What was started back in the 60’s as a rag tag group soapbox derby enthusiast is back thanks to a new local group dedicated to re-building Reading’s gravity racing tradition.
When the Reading Junior Stock Car Association was formed in 1964, it had a membership of 70 drivers. Originally racing on Spring Street, the group moved to North 13th to take advantage of the wider road. Overtime, the construction of the Warren St Bypass bridge and the Post Office left the group searching for a new home.
Remembering his time racing gravity cars when he was younger, a small group lead by John King, decided it was time to bring it back. In 2017, the Reading Gravity Racing League was born. Since its re-birth, the group has slowly picked up support, holding races all across Reading.
Speaking with King in-between his duty as the shuttle car driver at their King Father’s Day race on North 13th Street in Reading, we learned how he and his group have come together to reshape the hobby they group with.
If you are wondering, you can’t buy these cars at the hobby shop. Each one is a custom build, made from a wide variety of parts. That being said, the Reading Gravity League does have rules and dimensions to follow.
King welcomes anyone to join and build a car. “We have some volunteers that will help you build a car. Members from the club also sell cars from time to time for those who aren’t handy.”
As as outdoor sport, gravity racing is very weather dependent. With rain in the forecast, and clouds moving in, the group was quick to get their cars in place. “The friction brakes don’t work in the rain” says King.
Each course has its own unique layout and challenges. Some are smooth freshly paved streets, others haven’t been re-paved in years. “Here on North 13th street, its a drivers race, they have to figure out how to manage the bumps in the road.” King says gravity race cars can reach speeds of up to 45mph on certain courses.
“Gravity racing is something you just have to try. Gravity does something to people. Some people are scared, others aren’t. When you’re that low to the ground it’s a much different experience.” King says
With an interest in the helping younger racers get into the sport, King says the organization will soon have a trial car available so anyone can experience the thrill of downhill gravity racing. “We want to get young racers into the sport, it may be an old fashion idea, but its a fun way to be outside.”
Member Sherry Stewart says the organizations ultimate goal is to raise enough money through donations to repave Spuhler Lane, the road that connects Skyline Drive at the Fire Tower to Angora Road. Stewart says the project is estimated at $35,000.
Want to watch or participate? The Reading Gravity Racing League has several races on the schedule: July 14th Pottstown Wilson St., July 21st Oak Lane, August 18th North 13th St., September 8th Skyline Drive, September 22nd Chestnut St. West Reading, October 6th Oak Lane.