Gathering to pay tribute to old Morgantown Speedway dirt track

MORGANTOWN — The spirit of the old Morgantown Speedway will be revived during a 40th anniversary gathering for the once-popular dirt track in Cheat Lake. Called “One Final Lap,” the event will be Saturday.

Former drivers, spectators and motorsport enthusiast plan to attend this reunion to reminisce about the excitement that surrounded the area, on summer Saturdays from 1953-1978.

Morgantown Speedway was near where Chestnut Ridge Church stands today, across from Ruby & Ketchy’s diner.

Racing fanatic and Morgantown local, Jimmie Henry, recalled the good memories he had growing up around the track. More importantly, Henry focused on the relationships he made along the way.

He began attending races at the Speedway in 1969, when he was just 3.

“It closed in ’78 when I was 12,” he recalled. “A lot of the people around here remember the track very well and there have been a lot of life-long friendships made there, so we’re excited to get everyone back together.”

Among those attending will be former drivers L.J. Dennis and Steve Baker, former Speedway promoter Bud Crystser and the former “Voice of the Morgantown Speedway” announcer Pete Secret.

Baker, who began his racing career competing at the Cheat Lake track in its final season of operation, was born into a racing-first family that held many vital positions throughout the track’s history.

“My aunt and uncle actually owned the track at the time,” the Morgantown-native said. “My mom, my dad, my sisters, we all worked at the track in some capacity. We grew up at Morgantown Speedway. Every Saturday in the summer, we were there.”

Baker’s father, Frank, was the flagman at the track. His other family members assisted Crystser with promotions.

Baker went on to a professional racing career, and has been involved with the Interstate 79 Raceway of Shinnston and Rocket Chassis, a racecar fabrication company, also in Shinnston.

Dennis, the driver most fans may best recall, was behind the wheel of the famous “Rainbow 7” racecar. Dennis remembered that his performance at the Morgantown Speedway created a love-hate relationship among the fans.

“Yeah, I was pretty good at that track” he said. “I won a lot of races there, and I know fans either liked or didn’t like me. But after it was over, the drivers would all sit around and talk about racing for hours. I look forward to seeing some of those guys and sharing some of our stories.”

The 83-year-old Markleysburg, Pa., native tallied over 300 wins in his racing career and was inducted into the Pittsburgh Circle Track Hall of Fame.

Among the other attendees to the reunion will be Dream Machines Car Club, displaying their classic and antique cars.

“One Final Lap” will be held near the site of the old Morgantown Speedway, at Chestnut Ridge Church. Events will run from 1-4 p.m. Saturday and are open to the public, free of charge. Seating will not be provided and alcohol is prohibited.