All-Time winner Ray Tilley returns to Selinsgrove this Saturday. SELINSGROVE, Pa. - This Saturday night, Selinsgrove Speedway will welcome back its all-time career leading sprint car feature winner Ray Tilley, 68, of Pine Grove. His appearance...
All-Time winner Ray Tilley returns to Selinsgrove this Saturday.
SELINSGROVE, Pa. - This Saturday night, Selinsgrove Speedway will welcome back its all-time career leading sprint car feature winner Ray Tilley, 68, of Pine Grove. His appearance at the speedway this weekend will mark his first at the track since his last race there in 1971.
In addition, the restored Bud Grimm Special No. 88 sprint car, in which Tilley drove to a record 68 career wins and four track championships at Selinsgrove Speedway, will be on display with a collection of antique race cars from the Williams Grove Oldtimers organization.
"I'm looking forward to spending some time with that race car and my fans at Selinsgrove," Tilley says. "It's been a long time."
Tilley's motorsports career began midway through the 1955 season while stationed in South Carolina in the United States Air Force. In his second season racing in the south, he won a track title in the hobby division.
Tilley moved back to Pennsylvania in 1958. His celebrated racing career in Pennsylvania began in 1959 at Silver Spring Speedway, where he competed in the sportsman division through the 1961 season and recorded 11 career victories.
Then he competed in the heavies (or modifieds) division at Port Royal and the Reading Fairgrounds Speedway until 1964.
Well-known race car owner Bud Grimm noticed Tilley's talents and hired him to compete in his super-modified (also known as "bugs, " and later sprint cars) at Williams Grove, Selinsgrove and Susquehanna Speedways beginning in 1965. Between the 1965 and 1969 seasons, Tilley recorded four championships at each of the aforementioned speedways.
His Selinsgrove track titles occurred in 1965, 66, 68 and 69. His last win at the speedway was on September 1, 1969.
The "Fredricksburg Flier," the town where he resided during his racing career, won more than 175 sprint car features alone at seven different speedways, including victories with the traveling United Racing Club organization.
"We had some remarkable years," Tilley recalls. "The fans either loved me or hated me because we were winning so much."
Tilley's career--and his life--nearly came to a tragic end in 1969 following a violent racing accident at the now defunct Langehorne Speedway. Tilley was competing in the track's annual championship modified event when his race car performed a sudden reverse spin into the guardrail, which resulted in his suffering a severed brain stem.
The injuries Tilley sustained in the crash put him into a state of semi-consciousness for several weeks, and physicians feared he would either not survive the trauma or he would become paralyzed.
"It was faith that got me and my family through that terrible accident," Tilley, who is the father of three sons, says today. "I'm very lucky to be alive."
More than a year after the crash, in 1971, Tilley attempted a return to sprint car racing in central Pennsylvania, only to be haunted by his near-fatal accident.
"I found it was too much stress on me and my family," Tilley describes of his failed return to driving race cars. "I wasn't relaxed in the race car anymore. The crash took the adrenaline out of me."
Now, more than 30 years later, Selinsgrove Speedway will celebrate the return of Ray Tilley, one of sprint car racing's greatest legends, this Saturday, July 20, as part of a four division racing program of sprint cars, late models, pro stocks and roadrunners sponsored by Kreamer Construction of Middleburg. Grandstand gates open at 5 p.m., with racing slated to begin at 7 p.m.
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