Duncansville couple bringing Spring Run track into spotlight

Duncansville residents Steve and Amy Murphy don’t have a lot of time to themselves on summer weekends.

And that suits the Path Valley Speedway volunteers just fine.

“I think if we didn’t do it, I think we’d be very bored,” said Amy, who is the head scorer while her husband is the head flagman. “When it comes to winter time, we’re bored. It keeps us moving and it occupies our time. We do get tired at times, but it keeps us busy.”

The Murphys, who have lived in Duncansville for 14 years, head to the track in Spring Run on Friday nights and stay in a camper Friday and Saturday nights before returning home.

“There’s always something to do or something to get ready,” Amy Murphy said.

The Murphys have been involved with the track for about 20 years, dating back to when they lived in Juniata County.

The current owners, Vicki Flowers and her husband, Jack, and partner John Winsett, purchased the track in 2000 after renting tracks like Port Royal, Hagerstown and Susquehanna. The experience of operating a race track was a new one; although the Flowers and Winsett had a background in motorcycle and quad racing, race cars posed a learning curve.

“The first two or three years were a major learning experience,” Vicki Flowers said. “After that, it was a lot of fun.”

Still, as with all area tracks, the sagging economy has made operating a speedway a struggle. Feathers said car counts at Path Valley are down by 50 percent; on a recent Saturday night, the race featured 87 cars, which Feathers said was a strong turnout.

“It’s very difficult,” Flowers said.

Attendance is improving slightly, Flowers said, thanks in part to racing bigger cars. Last year, Path Valley started venturing into late models and sprints, and two 410 sprint races are on the schedule this year compared to one last year. Path Valley will also be a part of SpeedWeek, a series of 410 sprints, this year for the first time.

Part of Path Valley’s allure, Flowers said, is the small track. The track is a quarter-mile in the center.

“Some of the best racing goes on at Path Valley,” Flowers said. “On a small track, you see who’s a good driver and who’s not. There’s nothing wrong with a big track, but it takes a lot more driver manipulation to drive on a small track.”

Announcer Mike Donald, who is in his third year at Path Valley and sixth overall, cited the loyalty of the owners as an allure. Despite smaller car counts, the owners pledged to maintain the purse for the late models winner at $750 regardless of how many cars run. Other tracks, he said, try to cancel races or cut the purse if only a handful of cars enter.

“It gives you the confidence and the type of people you’re working for,” said Donald, who said Path Valley is in the top five out of the 40 tracks he’s announced at. “It gives the drivers confidence they can come to Path Valley and do what they said they were going to do. I know there’s probably been some nights up there where they lost a little money.”

For the Murphys, the attachment to Path Valley can also be traced to the people. Amy Murphy said the other workers at the track and the owners are like family to them.

“It’s great,” she said. “These are wonderful people. We haven’t had such a close bond with the others like we do with these.”