By Shawn Brouse
Mechanicsburg – This Friday’s visit by the AMSOIL National USAC 410 Sprint Car Series to Williams Grove Speedway will be the first for the circuit since 2018 and for some, the notion of the full-blown USAC sprints coming back to the Grove still harkens them back to some wild 1971 USAC shows at the oval.
It was the season of Mitch Smith. What the local sprint car stud did back then to the national gurus of USAC when they came to the area was unheard of, anywhere.
Driving the Gary Wasson-owned No. 5, the Linglestown driver applied for and was granted a temporary permit to compete in the Grove USAC shows that June and September.
For reference, those permits were handed out by USAC with an eyedropper.
To fully appreciate what happened at Williams Grove during those USAC shows one must realize that USAC ruled the Indy 500 back then and their drivers were widespread in all Indy-car races.
And then along came 40-year old Smith to destroy the USAC destinies during that famed season.
Wicked mechanic Dick Hench of Newport was turning the wrenches on the Gary’s No. 5.
Smith humiliated the USAC stars on June 19 at Williams Grove.
But USAC car owners protested, putting up the cash to tear down Smith’s engine.
And then came the word, “It’s legal…three inches to spare.”
The next night, Smith and company would do it all again, up the road this time, at Selinsgrove Speedway.
And that would lead to threats of the USAC drivers “boycotting” the next Williams Grove race, not slated until September.
But again, Smith licked ’em all! And he did it after going to the rear mid-race.
And yes, it’s true.
There had been USAC sprint shows at the Grove before 1971 and there have been many run since that time.
But nothing will ever measure up to that summer of ’71, when Mitch Smith and the No. 5 had them on the run.
When a local dominated all mid-state shows staged by the invaders.
Gates for this Friday’s USAC 410 Sprint Eastern Storm event open at 5:30 pm with time trials slated for 7:30.
The regular Williams Grove 410 sprints will join the USAC cars on the program.