Port Royal – A crowd of thousands came together to honor retiring sprint car veteran Keith Kauffman on Saturday night Augst 17 at Port Royal Speedway during his farewell tribute race.
Having announced this season as his farewell tour, prior to the race Kauffman and Kenny Jacobs, who came to the event to help celebrate with his friend, met hundreds of fans for autographs behind the grandstand.
And then during intermission a stage full of the names and players from Kauffman’s past and present gathered to conduct a “This Is Your Life” type of presentation.
The event started off with a driver introduction to the stage of Kauffman by nationally known columnist and announcer Bruce Ellis, who coined Kauffman’s moniker “The Man From Mifflintown.”
Ellis reflected on Kauffman’s status nationally and locally and his career numbers before local businessman Wade Cleck, who helped start off Kauffman’s career in the early 1970s chimed in.
Next up was track announcer from 1968 – 1980 Mr. Don Lorenz who presented his impressions of Kauffman’s earliest performances on the oval from his first season in 1970.
Lorenz then brought in Mr. John Groninger, another local businessman who helped Kauffman cement his No. K33 on the local circuit and at Port Royal while carrying the Groninger Construction mantle.
Groninger gave way to famed No. 77 car owner Al Hamilton who spoke of the unprecedented successes he and Kauffman had during two stints together in the 1980s including a 35-win season in 1985 while competing against nemesis car owner Bob Weikert and driver Doug Wolfgang.
Wolfgang then surprised the crowd in attendance with a live phone interview, bringing up a raucous cheer from the fans upon his introduction at answering the call.
Wolfgang called Kauffman one of his best friends and competitors ever and congratulated the 63-year old on going out of the sport on his own terms.
The son-in-law and mechanic of late No. 880 car owner Roy Morral, Dan Layton then carried on the conversation noting how proud Morral was to have Kauffman behind his wheel, again twice during both mens’ careers.
Next up was another live phone interview with famed No. 12 car owner Bob Stewart who teamed with Kauffman to win the 1996 speedweek title.
The final phone guest was beloved Port Royal driver and Kauffman friend Barry Camp, who couldn’t say enough about Kauffman’s tough yet accomplished career while also calling him a wonderful family man as did Hamilton and Layton earlier in the presentation.
No. 27 car owner Mike Heffner was emotional near the end of the on-stage activities as he said that having Kauffman in his car as the man who won Heffner his first-ever Port Royal sprint victory was one of the two happiest and honored days of his life, next to the day that his son was born.
The final guest commentator was Kenny Jacobs, who flew his own plan into the Mifflintown airport late Friday from Holmesville, Ohio, to take part in the Kauffman celebration.
Again, the theme of impressive on the track and with his family came to the forefront of the conversation and that’s when Jacobs and PRS Promotions officials unveiled a 32-foot long sign above the grandstand that named section C of the historic oval’s stands as the “Keith Kauffman Family Section.”
After the races were over for the night, Kauffman stood on the front of the grandstand, peering up at the sign, reflecting on the honor.
“That is really neat. Thank you,” he said.
Also making comments on Kauffman’s career during the night was noted historian Eric Zembower of Bedford and 1980s track announcer Tom Baker and chief pit steward Bill Hubler.