By Cary Snyder
Herald Staff Writer
Ron Pollock spent countless hours reading newspaper archives and pouring over microfilm to compile information on the races that have been held at the Sharon Speedway since it opened in 1931. He then located many former drivers or family members of those who raced on what is now a å-mile dirt and clay track in Hartford.
The result of his labor is the auto racing enthusiast’s recently self-published book, “Sharon Speedway: The First 50 Years, 1931-1980.”
The 256-page history that includes more than 300 photos of the cars and drivers who provided entertainment on the track is Pollock’s second book. He also produced a work on the former Canfield Speedway.
The detail he included of each race varies. Some garner only a line or two; others are recapped in large paragraphs.
“It’s race by race, everything we could find,” said Pollock, 62, of Niles.
Pollock estimated 95 percent of the information in his book is from The Herald archives that he read at the Shenango Valley Library in Sharon. He also looked at old editions of The Tribune-Chronicle (Warren), The Vindicator (Youngstown) and The Record-Argus (Greenville).
Former drivers or their family members contributed many of the photographs that appear in the book. Acquiring the photos took some leg work for Pollock and his wife, Patty, because most of those who competed in the track’s early days have died.
“It’s a real struggle,” Pollock said of gathering the information. “I can’t tell you how many miles we racked up, and that’s just a local book.”
The book is more than just a race-by-race recap. Through pictures and tales of the drivers, he chronicles the evolution of the track that Homer McCracken and Lee Poorbaugh built.
When it first opened, the è-mile track had banks 12-feet high on the turns and 4-feet high on the straight-aways. During the years, racing featured the predecessor of the modern Sprint cars.
Racing halted during World War II, and when it resumed in 1949 it did not recapture its glory years until Jim Novak bought the track in ’49 and changed the format to Stock Car racing, according to Pollock’s research.
A new quarter-mile track was built in 1953, along with a new covered grandstand. Stock cars continued to evolve through the 1960’s, and in 1971 the half-mile track was paved and that form of racing continued until the end of 1980 when the speedway was sold, Pollock writes.
The family of NASCAR driver Dale Blaney now operates the track that holds races every Saturday night through September.
“Sharon Speedway: The First 50 Years, 1931-1980,” sells for $21, plus $4 for shipping. To buy a copy, contact Ron Pollock at 330-652-7970 or at 1441 Pepperwood Drive, Niles, OH, 44446. It can also be purchased in person at Pro Auto Glass and Mirror on Route 18 in Hermitage. Shipping costs do not apply to those copies.