One Tank Trip: Eastern Museum of Motor Racing

YORK SPRINGS, Pa. - A lot of memories were made around a track behind a major road in Adams County.

"We're midway between Harrisburg and Gettysburg, right off Route 15," said curator Lynn Paxton.

When you see the car, make a left.

The Eastern Museum of Motor Racing in York Springs is the keeper of all those memories. It's next to the Latimore Valley Fairgrounds and Racetrack, in a part of Pennsylvania that has always been a hotbed of auto racing. They first raced horses in places like Reading and Langhorne, and then horses gave way to automobiles.

"There's so many racing fans in central Pennsylvania, it's just natural that you would want to save the history of it, and that's our job," Paxton said. "We save the history of racing."

Some of the cars look brand new. They have been restored, but some look just like they did when they came off the track.

"Pretty has nothing to do with it around here," Paxton said. "Some of the neatest thing we have are just ugly as sin."

A 1936 Hillclimb Indian, a bit beat up, it's been flipped so it looks like you'd expect it to.

Pretty was never part of the allure for racers like our tour guide. You can sit in the sprint car Paxton won the National Open at Williams Grove with in 1982.

"Back then, the guys were happy-go-lucky, and 20 minutes later, they could have been dead," Paxton recalled. "It was kinda like a gladiator sport, I guess, Thank God it's getting a lot safer now."

One Kurtis 4000 is from the 50s. It's the deadliest one ever built, killing three drivers in four years.

The highs and lows are all documented here, with names you'll know. Mario Andretti won his first sprint car race in Salem. Indiana.

"Mario Andretti won three races in the same day in this car," Paxton said. "It had a question mark on it back then."

You'll see cars AJ Foyt raced. Tony Stewart was in another one. There are cars that wrecked, like one at Talladega, and an old Sprint car so loved the ashes from the man who helped build it are in the bumper.

"There's never a day that I'm here that I don't learn something, and you never know who's going to walk through the door," Paxton said. "[A] couple weeks ago, Dick Vermiel came through."

He likely saw Berks County's own Tommy Hinnershitz's garage, a replica all the way from Oley.

Reading of course, had an auto racing history all its own.

"I was at the last race in '79, as a matter of fact," Paxton said. "I led and it ran out of fuel with about 5 or 6 to go. Billy Steif won it with my old car, so I remember. You know, I won a few races, but the ones I lost of gave away. Those I remember, you know?"

This place makes sure you do, too.