A Walk Down Memory Lane

A Walk Down Memory Lane

By: Jeff Ahlum

1000 race Jimmy Horton & Dave Kelly (1)

Bridgeport Speedway.  Those two words mean a lot of different things to a lot of people.   But two things always come to mind; competitive high speed racing and BIG BLOCK MODIFIEDS.  Bridgeport Speedway reaches a milestone August of 2015 that only a selected few speedways reach, presenting the 1000th race for their main headline division in track history.   Most of those tracks have been around longer than Bridgeport.


Over four decades of racing history have unfolded in South Jersey beginning in 1972:1000 race (courtesy of 3wide)



The 1970’s saw most of Bridgeport’s star drivers arrive from the Reading Fairgrounds.   Drivers such as Kenny Brightbill (winner of the first race), Gerald Chamberlain, Dick Tobias, Kenny Weld, Gary Gollub and Dave Kelly were the top name drivers, winning most of the features in that decade.   But Bridgeport did produce some of it’s own stars with the emergence of young Jimmy Horton along with veteran Walt Olsen.   Track Champions in the 1970’s included, Brightbill (2), Horton (2), Olsen and Gollub.  It was a bumpy start for the new speedway with 6 different promoters from 1972 through 1979, but the track survived and hosted the top names in the Modified world, in an area that could well be called the best of Modified racing at the time. (PA & NJ)


The 1980’s 1000 race Bobby Braxtonstarted strong, now under George Wingate’s leadership (since 78), only to go through more leadership changes (Shivers family and the Kuhl family).  These changes brought with them changes in the racing talent. The beginning of the decade saw the top drivers in Jimmy Horton, Dave Kelly, Gary Gollub joined by new stars in Ronnie Tobias, Meme DeSantis and Roger Laureno who would win a bulk of the races.  The middle saw Horton and Tobias continue to win a lot joined by Bridgeport’s newest star in big winner Doug Hoffman.  The decade would end lead by Horton, first time regular Billy Pauch and the last season a variety of different winners.   Tracks champs in the 80’s included Horton (3), Laureno (2), Pauch (2), Doug Hoffman, Ronnie Tobias and Bobby Wilkins.


The 1990’s decade began with the Kuhl’s running Bridgeport and many different drivers visited victory lane in the first three years, with no real big winners.  1993 saw another change with the return of George Wingate under new track owner Ed Kelley,  The list of winners changed again. With an change again in race night it took a year or so to re-establish the driver list, with multiple winners again headlining the action.  Soon drivers returned to race and began winning big again in Horton, Pauch, Hoffman, Laureno joined by new faces in Jamie Mills, Craig Von Dohren and Steve Bottcher.  1990’s track champs included Laureno (4), Horton (2), Neil Kumernitsky, Tom Capie, Meme DeSantis, Jamie Mills, Doug Hoffman and Bucky Kell (fall 99).

1000 race Ricky Elliott

The new century began with another new promoter in Bill Lincoln, before Jay James and Brian Ramey took control in 2004.   James became the person to run Bridgeport for more consecutive years than anyone in track history.  Jimmy Horton and Doug Hoffman continued to win a lot but new names arrived again to start winning big in Wade Hendrickson, Ricky Elliott, Duane Howard and Rick Laubach.  By the middle of the next decade more new names arrived in the winners circle in Richie Pratt Jr., Chad James and Ryan Watt.  Track champs in the 2000’s include Duane Howard (4) Wade Hendrickson (3), Jimmy Horton (2), Doug Hoffman, Billy Pauch, Mike1000 race Doug Hoffman Iles, Rick Laubach and Ryan Watt.

Doug Hoffman promoted the track in 2012, followed by the team including brother Keith Hoffman, Dave Adams and Danny Serrano in the following seasons.

Bridgeport has seen it’s ups and downs over the years, with different leadership changes, good and bad seasons, but through it all has outlasted other area tracks to continue to produce BIG BLOCK MODIFIED racing.  Had it not been for shortened seasons in 1977, 1986, 1991, 1992 and 1993, or the dropping of the Big Blocks in the 1974 and 2011 seasons, Bridgeport may have already reached the 1000 race milestone.  One thing is for certain, not many tracks can lay claim

to the 1000 race milestone, and have the storied list of drivers who have won those feature events.  Another amazing feat is that one driver has laid claim to more than 100 of these races in Jimmy Horton with 128 career wins.   Who will put their name into history by winning race number one thousand? Only time will tell. But it could very well be one of those storied names of BIG BLOCK MODIFIED racing history. RSI_5969-X3