Selinsgrove Opperman's owners return for Memorial race

Bogar, Hamilton and Stanley to attend. 4/28/03, Selinsgrove, PA -- Coming up this Sunday, May 4, the 2nd Annual Jan Opperman Memorial at Selinsgrove Speedway is still growing. Another Opperman car owner, the driver's last as fate would have...

Bogar, Hamilton and Stanley to attend.

4/28/03, Selinsgrove, PA -- Coming up this Sunday, May 4, the 2nd Annual Jan Opperman Memorial at Selinsgrove Speedway is still growing.

Another Opperman car owner, the driver's last as fate would have it, has confirmed his attendance for the prestigious event. Joining owners Luke Bogar Jr. of Selinsgrove and Al Hamilton of Manheim at the memorial will be Claude Stanley of Middleburg.

It was in the Stanley owned 6S that Opperman had made great strides in trying to reclaim his career after near career and life ending head injuries at the Indiana State Fairgrounds in 1976.

An avid race fan and sometimes a driver from Florida and having met Opperman through the ministry in Florida while he raced there during many February speedweeks, Stanley and his wife Joanne joined forces with Opperman in 1981.

"We did it to help him out when he needed it, when he was trying to come back," Stanley remembers.

The great Opperman began his attempted trek back to the top in the Mid-West in the late 1970's but with slow although mounting success. And then Stanley stepped in for the 1981 season.

Stanley's efforts brought Jan Opperman back to his throngs of admiring fans in the East. The pairing was close to more than one victory before misfortune would strike.

Racing a full schedule in 1981 while frequenting much of the URC schedule, the Stanley's moved via motorhome to Pennsylvania and surrounding states, wherever the races took them.

Opperman and the Stanley's searched out a new residence for Opperman and his family in rural Beavertown in between races and by the time tragedy struck on June 20, 1981 at Jennerstown Speedway, "He was back, you could see it," recalls Stanley of his driver's reclaimed talents.

A debilitating crash in a URC event at Jennerstown was the end of the road for the Stanley 6S and Opperman.

"That was our 34th race of the season together and ironically it was to be our last anyhow," recalls Stanley. "Some things had come together for Jan, sponsorships and the like and he was moving on after that."

Opperman succumbed to his injuries on September 14, 1997. And the Stanley's have been withdrawn from the racing scene as fans since 1986. Until this Sunday that is, when they will excitedly and gladly return to the arena to honor Opperman.

"There was so much more to Jan than just the driver," says Stanley, "And I want anyone who didn't know him to realize that. I am really happy that we are able to remember Jan this way."

Stanley is currently the Associate Pastor at Lighthouse Ministry in New Berlin, Pa., and he will offer his thoughts on Opperman at Sunday's memorial. Gates for the event will open at 4 PM with time trials slated for 6.

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Series Sprint