Bucks County Herald

Mercer exhibit examines history, culture of high-velosity sports

Action at Doylestown Quarter Midget Race Track.

“Racing: A Need for Speed,” an original exhibition presented by the Mercer Museum, examines the history and culture of racing in Bucks County and the Delaware Valley across four different sports – foot racing, horse racing, bicycle racing and motor sports.

The exhibition will feature the personal stories of former local racers, like auto racing legend Mario Andretti and Villanova track coach Marty Stern.

Hundreds of racing-related artifacts will be on view including the cars that once raced on local tracks, vintage cycling gear, harness racing sulkies, trophies, and more.

“Racing: A Need for Speed” opens on Saturday, May 12, in the museum’s Martin & Warwick Foundation Galleries and will run until Sunday, Sept. 9.

The exhibit, at 84 S. Pine St., Doylestown, showcases hundreds of objects and images from more than 50 public and private collections.

Scholastic track competitions in the late 19th through mid-20th century is highlighted with artifacts from George School, one of the first schools in the area to have a track and field program.

The exhibit features an NCAA Championship ring and coaching jacket of “Uncle” Marty Stern, who led the Villanova women’s track and field team to five straight national titles from 1989 to 1993.

Auto racing at the Langhorne Speedway from 1926 to 1971 is explored in numerous artifacts, historical images and archival footage. Mario Andretti recounts his beginnings on the dirt track circuit, and offers his memories of Langhorne Speedway. A silver trophy from his 1966 win at Langhorne is on view.

The exhibit also includes the stories of Billy Young, the first black Pennsylvanian to race a “slingshot” dragster in competition, and Leonard Miller, a local driver and entrepreneur who helped break the color barrier in motorsports. Both raced at Vargo Dragway in Bedminster Township.

Also featured is George Hurst, founder of Hurst Performance Products, who invented the “jaws of life.”

Three vintage race cars will be on view including a circa 1954 dirt sprint car once driven by Andretti, a restored Gerhardt-Ford Indy car driven by Gordon Johncock in 1966, and an early drag racing “funny car” nicknamed “The Honker.” Also on exhibit are a circa 1960 youth quarter midget race car, a 1940s Indian Scout racing motorcycle, and even a 1970s soapbox derby racer.

Visitors can test their own speed and skill in two racing “try-its.”

A series of special racing-related programs includes Black American Racers on June 23 at 2 p.m., Drag Strip Memories on July 15 at 2 p.m., ‘The Greatest Show on Dirt,’ Automobile Racing at the Langhorne Speedway on July 28 at 2 p.m., and Kids Who Race Day on Aug. 11, from 11 a.m., to 4 p.m. All programs are free with museum admission.

For information, call 215-345-0210 or visit mercermuseum.org.



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