The checkered flag waved, race teams gave each other high-fives and spectators got to see friendly competition for a worthy cause as the 15th annual Susquehanna 500 mini Indy at Brandon Park concluded Sunday after two days of racing.
Team Glenn O. Hawbaker captured first place in the modified championship race with Professional Petroleum finishing first in the stock championship. Williamsport Area School District captured first in consolation and Blaise Alexander won the hardluck contest.
Each year, team registration fees bring in about $25,000 for North Central Pennsylvania Chapter of the American Red Cross, said Kathy Stine, chapter executive director. The race is the largest fundraiser for the chapter, which covers Lycoming, Clinton and Tioga counties.
Leia Turner, 21-month-old daughter of Leslie Snyder and Chad Turner, of Muncy, seems ready to take the wheel of the Glenn O. Hawbaker car. Leia’s uncle, Jason Snyder, is one of the drivers.
The two-day event was a make-up race that was not held last September due to the flooding caused by Tropical Storm Lee.
Another Susquehanna 500 is scheduled for Sept. 22-23, Stine said.
"We feel this is a real family oriented event," Stine said.
It doesn't cost admission and spectators are safe behind barriers so they can watch the race from different vantage points in the park.
One driver knew he was in for friendly competition but acknowledged the road was bumpy in places.
"It's rough with no suspension," said city resident John Bouse, 26, a driver for Team Williamsport Area School District. "You can't steer real well in these cars. You need to stay focused."
Cars, equipped with either Honda or Briggs engines, travel at top speeds reaching 35 mph, but the course has several tricky serpentine locations with hairpin curves.
Teams consisted of three drivers for 20-lap races. A few of the cars had a GLF sticker in memory of the late George L. Fetzer, one of the event founders.
"Teams help each other out," said Carl Schusler, a race volunteer. "If a tire is needed or if welding needs to be done, they will share."
All ages seemed to enjoy the racers putting on a show.
"It's pretty cool," said Michael Wise, 8, of Montoursville, who watched with his sister Eleni, 6. They are the son and daughter of David and Gabriella Wise. "I go to school at Lyter Elementary," Michael said. "I like all the noise and seeing the people racing."
Do you know these people are racing for a good cause? Michael was asked.
"No," he said.
When told they were racing for the American Red Cross and that the race couldn't be held in September because of the massive flood, it made Wise feel good about what the race teams were doing.
He also wants to race some day in the Susquehanna 500. "I would," he said. Wise added that he was a racing enthusiast and watched "just about any race."
His sister also was glad she came. She noticed the shiny colors of the cars. "They look nice," she said.
Asked why she thought they were racing around the track, Eleni said, "because there's a lot of fun, twisty turns."
At about noon, there was a wreck where one car hit another and one flipped. Susquehanna Health emergency medical technicians confirmed no hospitalization was needed. It wasn't the only mishap of the race. At one point near the end of the afternoon, oil spilling from one of the car's engines sprayed on the facemask of the helmet of the driver behind it.
"This is exciting," said Tom Cioffi, of Atlanta, Ga.
Cioffi said he was visiting the area this week and walking in the park with his friend Tom Temple, of South Williamsport.
During the day, spectators such as Cioffi got a taste of the unknown variables racing holds.
"One guy's chain came off," Cioffi said. "And there have been some bottle-ups.
"It's especially exciting as the drivers headed into the sharp turns that led to the hairpin at Packer Street," Cioffi said.
The zig-zag stretch along Brandon Place at Packer Street creates havoc as the racers accelerate right to the point where they ease up on the gas and then twist around. Sometimes the car tires spin as they accelerate too fast for the tire to grip the road surface north on Packer Street.
"Maybe I am a little young at heart," Temple said. "I like that the money from team registration of the cars goes to the Red Cross and that is a worthy cause."
The Red Cross, Temple said, helps people out in natural and man-made disasters and sponsors drives.
He pointed out how the city's Newberry section is experiencing arson fires.
"Thank God nobody has been displaced, but whenever disasters strike the Red Cross is there with emergency assistance for food and temporary housing," Temple said.
Red Cross volunteer Bill Van Campen said he welcomes those who want to get into the September Susquehanna 500.
"Give us a call at 329-4746 to get a car," he said.
This year, the race had 21 stock and five modified cars, he added.
The stock offered three places for Honda engine driven cars and Briggs engines.
"We're fading out Briggs engines," Stine said, "Honda engines are more readily available."
She thanked all of the teams and volunteers in the effort.
"We couldn't buy the trophies alone," she said. In addition to Pennsylvania College of Technology, which provided technical services for the race teams, William L. Emick Jr., president of Appellation Pre-Fab, of Montoursville, paid part of the cost of the awards, she said.
The Red Cross also raffled off a quilt, a tool belt bag and $250 cash or a Honda kart engine.
A full list of race results will be available on the Red Cross website: www.ncparedcross.org.