With hundreds of cars entered and more than 1,000 fans in the stands for this year’s two-day annual tribute to Melvin L. Joseph — the Melvin L. Joseph Memorial race — and season-opener for Georgetown Speedway, last Friday night and Saturday would have made the track’s maker proud.
This year, during Saturday’s opening ceremonies, the Delaware State Archives recognized the track for its part in Delaware history and, last Saturday, in a light drizzle, a plaque was unveiled in front of the 70-year-old Speedway.
According to plaque, “Georgetown Speedway built in 1949 by businessman and auto racing pioneer Melvin L. Joseph. Many racing legends got their start at Georgetown’s half-mile dirt oval. The Delaware Stock Car Racing Association sanctioned the first race at the speedway on March 18, 1950. The speedway was NASCAR sanctioned from 1953-1957 and from 1959-1963. Over the years, the Georgetown Speedway has become well-known across the country for its role in the development of stock car racing.”
Delaware Public Archives representative Connor Graham said, “This marker now stands in perpetuity to showcase the first dirt track speedway in Delaware. We did quite a bit of research. The constituents provide us with a little bit of the history, then I went through all of our primary sources to fact-check everything.”
Joseph family member Kenny Adams said, “To me and the family, it’s just an honor for recognizing what Melvin did 70 some years ago. For the family, it just makes us proud. It’s nice for us to see that it’s still here and operating.”
The light drizzle turned into a steady snow/rain mix, forcing a delay that took more than an hour, turning Saturday afternoon’s scheduled races into Saturday evening races. The delay also forced track officials to squeeze excess water from the banked half-clay oval’s surface and have all of the cars participate in running the track back into racing condition.
Once that was done, racing resumed. Locals and some not-so-locals visited Victory lane. Many Modified race teams from around the region entered their cars in this prestigious race.
One of the locals visiting victory lane on Saturday was C.J. Schirmer of Milton. Piloting a Doug Myers-powered Olson Racing Chassis, Schirmer brought his machine from fourth to first in the 12-lap Southern Delaware Vintage Stock Car feature for his overall 15th win at Georgetown.
“At first, the car was pushing a little bit … and I had to figure out my line. Once I figured out my line, I ran the bottom of the track,” Schirmer said of the win. “Everybody else was running high, so I figured I’d run where they weren’t. Kind of worked out good for me.
“The 28, he went too high and spun his self out, and I pretty much held the bottom line,” he explained. “That’s where I usually ride, is on the bottom. From there, I ran to the finish. I got in my groove about halfway. The Olsen chassis handled pretty good. We came in after the warm-ups and added some stagger to it and put a little more gear in it, and that helped out the chassis a lot so it ran pretty good.
“I want to thank my wife and son for helping me,” he added.
Also on Saturday, after a 10-lap battle, Melvin Joseph’s grandson Kirk Lawson of Georgetown earned an emotional Little Lincoln win.
Chris “Tippy” Martinez led the way in a 12-lap caution-free Delmarva Charger feature. In another 12-lap caution-free feature, Dale Elliot led a field of Delaware Super Trucks across the stripe.
Boyertown, Pa., pilot Ryan Watt outran Matt Sheppard to the checkers in Saturday’s season-opener for the Bob Hilbert Sportswear Short Track Super Series, for his first Georgetown Speedway win. Watt and Sheppard traded the lead before Watt secured the front for the finish. Watt pocketed $6,949 for the win.
Friday night, Craig Von Dohren showed a field of Sunoco Small Block Modified racers across the stripe with New Jersey’s Billy Pauch Jr. glued to his tailpipe. Duane Howard crossed third, followed in the top five by Jared Umbenhauer and Stewart Friesen. The win earned Von Dohren $4,049.
Amanda Wheley ruled RUSH Crate Late Model’s feature, with Logan Roberson chasing her under the checkers. Noah Vincent notched the Delaware Super Truck feature win. Dale Elliot, Jerry Hill, Dick Beauchamp and Cody West rounded out the field. Tanner Marvel topped the 12-lap Delmarva Charger field. Martinez, Jerry Barker, Ashley Merritt and Derek Swafford followed in the top five.
Georgetown Speedway and promoter Brett Deyo have a summer full of racing action planned. Highlighting the season will be two Monster Truck shows, July 6-7. On Aug.16, the World of Outlaws pay a visit, and Oct. 26-27, the Mid-Atlantic Short Track Super Series will offer a weekend of excitement.