Engines rev, vibrating your entire body as you sit on the edge of your seat eagerly watching hairpin turns and dirt flying through the air. Adrenaline courses through your veins as you root for your favorite racer, enjoying a night with the family at the Path Valley Speedway in Spring Run. 

Thirty-five years ago, longtime farmer Roy McGee watched his son, Gary, racing micro sprints, and the next morning, he said, “I think I want to build a racetrack” to compete with other local race tracks.

“Who does that?” laughed his daughter, Judy McGee Timmons. “Who takes a risk like that?”  

McGee’s dream soon became reality with the help of his wife, Margaret, his brother, Glenn, and sons, Gary and Ray.

“Dad wanted a high-banked clay oval for competitive racing and lots of speed,” McGee Timmons wrote in her memorial book to her parents. “Mom wanted a big kitchen/concession stand to cook for a lot of hungry mouths to feed.”

McGee Timmons wrote that her dad bought a 750 John Deere from Florida, and had it delivered by truck to Pennsylvania.

“Thus the long hours for my Dad began. That 750 dozer ran from morning to night in all kinds of weather. He pushed dirt all day. It had to be perfect, and done just right,” she continued in her book. “Months and many hours later, the day finally arrived when a quarter-mile oval now firmly stood upon a hillside where a cornfield had been. The McGee families worked around their other jobs. Neighbors and friends helped, for which we were glad.”

Path Valley Speedway’s gates first opened on June 12, 1987, for the “spectacular grand opening of the track.”

“The drivers and fans loved Path Valley Speedway,” McGee Timmons wrote. “My Dad’s dream (with Mom) had now come true. So many praised them for what they had done. As I am writing these words to honor them, I think back to the many things that took place in less than a year, from a thought and a plan … Path Valley Speedway had been built to race!”

McGee Timmons wrote she decided to put the book together to give thanks to everyone for their support over the years, and for those who do not know the history of the speedway.

“I want my parents’ legacy to continue on forever, and I pray that what I have put between these book covers will be around for all future generations to read about, and learn the history of the creation of Roy McGee, wife, Margaret, and children, Gary, Ray and Judy, and families,” she wrote.

The McGees ran the track until 2000, and sold it to current owners, Mr. and Mrs. John Winsett and Vicki and Jack Flowers.

Roy McGee passed away in 2015, at age 86. Margaret passed in 2019, at age 92.

Each year, Path Valley Speedway hosts the Roy and Margaret McGee Memorial Race in their honor.

“We have second- and third-generation drivers out there,” McGee Timmons said. “I want people to remember who started this.”

More than 100 racers competed in six different classes at this year’s memorial race, held on Aug. 21.

McGee Timmons noted Path Valley has been voted the Best Bullring Dirt Track in the country, with its high swooping turns and 10-degree banking.

Continuing a legacy

Vicki Flowers said she and Winsett were motorcycle racers, and thought it would be fun to organize a race or two of their own. The McGees gave them permission to hold them at the track.

“We told them if they ever decided to sell the track, we would be interested in buying it,” Vicki recalled. “I knew Roy and Margaret for two or three years. Roy was a very smart, quiet man. He knew how to make a track work. They were very hard workers. Marg could run circles around me! She did what she had to do, and didn’t complain.”

Vicki said running the track is fun, but is very time consuming. At the Aug. 21 race, she was busy planning next year’s schedule. They have to make sure their rules are up-to-date, and keep track of the purses for every class.

“We also have to have enough people to make the race work. We have family, volunteers who help at the gates, take money and pay the drivers, among other things,” she said.

About six staff members watch each race from the tower to announce the race and keep track of various components. If a wreck occurs or a racer gets knocked to the side or gets a flat tire, staff members fly to the track on ATVs to assist them. Emergency personnel are also on hand in case any drivers are injured. 

“I personally think this is a very special race because without those two, we wouldn’t be doing this,” Vicki said. “They were old-school and had a great work ethic. Judy was their strong right arm. It was wonderful what they did. They put a lot of blood, sweat and tears into this place. It’s good for the community and the local economy. It helps people’s income, it gives people a place to go on the weekends; people here know each other. It’s a great place to gather. I’m proud of what we’ve done here.”

Before the memorial race began, McGee Timmons thanked all of the drivers who turned out in memory of her parents.

“I have the utmost respect for the McGees for what they built,” Winsett added. “The baddest bullring here in the U.S.”

Winsett said Roy put a lot of pride into the track.

“He was my mentor. He taught me everything I know about this race track,” he said. “I sat here every Saturday and would watch him. His knowledge of this race track and how clay works was incredible. He taught me that clay has a memory; you can’t move it where you want to move it. You have to let it relax and do its thing. It’s so true!”

Winsett said Roy took him under his wing.

“We didn’t know anything about this; we raced motorcycles. If you made a mistake, he told you about it. That’s what I admired about him.”

He said Path Valley Speedway respects the community, and the community respects the track.

“We work with the churches, and donate to the local food bank,” he noted. “We also bring a lot of revenue into the community. Racing is like one big family. You might fight with each other from time to time, but if a driver is injured and can’t work, they will get together and help them.”

Dr. Zach Crouse, a local veterinarian, also serves as a part-time promoter for the speedway.

“I started coming to the speedway in 1992. My Dad would bring me on Friday nights,” he recalled. “I started working on and building race cars with people at age 12.”

Crouse said years ago, some people were complaining of the upkeep of the track on a message board at Shippensburg University.

“I told them I would paint the tower if they provided the paint,” he said. “Since then, I’ve tried to get new divisions here and rebuilt the website.”

McGee Timmons wrote Crouse has done a lot to improve the appearance, popularity, sponsorships and publicity of the speedway through social media and his drone.

Crouse enjoys the small size of the oval.

“I like watching these guys work for the win,” he added.

Though he never got to meet Roy and Margaret, he appreciates the efforts made to keep their legacy and the track’s history alive.

“I enjoy watching the speedway come back to life and the fans returning to the stands like it was when I was a kid. Several years ago, it was almost to the point that the locks were going to go on the gate for good, but thankfully things turned around and it is starting to thrive again.”

Autumn Alleman of Newville was Miss Path Valley Speedway in 1999-2000, the last year Roy and Margaret owned the track.

“My uncle raced here, and they asked me if I would be interested,” she said. “My boyfriend at the time (now husband, Wes) also raced here. I came here as a kid to watch my uncle. It’s been really amazing to see all of the improvements they’ve made over the years. They really made their dream a reality. It’s really awesome to be a part of it.”

Miss Path Valley Speedway helps to sell 50/50 raffle tickets, and gets her photo taken in the Winner’s Circle with the drivers. She said she also sometimes helped with scoring.

She said Wes still races at the track, and their son, Preston, has also joined in on the hobby. Wes told the crowd during intermission that he got his first win at Path Valley, and that will always be his favorite memory of racing there.

“I think it’s neat that they asked past drivers to come back tonight. There’s a lot of history here, and to have a moment to remember that is really neat.”

On the track

Rohan Beasley of Mechanicsburg is originally from Australia. He has been racing since 2007, and currently races in the Wingless Super Sport class.

“I like the small track and the close action,” he said. “There’s always a lot of traffic.”

Beasley said racing is in his DNA, and has loved it since he was a kid.

“It’s the only time I get serenity,” he explained. “I only think of the car in front of me. I’m not thinking about work. It’s actually relaxing to me to be behind that wheel.”

He said he likes the Wingless Super Sport models because they always have more power than what you need.

“This is some of the best Saturday night racing you’re going to see. Everyone should come out on Saturdays!”

Tyler Brown of Carlisle said he has been racing on and off since he was 5. 

“It’s a family thing; I grew up around it,” he said. “I was in Victory Lane at 3 weeks old,” he laughed.

Brown races in the 270 Micro Class because it’s affordable.

“I was racing at Path Valley in a go-kart at age 7,” he added. “It’s close to home, it’s a great bullring -- it’s fast and it’s small.”

Brown said he has known the McGee family for many years.

“My dad knew the whole family, and Gary McGee was my shop teacher,” he said.

“This memorial race is awesome! To have a tribute for the McGees who started all of this,” he added.

Brown said when he is behind the wheel, “all of my worries from the world go away.”

“It’s a passion of mine! A way for me to let go!” he continued. “Thank you to the McGees who got this started. We wouldn’t be here without them.”

Randy Kunkle Jr. has been racing at Path Valley for six years. 

“It’s a family thing. My grandfather owned a sprint car in the 1990s and 2000s. In 2016, I bought my own car.”

“This track is a lot of fun. There’s high banks, and you run through it quickly. It’s also family friendly.”

Kunkle races in the 600 Micro Sprint Class because you can do it with a small team, and for the most part, it’s affordable. The cars are also self-starting; “you don’t need someone to push you.”

On the track, Kunkle said it’s a real adrenaline rush at Path Valley.

“It’s a lot of thinking. You have to keep up with people like Jim Young who have been racing for years, and are so good every time.”

“It’s cool to be able to race here, and run for the creator of the track, and to see what they meant to everyone around the speedway,” he added. “I want to thank Path Valley for having our class here. They do their best to give us a place to go to race.”

Young has been racing at Path Valley since 1988. 

“The McGees were very fair people to deal with; they didn’t show favoritism,” he said.

Young raced in Motocross from age 12 until his early 30s when he got injured.

“A friend of mine had raced here, and I decided to try it,” he noted. “I like banking, and how everyone is close together. The track is always prepared nicely; it’s always well maintained.”

Young used to race in the 270 Class, but said the motors can be finicky. 

“The 600 has a better motor package, and it’s a self starter,” he added, noting that he built his car from the ground up, with the exception of the machine parts.   

Young stopped counting his wins after he reached 300. 

“In the late ‘90s, I was racing three nights a week, 70 some a year. Now, I might get in 30 or 40 races a year.”

For more information on Path Valley Speedway, visit: www.pathvalley.com.

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