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Beaver Springs man named to National Sprint Car Hall of Fame

A mechanic from Snyder County will receive the highest honor for anyone involved with sprint car racing.

BEAVER SPRINGS, Pa. — The Selinsgrove Speedway is home to dozens of races throughout the year, some on the national circuit. Ralph Heintzelman Sr. helped get national exposure for the speedway. Heintzelman was a mechanic and car builder from Beaver Springs.

"He did a lot of stuff to sprint cars that people back then weren't doing. That's what the sprint cars are today. He was one of the people that helped get sprint cars what they are today," said Philip Lash, who met Heintzelman after he graduated high school.

"Ralph needed some help pushing the car on the trailer, and I helped him. He said, 'Do you want to go to the track? I need some help.' I said, 'Sure,' and that's what started it. I was with him for the next two and a half years," Lash said.

Heintzelman went on to become arguably the biggest mechanic and manufacturer in Pennsylvania in the 1970s. He worked alongside driver Jan Opperman and won 44 races in 1972.

"He had a lot of history, a lot of fame with what he was doing, and he still stopped and talked to me. I was just a kid who hadn't accomplished anything at the time, and he took the time to talk to me, and I thought that was pretty cool," Phil Walter said.

When Phil Walter visited the National Sprint Car Hall of Fame a few years ago, he saw many names he recognized, but not Ralph Heintzelman.

"So to me, Ralph belonged in there," Walter said.

Walter and Selinsgrove Speedway general manager Steve Inch nominated Heintzelman for the hall of fame, and this year he will be inducted.

"We're just so happy that Ralph is getting his day and recognition for everything he accomplished locally, but also on the national level," Inch said.

"It should have been done a long time ago. Ralph was one heck of a guy. He'd do anything for you. He's the most deserving person that I know of who should be in that hall," Lash said.

Ralph died in 2019. His friends think he would be proud and honored.

"I think he'd have really enjoyed this, and he should have because he worked hard to get there," Walter said.

Ralph Heintzelman will be inducted into the National Sprint Car Hall of Fame this summer.

Posted by National Sprint Car Hall of Fame and Museum on Tuesday, January 11, 2022

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