Sunday, February 28, 2016

Passion revives Susquehanna Speedway


They say that passion is working hard for something that you love.

Scott Gobrecht is passionate about racing, and he’s channeling that into a new endeavor this season.

Over the years, he’s played many different roles within the racing community, including crew member, driver, car owner, and most recently, speedway owner. In 2015, Gobrecht debuted his No. 44 410 sprint car team with rookie driver Chase Dietz behind the wheel. The team logged one win at Lincoln Speedway and is looking for another successful year with the start of the 2016 season this Saturday in the Pigeon Hills.

The track boasts a new clay surface, as seen from this view in Turn 3 || PC: Kolten Gouse.
At the end of 2015, Gobrecht took on his new role of speedway owner after purchasing Susquehanna Speedway Park from then-owners, Todd and Rhonda Fisher. Gobrecht wanted to have as many outlooks as possible before becoming a racetrack owner. “I thought that owning the car piece was important because I knew I wanted to get to the point of owning a racetrack,” Gobrecht said. “I wanted to have that perspective of what it’s like to be Mike Heffner or Jerry Parrish.”

Fisher originally approached Gobrecht about taking over the Dirt Trackin’ show for this year, which was renamed the Racing Xtravaganza. “He approached me kind of half-heartedly about the show and worked that out and jokingly said, ‘Well I might as well sell you the racetrack,’” Gobrecht said of how the opportunity arose. “One thing led to another and here we are.”

While the Fishers are now completely phased out of the dealings with the track, Gobrecht said they have been great to work with throughout the entire transition. “I give a lot of credit to Todd and Rhonda Fisher,” he said. “They’re some of the most trained people I know. They’re very intelligent and very good at what they do.”

With the Fisher’s 12-year reign at Susquehanna Speedway coming to an end after the Final Showdown this past November, there were a lot of little things that needed sorted out and attended to. “I cannot think of one thing yet that’s come up that we haven’t found mutual ground,” said Gobrecht of working with the Fishers during the transitional period. “We’ve disagreed on some things but we always found something that made sense to both sides and more importantly, made sense for the racetrack and the sport, because all of this is about giving that speedway a chance to succeed in its next life.”

And it really does seem to be a rebirth of sorts for the Newberrytown, Pennsylvania track. One of Gobrecht’s first moves as owner was to name a General Manager to handle the day-by-day operation of the facility. His choice? Kolten Gouse, a Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania native who spent the last eight-and-a-half years on the road with the World of Outlaws tour working for Kasey Kahne Racing.

Gobrecht was introduced to the 26-year-old through the National Open Benefit that Gouse has spearheaded the past several years. “It was just kind of a natural fit,” Gobrecht explained. “It was that, it was the experience he had all over the country, it was his connections. I really think he’s the right man for the job. And he’s young too, he’s energetic, and that’s what that racetrack needs right now.”
Renovations are currently underway on the Turn 1 concession stand || PC: Kolten Gouse.

Working as a crew member for KKR, Gouse has traveled all over the country and has seen a lot of tracks. He wasn’t actively looking to move back home but said he had experienced everything he possibly could while out on the road so when the opportunity with Gobrecht came up, it was a win-win in his eyes.

“It was definitely something I’ve always wanted to do and definitely had an interest in doing,” said Gouse. “It’s just a different challenge to still be involved in racing but take a totally different career path.”

Along with Gouse and the help of community members who have graciously volunteered equipment and their time, Gobrecht has been giving the facility a facelift during the offseason.

“We have a lot of neighbors,” Gouse said. “A lot of peope that live a couple of blocks or a couple miles away that come over and donate their time or their efforts during the week after work or even on the weekends so a lot of it has really been the community stepping up and getting behind this deal and really kind of making this thing work.”

New aluminum bleachers were purchased from Daytona as well as stadium seating from Charlotte Motor Speedway through a company out of the south called Bleacher Builders. The goal was to install new seating within the next two-to-three years but things came together so that the project was feasible now.

“I’m real proud of that because I would have never thought that we’d be able to do it in the first year,” admitted Gobrecht. “But now that we found a way to do it I’m real excited because to see this physically come together and see what our fans are going to have available to them, it’s just really exciting stuff.”

“It’s very positive,” Gobrecht said of the community’s reactions thus far to the changes at the facility. “I know that’s going to change. I know we’re going to have a honeymoon stage for a while and at some point it’s going to change but we just want to keep doing the right thing and listen to people and just try to make the best decisions that we can.” || PC: Kolten Gouse.

The pair also wanted to give the track some much-needed attention and laid down a new clay racing surface. Gobrecht reached out to other racetracks in the area to get a sense of how they would move forward with the surface and feels confident that they have prepared it to the best of their ability.

Additional updates include drainage, bathroom and concession stand renovations, a new state-of-the-art catch-fence and 400-feet of Jersey barriers along the backstretch. Gobrecht said they are working on acquiring additional equipment to maintenance the track, including a good water truck and a tractor with an attachment on the back that will allow them to really groom the track.

The speedway’s branding also underwent some changes, starting with a shortened name: from Susquehanna Speedway Park to just Susquehanna Speedway. The digital platform’s new home is now, and Gouse introduced the new facility logo on his Facebook page in January.

“We’ve got a lot of neat things in place as far as aesthetics at the racetrack,” Gobrecht said. “We’re going to use that new logo. We’re just trying to give it a new image and just let folks know that things are going to be different at Susquehanna and that’s in a good way.”

Gobrecht and Gouse, along with their volunteers, have been hard at work since the Final Showdown in November 2015. “I really think we’ll be ready with Kolten sort of leading the say,” Gobrecht said of meeting their season opener deadline. “With the neighbors we have out there and the support we’re getting, we’ll be ready to go.” || PC: Kolten Gouse.

Also new this year is the schedule that Gobrecht and Gouse have come up with, including 41 races from March through November. In addition to almost all the original series that have supported Susquehanna over the last decade, several new series will be joining the lineup. The Williams Grove Saturday Night Series will move to Susquehanna this year, bringing with it the Super Sportsman, among others.

They wanted to provide an exciting schedule that consisted of a mixture of regular Central PA series along with some bigger shows, such as the USAC and Modified events, the Sportsman 100, and the Carl Billet Memorial.

“We really want to build not just a race, but an actual event that people mark on their calendars that they want to come to,” explained Gouse of their motivation behind the schedule they put in place. “I think if we can give the race teams a track to race on and the fans a good time week in and week out, I think that’s going to really exceed all of our goals for the year.”

Gobrecht and Gouse have also been hard at work securing additional sponsorship. Two new series sponsors have come onboard: Credit Connection for the Super Sportsman division and BAPS Auto Paint & Supply for the 410 Sprint Cars.

The new bleachers will be a welcome addition for the 2016 season || PC: Kolten Gouse.

“I think having those people a part of this brings credibility to our speedway but also brings a lot of strength,” said Gouse. “We couldn’t do it without people like that and obviously their support, not just for race cars but for speedways and racing in general is just a testament to how much they really love this sport. We need people like that to be the backbone of this speedway and it’s definitely greatly appreciated by Scott and myself, that’s for sure.”

Gobrecht said his goal for the facility for the season is to just work hard for the people that they count on to support them, from marketing partners to fans in the stands to the race teams and the car owners.

And it all circles back around to that one key ingredient: passion.

“I’m just real passionate about what we’ve got going on here,” he said. “I wake up in the morning thinking about how we can make this better. It’s not too often you get a chance to be involved in something like this; it’s kind of a dream come true so I’m looking forward to enjoying it along the way.”

To stay up-to-date all season, make sure to check out the track’s social media channels:

FaceBook / Twitter @suskyracing

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