Jennerstown, Pennsylvania – With the Jennerstown Speedway Complex set to open its 2022 campaign on Saturday, track general manager Bill Heribar has a sporting problem that anyone who wears his shoes would be glad to approach the summer of racing.
“We have approximately 90 drilling booths on the main surface of the hole area,” Hrebar said. “We have 112 drivers looking for places. It’s an unbelievable problem. It’s really exciting.”
That spark of driver interest was evident on the facility’s first training day on April 23 as 66 drivers took part with Hribar who said they had seen no more than 30 drivers show up on training days prior to that.
Hrebar said the 44 is an uphill ride to Somerset Oval on April 30 to make the final tuning before the live race.
This incessant noise around the track has resulted in the Highway Department needing to shorten its off-season.
“You always have a little rest,” Hrebar said. “This year, we haven’t had an offseason. Everyone is going in the same direction and working harder than we’ve had before to achieve this season. (April 23) it was a feeling of relief, pride and joy to see this kind of turnout for just a training day.”
As the track’s turnstiles flickered 131,000 times in 2021 for the weekly races and other events — such as car shows — hosted at Generstown Speedway, Hrebar’s belief that “timing is everything” helped make NASCAR’s comeback as a punishing body on the track a sensitive move.
“We’ve thought about being NASCAR before, but the timing just wasn’t right for us,” he said.
“Getting out of COVID and having such a successful season for 2021, after looking at what was available to us through NASCAR and how it benefited not only the highway but the drivers, the timing was definitely now.”
As noted by GM, racing fans and good luck 2021 made the campaign a success by showing up in droves as COVID-19 attendance restrictions were eased across Pennsylvania.
“I think with all the people so locked up in 2020, they just wanted to get out and try things again, and Mother Nature was a big fan of us,” Hrebar said. “When you have a mix of people who want to get out and do things, great weather, and put together an excellent racing program, that’s the perfect combination.”
However, the rain delayed the start of this season’s roster, which was supposed to start on May 7.
Flying under the NASCAR flag for the first time since 2008, Factory Speed has also seen its regional footprint grow in terms of distance drivers will travel to be part of Saturday’s movement.
“It opens up a lot of opportunities by racing under the NASCAR banner,” Hrebar said.
“Almost immediately we saw a response, not just from the drivers, but from our sponsors. It’s a proud thing to be able to say you’re affiliated with NASCAR.
“NASCAR is experiencing a massive revival. TV viewership is up 20%, which is unbelievable. People are interested in what’s going on in NASCAR again. We’ve got something really successful in Jennerstown, and it’s just going to be a great partnership going forward.”
Even better for the fast track, pushing the racetrack and facility up to NASCAR standards wasn’t a concern.
“Fortunately for us, we meet or exceed all of those criteria,” Hrebar said. “I don’t want to say we’re going to be the poster child for NASCAR, but that’s our goal.”
something for everyone
Maintaining the fan experience to win new visitors and keep everyone coming back is also a major point of Generstown in 2022. As Hribar explained, it’s about knowing what works.
“We try to make every week fun for fans of all ages,” he said. “Whether you’re a die-hard racing fan or a regular fan, we’ll try to open the stadium up to the kids every week. We try to do some interactive things: giveaways, giveaways, little competitions. We’re going to have both signing nights this year. We started doing two signing nights two seasons ago and it was well received. Well.
“We have a great race card on hand for die-hard racing fans. We have everything from the modified Whelen Tour (May 28) to race cars (August 27), super modified (June 11), and very late models (June 4). It’s the agenda. Literally if you are a racing fan, you will have something for everyone here.”
In April, it was announced that the majority of Jennerstown’s racing events would be available to stream on FloRacing.com – a paid streaming service. According to the track’s president, Jenners-town is now among the elite on NASCAR’s weekly series tracks.
“There are 51 NASCAR tracks in the U.S. They chose just 12 to show on FloRacing this year and Jennerstown was one of them,” said Hrebar. “We are really excited to stream the races live on a weekly basis on FloSports, which is probably the world’s largest racing livestreaming service.”
“We keep moving forward”
Jennerstown and Hribar got their start in the 1920s, and are familiar with tightrope walking that involves keeping to the track’s roots while also pushing things forward.
It also means he’s more than just a Hribar at the wheel when the lights come on every week.
“On Saturday nights, there are 78 employees at Jennerstown Speedway,” Hrebar said. “It takes everyone and anyone. I think the key is dissatisfaction with oneself. We learn from what we do.
“We keep moving forward. We will try to keep Jennerstown moving forward.”
It also means that the credit doesn’t always have to go to the GM office, he noted.
“No. You have to surround yourself with great people,” said Hreiber. “I am very fortunate to have a wonderful group of three owners who pretty much give me leeway to do what needs to be done to make Highway a success.
“I have a great staff under me. A lot of times, people like to pass honors my way, but it’s not all my idea and nothing without culling our amazing franchisees and wonderful officials.”
Sean Curtis is a reporter for the Democratic Tribune. He can be contacted at 814-532-5085. Follow him on Twitter Tweet embed.