More than 60 years ago, Forrest Rogers purchased land in the rolling hills outside of Bechtelsville with a vision.
He built his own one-third mile dirt racetrack and named it Grandview Speedway, with the first race taking place in 1963.
Now, after nearly six decades of operation under the close care of the Rogers family, Grandview will begin its 60th anniversary season on Saturday night with the running of the fifth annual Bruce Rogers Memorial Money Maker.
“My grandfather in his wildest dreams never would’ve imagined what this would become,” said track co-event organizer Kenny Rogers, grandson of the late Forrest Rogers.
Originally involved at the now-defunct Sanatoga Speedway outside Pottstown, Forrest Rogers purchased 103 acres of farmland in Washington Township outside Bechtelsville and decided to establish his own racing facility. With the help of his son Bruce Rogers, cousin Will Rogers and many others, Forrest Rogers spent several years constructing the track before its opening in 1963.
“My grandfather always said, ‘If we build it, they’ll come,’ ” said track co-event organizer Tina Rogers, granddaughter of Forrest Rogers. “The fans came, and it was because of the fans that made Grandview what it is to this day.”
Forrest Rogers and his wife, Amanda, settled on “Grandview” as the name of the track, which was constructed on the top of a hill, based on the westerly view from the crest, which provides a view of the valley below and the mountains in the distance.
“(They) set up there and (Amanda) said, ‘You know, it should be called Grandview because of the view,’ ” said track owner and general manager Theresa Rogers, wife of the late Bruce Rogers. “That’s how it got named.”
The speedway held its first race on Aug. 11, 1963, in the afternoon. Pottstown’s Glenn Fitzcharles, who would become a well-known driver at the track, remembers attending the first race as a fan when he was a teenager.
“It was dusty,” Fitzcharles said. “I’m pretty positive it was pretty full. Everybody was curious to come up and see what it was like.”
After a brief 1963 season, the track returned with a full schedule the following spring. In the midst of the booming car and “hot rod” culture of the 1960s, the track began to gain momentum and notoriety.
“In the beginning, it was slow going,” Tina Rogers said. “As time went on, it became very popular.”
Four years after Grandview’s opening, Forrest Rogers died of a heart attack. Bruce Rogers assumed day-to-day operations and ownership of the track, a position he would hold for about five decades.
“When my grandfather passed away, my father (Bruce Rogers) said to himself, ‘I will prove to people that my father was not wrong for doing this,’ ” Kenny Rogers said. “I’m going to prove to make this a huge success.”
Bruce Rogers did exactly that, developing the facility into one of the best in the state and country. At one point, Grandview was named as one of the top dirt racetracks in the United States by USA Today, Kenny Rogers said. It has hosted legendary drivers such as A.J. Foyt and Richard Petty, according to the Rogers family.
The track has been praised by fans and drivers alike for its high banks and narrow racing surface, which produces close, tight racing. A longtime driver in several divisions, Fitzcharles made his debut at the track as a 20-year-old with a feature win in his first race in 1966 and saw many improvements made at Grandview throughout his 34-year racing career.
“(Forrest Rogers) would be so proud of Bruce Rogers and now his grandkids and great-grandkids that are helping with the track and have kept it going for all these 60 years,” Fitzcharles said. “The dedication in what they did to get the track where it is now, 60 years later, is just amazing.”
In addition to the facility upgrades, Tina and Kenny Rogers credit their father’s honest treatment of people as a major factor in the track’s success. According to the pair, Bruce Rogers felt strongly about conducting fair races that were entertaining for the fans at a reasonable price.
“My dad always said, ‘It’s the fans that make Grandview. It’s what keeps us going,’ ” Tina Rogers said. “They love the sport, but they have to be treated well too.”
Bruce Rogers, who died in 2017, headed track operations until 2015, when things were turned over to Tina and Kenny Rogers.
“He always stood up for what he believed in,” Kenny Rogers said about his father. “I’m very proud of the accomplishments that he made over the years and what we continue to do.”
Kenny and Tina Rogers now lead the track into its 60th season, which will feature 41 events across several divisions and sanctioning bodies. The track will continue its weekly NASCAR-sanctioned 358 modified and sportsman divisions, which are part of the NASCAR Advance Auto Parts Weekly Racing Series.
“We’re very blessed,” Tina Rogers said. “I would like to think it’s how we treat people and how we operate.”
The Bruce Rogers Memorial Money Maker opens the regular season on Saturday at 6 p.m. The non-points race will feature the big-block modified and sportsman divisions.
“My favorite part is, after six months, being able to see everybody again,” Tina Rogers said. “We’ve been very blessed with people coming back yearly to work for us.”
The track will host several touring and mini series, plus four “Thunder on the Hill ” special events. In one of the “Thunder on the Hill” events, Grandview will host the fifth race of the 10-race Pennsylvania Sprint Speedweek series on June 28. Defending NASCAR Cup Series champion Kyle Larson has won the event four of the last five years, including the last two.
The 52nd annual Forrest Rogers Memorial will be held on Saturday, Aug. 13 at 7 p.m., just two days after the official anniversary of Grandview’s first race. The 52nd annual Freedom 76 Modified Classic will be held on Saturday, Sept. 17, at 7 p.m.
Grandview installed new lighting ahead of this season, replacing the track’s original lighting. Don and Brian Schaeffer as well as Jeff Stapleton performed most of the electrical work and completed the installation process.
The speedway also was resurfaced with fresh clay for the first time in five years. Eighty-three truck loads of clay were added to the racing surface in the fall, and have been worked into the track over the past several months.
“I’m looking forward to seeing how that turns out,” Kenny Rogers said. “It produced good racing (after the last resurfacing), so I’m hoping for the same.”
Involved with Grandview their entire life, Kenny and Tina Rogers said they feel a sense of family pride in operating the track and helping it reach its 60th anniversary. Tina Rogers’ son Brad Missimer is heavily involved with the track crew serves as Grandview’s competition director, the fourth generation of the Rogers family to help operate the speedway.
“Dad would be very proud that we continue doing what we’re doing,” Kenny Rogers said. “(To have) done the improvements and continue to do what he (and Forrest Rogers) started.”
Grandview has a healthy relationship with the local Washington Township government, according to the Rogers family, as the two parties have worked together to ensure the presence of a local, family entertainment venue. Washington Township is home to 4,443 residents, while Grandview can hold up to roughly 7,000 seated spectators.
“Our township treats us very fairly,” Kenny Rogers said. “The township supports us very well.”
The six decades in operation have not come without struggles, however. Increases in fuel and tire prices, a decreased interest in cars and auto racing among younger generations and the COVID-19 pandemic have been challenges faced in recent years.
“It’s gotten a lot tougher over the last 10, 15 years trying to keep a racetrack going and keep the fan support,” Tina Rogers said. “Racing itself has become very expensive for drivers and owners.”
Aside from the challenges and long hours, the Rogers family is thankful to have reached their 60th season of operation at Grandview. As much an occupation as it is a lifestyle, Kenny Rogers said it is the people who bring the most meaning to what has become his life’s work.
“Racing people are probably the nicest, kindest (people),” he said. “I would not have wanted my family and I to have grown up around any other people.”