OAKLAND TOWNSHIP – Police in the Oakland area of Susquehanna County said assault charges are possible after last Friday’s fight in the pits at Penn Can Speedway. Officers said driver Bobby Gunther Walsh cut off points leader Brett Tonkin Jr. Friday night and heated up a long time rivalry.
Jeff Wayman was at the track running flags and watched the crash unfold.
“Bobby was running towards the front and came around turn four and just spun out, just a racing incident, and came down the track and got in to Mr. Tonkin. Just a racing incident as far as we`re concerned,” said Wayman.
Police said a fight then broke out between the drivers’ families in Walsh’s pit area. Joe Walsh Sr., 80, got into the middle of it and was assaulted. He was taken to the hospital for head injuries and cuts to his face.
According to rules at Penn Can Speedway, any driver or crew that enters another race team`s pit area is subject to penalties, and that`s exactly what`s happening after Friday`s incident.
The racetrack management issued this statement that said in part, “…Brett Tonkin, driver of the number 176 modified, has been suspended for the next two points-paying events on Friday nights August 31 and September 7. While Tonkin was not part of the altercation, Penn Can rules state that a driver and owner are responsible for the actions of their crew.”
Josh Towner works across from the dirt track and races cars of his own. He said fights like this break out often, and sometimes it’s what draws in fans.
“I`ve had people run over towards my pit and guys shaking their fists and it`s common,” said Towner.
Friends of the Walsh family said Walsh Sr. almost lost his eyesight, and he’s been through hours of surgeries.
Track management and race fans said they hope he recovers quickly from the unfortunate incident.
“All of the parties involved are good people, it`s unfortunate that it happened. Hopefully it all comes out good,” said Wayman.
Penn Can Speedway also said further penalties could be issued depending on how the police investigation turns out. Race-car drivers will be collecting donations at the September 8 race to help Joe Walsh with medical expenses.