WPSU'S 'Dirt Track Memories' dusts off old racing stories

Pennsylvania's dirt track scene still vibrant after all these years

All members of the Perigo family have racecar driving in their blood. They can taste victory in the grit that kicks up on the track. They stick together as a team, with each person assigned a different responsibility. Dirt track racing spans three generations in this family from Somerset County, and they have spent countless hours over the past several decades fine-tuning their skills and tuning-up their cars.

For more than 100 years, regular folks have challenged each other on the dusty dirt racetracks of Pennsylvania -- to see who can maneuver the turns and accelerate through the straightaways faster than the other drivers. "Dirt Track Memories," a new documentary from Penn State Public Broadcasting, will introduce you to the Perigo family. It will also steer you down memory lane as the drivers approach victory lane.

"I found dirt track to be very exciting not only on the track, but the people involved in it. Most of the racers are families and friends who have been racing for years," Charlie Gudeman, Penn State Public Broadcasting senior producer-director, said. "The fans are also great. They look forward to the racing every week. They are very loyal to the favorite drivers and the tracks."

The show will air on WPSU-TV at 8 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 8 as part of the September pledge drive. It will re-air several times throughout the fall months. Check local listings for dates and times.

Back in the old days, racing was much simpler and relatively inexpensive. It also was part of the social life of many small towns. Once or twice a week, the local racetrack would come to life with the sound of roaring engines, the aroma of fuel and rubber, and the competition of dirt track auto racing. The crowds came to root for their favorite car or driver. It may have been a friend or a family member, but no matter who it was, the same passion existed in the stands as on the track and in the pits.

"Dirt Track Memories" features drivers who reminisce about the old days and historians who provide the background of dirt track auto racing in the commonwealth. The program includes lots of vintage footage and interviews with the thrill-seekers who lived to tell the stories.

"The noise, the crowds, the racing teams, and mud flying at you are just part of what makes local Pennsylvania racing so much fun," Gudeman said.

WPSU serves central Pennsylvania with programming, educational services and community outreach. Its public media services produce, acquire and distribute programs that address local interests and reflect the diverse cultural, political, geographic and demographic characteristics of an audience within central Pennsylvania.

 

Last Updated September 01, 2009