Kyle Larson (57) chases Lance Dewease during last year’s Tommy Hinnershitz Classic at Williams Grove Speedway. (photo by Dennis Bicksler)
MECHANICSBURG, Pa. — This Friday’s All Star Circuit of Champions sprint car show at Williams Grove Speedway is set to honor its original winner. He was the first. He had one of the most recognizable names in motorsport history dating back to the 1930s.
Friday in Williams Grove is the annual Tommy Hinnershitz Memorial Spring Classic, honoring the late great racer from Oley, Pa., who won the first race at Williams Grove Speedway on May 21, 1939.
Hinnershitz won the race in what was called a “tough and heady” event to beat famed Joie Chitwood.
Hinnershitz’s death in 1999 left behind a motor racing legacy worthy of all counts.
During his 30-year career spanning from 1930 to 1960, “The Fying Dutchman”, as he was known, amassed seven AAA/USAC Eastern Big Car Championships, winning titles in 1949, 1950, 1951, 1952 , 1955, 1956 and in 1959.
He had 103 total AAA/USAC feature wins, including 19 at Williams Grove.
Hinnershitz set 43 AAA track records during his tenure and would race in three Indianapolis 500s.
In 1939, when Hinnershitz passed Chitwood for the lead in that first race at Williams Grove, the duel was touted as “one of the most thrilling driving moments ever seen on a Pennsylvania highway.”
It was said that when Hinnershitz passed Chitwood, “the great chief was cheered by the crowd”.
And Williams Grove will be giving even more worthy cheers in honor of the great leader this Friday night.
The annual Tommy Classic will be the first race of the season in the Hoosier Diamond Series at Williams Grove, paying $6,000 to win the 30-lap affair.
Californian Kyle Larson, an independent driver, pocketed the Tommy Classic booty last season as he was on his way to winning the 2021 NASCAR season title.
Larson also cut the classic in 2020.
The late Craig Keel won the first Tommy Race in 2007.