Fast times at Mahoning
Justin Carlucci/Times News Crowds gather at Mahoning Valley Speedway on Saturday nights.
If you're a local fan of racing or simply looking for a new experience, the Mahoning Valley Speedway is the place to be on a Saturday night.
Locals and race enthusiasts from all over northeastern Pennsylvania venture out to the racetrack on a weekly basis.
"On a good night we could get 1,000 people in the stands; on a bad night maybe around 600," said race director Tim Santee. "It all depends on how many cars we have on a given night. There's not a bad seat in the house. The crew guys always have a good view of the pits, and we usually attract a ton of people within a 30- to 40-mile radius."
Mahoning offers a diverse set of divisions including "street stock," which is one of the more popular among the six different types of cars you'll see on the track. Santee said there are normally between 25 and 30 street stock cars every Saturday.
I caught up with Josh Mooney, who is one of those Mahoning street stock drivers.
"There are at least 10 to 15 people from our family that come to support every week," Mooney said. "You'll see the same family names at the track as their traditions get passed on from generation to generation. Every week we go out there as a family and it's a great feeling winning as a team, knowing all of the hard work everyone has put into it. We usually put up to 10 extra hours per week making sure the car is set for the following week's race. Racing is a lifestyle for families around here."
Mooney and Santee both agreed that Mahoning is a great experience.
Santee said, "The thing about Mahoning is a lot of people are local. It's a good experience checking out the pits because everyone is friendly. For example, if you like the color of someone's car, go up and talk to them, and maybe in a few weeks you'll be helping them out in the pits. Everyone is willing to share his or her experience with you."
The family-oriented racetrack is great for all ages. Children and seniors get discounts, and the speedway also runs special events such as Fan Appreciation Night and Octoberfast.
Mooney said, "Fan Appreciation Night offers discounts, and at intermission all of the cars are parked on the track, which is where the fans can get pictures and autographs from the drivers. It's a good experience to get to know the drivers and see the cars up close. Octoberfast is the best and last show of the year where big money is paid out to the winners."
Santee said the track has definitely been "resurrected" in his third year in charge at Mahoning.
"We have a lot more cars every week, and more fans are coming out because it's one of the best and fastest tacks in the northeast."
Prices: General Admission: $12
Children under 10: Free
Pit access: $35
Pit Pass: One-time fee of $80, with entry now at $25 for pit access instead of $35.
Pit Gates open at 2 p.m.; Grandstand gates at 4 p.m.