s Silver Crown series. The duo won the 1985 All Star Circuit of Champions title and the 1986 and 1987 Silver Crown Championship and scored 23 career Silver Crown wins. Hampshire also wrenched Silver Crown cars for driver Kody Swanson, who scored four series titles and over 30 wins. To the best of his knowledge, about 35 different drivers sat in Hampshire prepared race cars over the years, including his nephew Greg Wilson and son-in-law Chad Kemenah. Hampshire continues building engines — his 305 motors have won many features — and helps his grandson Creed Kemenah as he embarks on his sprint car driving career. In 2008, Hampshire was inducted into the National Sprint Car Hall of Fame.

Mike Witty, Elmore, started attending Speedway in 1964, as a fan. In 1971, Witty rolled up his sleeves and began helping Jim Roepke and the following year helped on Mike Hensel’s machine. In 1978-79 Witty helped wrench on hall of famer Al Liskai’s sprint car. Witty purchased a former Bobby Allen sprint car in 1981 and lifelong friend Spike Schneider got behind the wheel. They won four features through 1987. Witty went back to being solely a mechanic in 1988, helping on Bill Reynolds sprint car. The following season, he helped driver/owner Alvin Roepke, buying into the team. That duo produced four feature wins before Witty sold his share in 1999. In 2000, Witty co-owned and wrenched on Eric Lynd’s 305 sprint car. Witty continued to help various teams through 2009, when he purchased a quarter midget for his grandson and they won three features. Witty bought a go-kart for his grandson in 2014 and they ran until Witty’s retirement in 2014.

Special contributors

Fremont's Monte Collins started his career at Speedway in 1982, working as a back stretch official. He worked in the infield of the track until becoming assistant flagman to Rex LeJeune. Collins took over as the head flagman in 1985 and served on the stand until he retired in 2017. Collins' wife Vicki began working at Fremont in 1984 in the pit tower. She moved to the scoring tower in 1985 and hand scored and did line-ups through 2018. Sons Nick and Nate can be seen at every race event on the flag stand.

Bob Raubenolt, Fremont, was another young fan at Speedway. He later helped other fans connect to the sport. He met Harold Billow and Speedway founder Joe Stelter. In 1975, Raubenolt, who had been producing racing films and operated a silk-screen T-shirt business, started the Spinning Wheels coloring book for kids. Raubenolt saw a need for a racing publication to cover Speedway and other area tracks. Spinning Wheels magazine, a weekly publication, covered past and present drivers and included long forgotten racing history. In the mid-1980s, Raubenolt became Speedway track promotion director under hall of fame promoter Gary Kern. Raubenolt was a hardcore fan of Speedway and dubbed the city “Race Town USA.”

This article originally appeared on Fremont News-Messenger: Bettsville born Al Harrison one of 10 inducted into Speedway Hall