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Father's Day - The Bonebrakes

June 20, 2004|By DAN KAUFFMAN

Some names are synonymous with a particular endeavor. In auto racing, an Earnhardt, Unser or Andretti likely has a ticket to the big time already in his possession.

Mention the Bonebrake name in local racing circles and few will need further explanation.

When Denny Bonebrake grew up in the 1950s, he learned the facts about life and more than a few cars from his father, Richard Bonebrake, who in his spare time managed to visit Hagerstown Speedway's victory lane often.

Richard Bonebrake passed away in 1996, and the Hagerstown Speedway dedicates every Father's Day racing card - the Richard Bonebrake Memorial - to his memory.

"My father was involved with racing for years," Denny said. "That's the biggest reason I was involved. I drove my father's cars for years, so it was a father-son thing."

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That bonding, and the knowledge passed down from one generation to the next, helped Denny Bonebrake win five Hagerstown Speedway racing titles from 1969 to 1984. In 1977, the birth of his own son, Wes, made sure the passing of knowledge in the family trade continued.

"There was a lot of fun times as I was growing up going to the races with my dad and granddad," Wes said. "It seemed like the car would leave with my dad, and then I'd leave with my grandparents and Mom and we'd all go to the racetrack together. It was always a family deal."

"He grew up with it," said Denny. "He always enjoyed it. He always liked it. When I was still racing he was in quarter midgets and also tee ball and we didn't have time for both so we had to make a choice to do one or the other. He chose the racing."

Racing cars is a demanding hobby requiring many hours, and those hours were the perfect time for Denny and Wes to bond.

"It's a good outlet for kids, it keeps them busy," Denny said. "It's a three- or four-nights-a-week job maintaining the cars, but it keeps kids out of trouble and keeps them more focused on working. I really enjoyed being around him."

Now well into his adult years, Wes works alongside his dad at Bonebrake Alignment, at 700 Maryland Ave. He's also followed his family's footsteps on the track, becoming the third generation to win a race at Hagerstown Speedway two years ago.

"One of our biggest thrills was when Wes did win at Hagerstown," Denny said.

"That was a big moment for me and I think it was a big moment for my dad, too," Wes said. "He's more nervous for me than he ever was racing, and it's the same thing for me, I get more nervous watching him.

"Without him, I couldn't be doing it. He pretty much runs the show, he makes the calls, he gives me advice, and you have to have somebody like that to help you along."

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