HERSHEY, Pa. (WHTM) — On May 11, 1939, Milton Hershey’s dream of owning an auto racing track became a reality. The first race in Hershey Stadium Speedway history was a midget car race with 28 drivers.

The track was eventually replaced by a football field, and 84 years later racing fans flooded the once historic venue. As part of Hershey Sprint Car Experience, the World of Outlaws partnered with Milton Hershey School to welcome racing fans back inside Hersheypark Stadium.

Thousands of sprint car fans were able to visit with the World of Outlaws drivers and get to know more about their favorite sport.

History of Hershey Stadium Speedway

In 1939, Hershey Stadium Speedway opened as a 1/4 mile flat paved oval, and ran midget cars promoted by Sherman F “Red” Crise. On opening night, 11,265 fans packed the stands that look remarkably the same as in 2023.

Merlyn “Doc” Shanebrook of Chicago won the 25-lap feature there that night for a purse of $1,500.

Racing at Hershey Stadium Speedway paused fas the United States entered World War II, and would not occur for 27 years. According to Hershey Stadium Speedway’s Facebook page, the track ran again in about 1968-1969 and in 1982-1983.

Lynn Paxton on Hershey Stadium Speedway history

Lynn Paxton was one of the Midstate’s top open-wheel racers for 20 years. The Mechanicsburg native won 224 Sprint Car main events in his career. He also won the 1969 Hershey Stadium title.

Facts about Hershey Stadium Speedway

  • This facility, now known as Hersheypark Stadium, began construction in 1937. With
    seating designed specifically six feet off the ground for auto racing, the stadium was
    built as the last major project of Hershey’s Great Building Campaign. 
  • Hershey Stadium Speedway opened on May 18, 1939, with seating for 15,360
  • Hershey Stadium Speedway was built with eight towers, each 98 feet high, to
    floodlight the field with 200,000-250,000 watts.
  • Tickets for the speedway ranged from $.45-$.75 for adults and $.25 for children. 
  • Hershey Stadium Speedway closed during World War II. Milton Hershey used the
    space to park 20 trailers under the stadium’s bleachers to serving as housing for
    war workers. 
  • Milton S. Hershey was an early adopter of automobiles. In 1900, he took advantage
    of the novelty of the horseless carriage by purchasing an electric delivery wagon
    from the Riker Electric Company. It was the first automobile in Lancaster.
  • Milton Hershey School alumnus Reuben Sheaffer ’40 bought and refurbished the
    1917 Ford Model T on display before donating it to the MHS Alumni Association for
    the school to use.

The World of Outlaws race three times in May in Pennsylvania. On Wednesday, May 10 the Outlaws were at Lincoln Speedway in Abbottstown. The series then heads to Williams Grove for races on Friday and Saturday, May 12 and 13. For a full list of when the Outlaws are racing in Central Pennsylvania, click here.