by Bill Meyer

Last Saturday night, just before the super sprint feature at Lincoln Speedway, a falling star streaked across the black sky. In the moment that it took to realize what I had just seen, a tear came to my eye. Less than 24 hours earlier the racing world lost a great racer, a great man, and a great friend - Kevin Gobrecht. It seems that at times like this life can seem so unfair. Someone taken from this life before there time. But Kevin Gobrecht wasn't just "someone". Kevin Gobrecht was, well, Gobrecht. Gobrecht was a short, muscular man with a smile and twinkle in his eye that made anyone he talked to feel like a friend. But when Gobrecht donned a helmet and strapped into a race car he became something else. He became a rocket.

Gobrecht defied the laws of physics and seemed many a night to push a sprint car faster and harder than it should have been allowed to go. As fans we would hold our breath as we watched Gobrecht race on the edge, that fine line that all racers try to find between disaster and success. And he paid a price in those early years, tearing up equipment as fast as they could fix it.

But Gobrecht never let it get him down. He would always pick up the pieces and try again the next week. When Gobrecht was born on May 2, 1969, man was just about to set foot on the moon. Hanover's Bobby Allen was battling Kenny Weld for his second of three track championships at Lincoln Speedway. And Ray Tilley was winning the last of his four track championships at Williams Grove. At the age of eight Gobrecht began racing his racing career in go-carts. And by the time he moved-up to micro-sprints in 1992 he had amassed over 100 victories. And along the way found time to graduate from New Oxford High School in 1987 and had graduated with a degree in Business and Finance from Millersville University in 1991.

In micro-sprints Gobrecht was almost unbeatable. In the short span of two years from 1993 to 1994 Gobrecht had won over 100 times, including the prestigious Coor's National Open for Micro-sprints. Then in 1995 he made his move up to super sprints. For those of us who were lucky enough to watch Gobrecht race these past few years, there was never any doubt he was going to be great. The fact is Gobrecht was already great in the eyes of his fans. Gobrecht scored his first career super sprint win on July 29, 1995 at his backyard track of Lincoln Speedway. Piloting his own Hartlaub Auto Parts No.92 sprinter, Gobrecht did what many seemed impossible - to win as a rookie against veteran drivers like Fred Rahmer, Cris Eash and Steve Siegel.

For many fans, that night was the defining moment in Gobrecht's sprint car career. For me, the night that will be forever etched in my mind that made me a Gobrecht believer came a few weeks before his first win. It was a night he finished third. It was a hot July 8th night in 1995 and Gobrecht was leading during the waning laps of the super sprint feature when the caution waved. It then became apparent that Gobrecht had a flat left front tire. Second place Billy Brian Jr. pulled along side of Gobrecht motioning to him of his problem. But Gobrecht just stared ahead, doing everything he could to keep the car straight under caution. When the green flag waved Gobrecht mashed the throttle, lifting the front-end of his sprinter up, preventing the rim from digging into the track and continued to lead. The crowd held there collective breath as Gobrecht raced on the edge, determined to win.

But the caution came out again. And second place Brian became a villain. Brian began to pound on Gobrecht's rear bumper, trying to unnerve the New Oxford speedster. But Gobrecht paid no attention. When the green flag waved Gobrecht desperately tried to keep Brian behind, but he couldn't. Gobrecht ended up with a hard-fought third place finish that night. He didn't wreck like many thought he would and finished an almost improbable third. To me, that was the night Gobrecht became a star. Three weeks later Gobrecht finished the job, passing Brian Timmons on the second turn following a third-lap restart and then held-off six-time feature winner and defending track champion Rahmer over the final laps to pick up his inaugural sprint car win.

At the end of that first year Gobrecht impressed so many people that he won the National Sprint Car Poll Rookie of the Year honors and was named Sportsman of the Year at Lincoln. Racing has always been a family affair for the Gobrecht's. Whether it was racing against his brothers Scott and Brian in the micro-sprints, or just racing by himself, his family was supportive of each and everyone of them. His mother, Donna was there, no matter the outcome. In 1996 Gobrecht started off the season by picking up his second career victory in winning the daytime season-opener at Williams Grove. A win that captured the hearts of everyone - including his family. "I never thought there would be an experience like this," added Kevin's father, Bob that day as his faithful mother stood in the background beaming from ear-to-ear.

"At this stage in my life, I didn't think there would be many things that would make me cry," added Kevin's brother, Brian. "I know it's not me standing in victory circle, but that's my little brother and that makes it good enough." Gobrecht went on to win another race that year at Williams Grove and picked-up a win at Attica Speedway in Ohio against the All Star Circuit of Champions. Determined to do better, Gobrecht jumped at the chance to drive the potent Bob Stewart-owned Apple Chevrolet No.12 sprinter in 1997. Under the tutelage of veteran master mechanic Ed Stauffer and his son Lee, Gobrecht could focus on becoming a great driver. Early in the season, on Saturday night April 5th, Gobrecht capped-off his first two-win weekend at Lincoln Speedway. After winning the prestigious Jack Gunn Memorial the night before at Williams Grove, Gobrecht was out to avenge a loss the week before at Lincoln against arch-rival, and friend, Fred Rahmer. Gobrecht started fourth that night and took the lead early. But a late-race red flag put Rahmer on Gobrecht's rear bumper. Picking up where they left off the week before when they tangled and took each other out, both drivers passed each other several times over the final five laps. The two actually touched coming off the fourth turn on the 22nd lap restart, with Gobrecht bouncing off the outside wall. But Gobrecht prevailed and won. "Last night's win (at Williams Grove) was a big one," said a jubilant Gobrecht that night in victory lane. "But to win this close racing at Lincoln is really special..." "I was really starting to doubt myself after last week," Gobrecht added. "But these wins this weekend have really given me a confidence boost." Gobrecht ended the year, with two wins each at Williams Grove and Lincoln. And his star began to glow just a little bit brighter. Last year, 1998, Gobrecht was back behind the wheel of his own sprinter and searching for wins. About mid-season he got the call to fill-in for injured veteran driver Billy Pauch in the potent Zemco No.1 sprinter around. Little did he know that that decision would be the one that would take him to the top of the sprint car world. On Saturday night, July 18th 1998, Gobrecht did what no driver had been able to do for 12 straight weeks at Lincoln Speedway. Gobrecht beat Rahmer to snap the Salfordville racer's record-setting 12-race win streak. "Three laps after the restart, I was hanging on for dear life and I was really just waiting for Fred or somebody to motor by me," said a jubilant Gobrecht in victory lane that night. "We got a good run off of four coming down the frontstretch and all I knew was we were three-wide going into one. I wasn't letting off, and I didn't know if they were either. We went for the win."

It was that night a great racer was born. It was only his first win of the season, but a transformation was beginning to take place from being just a fast, foot-to-the floor driver to learning how to become a great racer. Later that month Gobrecht confirmed what everybody thought. Racing against the best sprint car drivers in the world, Gobrecht defeated the World of Outlaws at Williams Grove Speedway. It was a night that the Pennsylvania Posse fans stood proud. In a strange turn of events in the final turn on the final lap, Gobrecht shot past a sputtering Jeff Shepard with only 100 feet to the checkered to pick-up his first career win against the Outlaws.

"This feels great," said a jubilant Gobrecht against the roaring grandstand crowd. "I really didn't know what happened there...I found a little bit of traction down there and I thought, well, we're going to make this close. I thought he might mess up or something, and I got down in there and I got a good bite. Then he banged up there against the curb and luck fell our way. I'm just really glad to be here." That night Gobrecht served notice that he could race. He began to realize his traditional high-side guardrail-banging tactics wouldn't work all the time. He began to race the track, and do what the car would let him do. Gobrecht then continued his late season surge behind the wheel of the ZEMCO sprinter and closed out the year with two more wins at Lincoln Speedway. The last win was downright impressive as he led all 40 laps of the season-ending Second Annual Kenny Weld Memorial to notch his second win in-a-row at the Pigeon Hills oval. This season Gobrecht picked-up right where he left off the season before and recorded wins everywhere he went. From Volusia Speedway in Florida during Florida Speedweek action against the All Stars, to beating the best at here in Central Pennsylvania. Gobrecht earned his chance to drive with the World of Outlaws earlier this season after recording eight early season wins while continuing to drive the John Zemiatis No.1 sprinter locally. Those feature wins included Williams Grove Speedway's Early Bird championship, before joining the Amoco team earlier this year. He had also won three races in less than 24 hours - at Williams Grove, Lincoln Speedway and Port Royal Speedway.

Gobrecht lost his life doing what he dreamed of doing - racing not against the World of Outlaws, but racing with the World of Outlaws. Gobrecht had already proven he could beat the Outlaws, he did that last year at Williams Grove. At 30 years of age this racer from New Oxford had the same hopes and dreams of many drivers before him, but Gobrecht had made it. He had made it to the big show. He was an Outlaw. Gobrecht took over the driving chores of the No.93 Amoco Maxim sprinter in April of this year. The 30-year-old driver competed in 44 Pennzoil World of Outlaws Series events, recording 19 top-10 finishes, including three in the top five.

Many fans were dismayed that Gobrecht wasn't around when the Outlaws came through Central Pennsylvania earlier this year, including myself. Many who had not seen him race since he went on the road with the outlaws had hoped of being able to cheer him on one more time. But the team didn't come east. Struggling at the time to be competitive, they opted to go back to the garage a rebuild new cars in an attempt to get back on track - and win. And win they did. Gobrecht was sprint car racing's hottest driver in early August, claiming the $100,000 first prize in Eldora Speedway's Historical Big One and finishing third in the Amoco Knoxville Nationals one week later. "Things have really turned around for us," said Gobrecht, afterwards. "We made some changes that have got us going in the right direction...I know third place at the Amoco Knoxville Nationals is quite an accomplishment, but we had a chance to win that race. I guess some of it is due to the lack of experience, but we have to continue building on this and keep ourselves in the hunt for victories every night." This weekend was going to be the big homecoming. Gobrecht was coming home to race in one of sprint cars crown jewel events - the Williams Grove National Open. But that all changed last Friday night in Nebraska. Gobrecht, one of sprint car racing's rising stars, suffered fatal injuries in a racing accident at I-80 Speedway in Greenwood, NE during a World of Outlaw preliminary night show on Friday night. Gobrecht, nicknamed "The G-Man" by his loyal Central Pennsylvania followers, was involved in a 15th lap racing accident during the 20 lap preliminary feature. He was credited with a 21st place finish in his last race. With the news of his death, Gobrecht's home track - Lincoln Speedway - quickly put together a night in his honor the next night which was attended by members of Gobrecht's immediate family. Before the start of the 25-lap super sprint feature, the drivers honored their fallen comrade by placing a letter "G" on the top wing of every car and held an honorary parade lap with the pole position empty in Gobrecht's honor. It was eerily quite as fans and competitors filed into the Pigeon Hills oval with Speedway officials wearing black arm bands in the memory of Gobrecht. A 30 second moment of silence was observed which seemed like a lifetime. Competitor Lance Dewease summed it up best as he came into the speedway that night and said, "This is going to be a somber night." Ironically, the same Bob Stewart-owned Apple Chevrolet No.12 sprinter that Gobrecht raced to victory at Lincoln in 1997 was driven to it's first victory since that win by Greg Hodnett in the 25 lap feature. "He (Lee Stauffer) was really pumped up for this all day," said Hodnett solemnly of his crew chief Stauffer, "The last win that this car had here was when Kevin (Gobrecht) drove it in 1997...it meant a lot to us and to Kevin's family." "I'll tell you what, we really feel for them. It's just terrible. You can't put into words how bad we feel for them guys right now, and I just pray to god to give them strength to make it through this." In one of Gobrecht's last interviews, he expressed his happiness in coming home to race in this weekend's Williams Grove National Open. "I'm looking forward to getting back to Pennsylvania," Gobrecht said. "I've have a lot of experience at the Grove and know how to get around that track. There is going to be a lot of pressure on me to do well there, but I've got pressure to do well every night out here." Gobrecht concluded the interview with what he has become famous for, going fast. "We just need to go out and stand on the gas and see where that gets us." Gobrecht recorded 21 career super sprint wins to go along with his hundreds of go-cart and micro-sprint victories. And everyone of them seemed to be special. He touched hundreds of people's lives over his years as a racer. From his go-cart days, through the micro-sprints, and in sprint cars, Gobrecht seemed to cherish every conversation. He took pure delight in talking with race fans. Sometimes not understanding why he was given so much attention.

Gobrecht's attitude and demeanor never changed over the years as a race car driver. From his first win, to his last, he was always quick with a smile, and a twinkle in his eyes. There is no doubt in my mind that that falling star that streaked across the sky last Saturday night at Lincoln Speedway was Kevin's star. Shining every so brightly, leaving a streak of sparks in it's wake like a rooster-tail of clay from behind a sprint car. His star may have fallen that night. But it's memory and warmth will be forever held in our hearts and minds. Jan Opperman, Kenny Weld, Mitch Smith, Bobby Abel and all the great racers that have fallen over the years now have to contend with this young racer from New Oxford. What a race that will be. God Speed Kevin Gobrecht...god speed.

Kevin A. Gobrecht May 2, 1969 - Sept. 25, 1999

Thanks for the memories Kevin!