On May 11, 1939, Hersheypark Stadium hosted its first race – a 28 car midget race in front of a crowd of more than 11,000 spectators.
Eighty-four years later, the World of Outlaws NOS Energy Drink Sprint Cars in partnership with Milton Hershey School (MHS) celebrated the local racing history on the same grounds with the Hersheypark Sprint Car Experience.
Both the Stadium and School – which offers life changing opportunities through cost-free education for qualifying students – were founded by Milton Hershey.
Race teams, drivers, fans, and Milton Hershey staff and students converged upon the historic stadium in a celebration of the region’s rich racing tradition. About a dozen cars were lined up on display, and visitors were also given tours of the team’s haulers.
Last year, a similar event was held on a smaller scale. With this year’s edition falling on the 84th anniversary of Hersheypark Stadium’s racing origin, it was only natural for the event to grow.
“When we realized that May 11th was actually the 84th anniversary of the very first race at Hersheypark Stadium Speedway, we thought what could we do that’s bigger and more robust?” said Melvyn Record, Director of Business Development at World Racing Group. “So, we came up with this idea of the Hersheypark Sprint Car Experience, and that was Milton Hershey’s idea. They asked the World of Outlaws, ‘Can you get some drivers to participate?’ It initially started off as maybe we can get four drivers or maybe we can get six drivers. And we ended up with, I think, 11 drivers that came along because I’m pretty convinced that the drivers understand what it is that Milton Hershey is trying to do for the students.”
As talks continued, it became evident to both sides that the event should expand to include the public.
“It started as a conversation about allowing the kids to meet with the drivers, which is part of our partnership with the World of Outlaws,” said Kristina Pae, Director of Integrated Marketing at Milton Hershey School. “And the more we added some really fun components to it we felt like we were losing out if we don’t open this up to our full community knowing how passionate central Pennsylvania is about the sport and the deep history and roots that the sport has here.”
The result was an overwhelming turnout. Hundreds of students and staff first had the opportunity to meet the drivers, get autographs and photos, and view the race cars. Then, the gates opened to the public and hundreds more came filing in. In total, more than 3,500 students, staff, and fans attended the event.
The fans and students weren’t the only ones impacted by the proceedings. The drivers themselves were moved by the amount of support. Milton Hershey School is a partner of Brock Zearfoss, and he saw it as a sign of even more growth in the future.
“I think World Racing Group and Milton Hershey have done a fantastic job promoting this event,” Zearfoss said. “I think the turnout exceeded what they thought it was going to be. It was really great to see the amount of people and the kids that came out and supported it. It can only go up from here I believe. I think it’s going to be one of those events that just keeps getting bigger each year and turns into something that fans and students at Milton Hershey look forward to coming to every year.”
Spencer Bayston and his CJB Motorsports crew were also participants – even showing up early in the morning to help with local television coverage.
“It’s definitely a great opportunity for all of these kids to come out and experience something a little different, something that we’re really passionate about,” Bayston said. “They’re in the position now of trying to find their passion and where their life is going to go, and this is a great way to kind of display something unique. It was definitely cool to see all of the kids and then the public really turned out this evening. There was a really good crowd of people here.”
Even before the Sprint Car Experience began, four drivers – Brock Zearfoss, Carson Macedo, Gio Scelzi, and Logan Schuchart – visited classes at the school to help teach students more about what they do with the World of Outlaws. Zearfoss and Macedo talked with engineering and design students while Scelzi and Schuchart took time with an automotive class. The latter pair even helped judge a tire changing contest between students.
From start to finish, the day proved to be hugely impactful for all involved. Fans, students, and staff were treated to a unique experience that may not only attract new fans to the sport, but also influence the career path of a student trying to find the right direction.
“I’m hoping that for a lot of the children that were there they’ll remember this day for a long time,” Record said. “They got to sit in a race car. They got to meet a racing driver. They got a picture. Thanks to the generosity of Milton Hershey School, they got a t-shirt. They got a sticker. They got a program with pictures in it. All of these things help build fans for the future.”
“I am thrilled,” Pae said. “The event has absolutely met the vision that I and our team has had for it. I think that our students who attended really enjoyed themselves. The World of Outlaws drivers were so gracious and kind and interactive with our kids and just really provided a different, wonderful experience for them. So, from that perspective, I couldn’t have asked for more, exposing our kids to just another potential career opportunity and to just dream big about what you can do with your life. That’s one of the things we try to do at our school – open up doors of opportunity, allow kids to think about what their future can hold if they really follow their passions.”
The World of Outlaws turn their attention to the Morgan Cup at Williams Grove Speedway, Friday-Saturday, May 12-13, where four Milton Hershey School students will get the opportunity to serve as an honorary crew member with a Sprint Car team. For tickets, CLICK HERE.
If you can’t make it to the track, you can watch every lap live on DIRTVision