Young spotter loses life at Central Pennsylvania Speedway

Never turn your back on a race car.

Never Forget That Local Auto Racing Can Be a Deadly Sport
By Walt Cox

Never turn your back on a race car.

That's the first safety rule I learned as a track photographer.

Fred Pscholka didn't live long enough to learn that.

The region's racing community mourns his death Saturday at the newly renamed Central Pennsylvania Speedway in Clearfield. That is the same Clearfield Mountain Speedway where many local drivers have raced in past years.

Fredrick Pscholka Jr. was 20 years old and a resident of Dubois RD. This was his first season working as a corner flagman and spotter at the area asphalt track. He was a driver who couldn't afford to field a car this season, but to feed his need for speed he took a job at the track.

He was hit and killed just before the start of the evening's Southwest Expressline Sprint Asphalt Series races Saturday night. He was hit by a 305 Sprint car during warm-up laps. Reports from the track indicate he was standing on the grass just off the berm at the end of the backstretch and not watching oncoming traffic when driver Ron Williams of Columbus, Ohio, lost control and hit him.

Early reports indicated that driver Williams was blinded by the setting sun. Pscholka was a corner spotter.

According to promoter Craig Wilson, Pscholka had been trained to stay behind a pole, even in warm-ups.

Early news reports indicated that he was killed instantly and flung 30 feet (or yards) onto the grass. Pscholka was flown to Clearfield Hospital where he was pronounced dead. An investigation by the Lawrence Township Police Department and the Clearfield County Coroner is reportedly underway. The scheduled races continued without him.

Williams, after hitting and killing Pscholka, did not start the feature.

When teams and fans think at all about the danger in racing, it's the drivers they think are in danger. Time after time the biggest risk is to the track staff. I know personally because in ten years of photographing races I've had several close calls. The closest was a few years ago when Rick Bookwalter's four-cylinder late model brushed my pants leg as he spun off the inside of turn four at Hesston.

Early in the season I told my spouse Barbara that the traffic light off turn three at Path Valley was a great place to take photos of cars coming out of the turn on three wheels. A week later one of the 305 sprints took that light out when it went over the backstretch wall. At times I'm glad she never listens.

The safety rules and equipment favor the drivers. John Bookwalter walked away from that fabulous series of rolls down the front stretch last Saturday. The track personnel are aware of the danger they are in and follow all the precautions, and if they don't they only get one warning. Often someone in the tower spots me in a location they consider dangerous and the word goes out over the radios, "Get Walt out of there!"

The most important rule of all is to never, ever turn your back on the cars when they are moving on the track.

Racing is as dangerous as driving on the PA Turnpike or I-99 because it involves a ton or more of brainless machinery moving fast.

So today's sermon is that when the tracks make rules teams should follow them. When the flagman tells you at the drivers meeting to keep the speed down in the pits, it's to keep you from killing someone. Have a safe one out there and I'll see you in turn five.

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About this article
Series Sprint
Teams Williams
Article type Obituary
Tags accident, central pennsylvania speedway, crash, fred pscholka