For almost 40 years, two generations of the Don Kreitz Family in Sinking Spring, Pennsylvania, have been intertwined with oval track racing and operating a successful racing business. Featured in a recent issue of Performance Racing Industry magazine, Don Jr. literally grew up in the shop, working with his father by age 8 and fitting bodies onto frames and bending tubing by the age of 12. Today, his sister Vicki Ely and his wife Linda Kreitz take care of the business office, while Don Jr. talks to the customers. He offers them years of technical experience to help select the right parts for their own racing operations.
A welder by trade, Don Sr. began building racecar frames back in the 1960s to compete with a Lebanon County family who dominated the modified division at the Reading Fairgrounds. Modifieds were dominating the local racing scene during that time, generating large car counts and payoffs. His business thrived during the 1970s, in large part because the racing success that Kreitz showed on the track was the best kind of advertising he could have and it drew customers regularly to his front door. But in 1979 the nearby track closed abruptly, cutting off most of their business, so it was time to make a serious decision.
Both the parts business itself and the youngest Kreitz made a gradual transition from modified racing into the sprint car ranks over a period of several years.
The Central Pennsylvania region is often called the hotbed of sprint car racing. Many of the local teams are fulltime operations with sizeable budgets, often racing an average of three or four nights a week. When the World of Outlaw drivers visit the Keystone State, local talent abounds and they always put up quite a challenge for the checkered flag. "This is one of the only regions of the country where the track regulars can beat the World of Outlaw drivers and I was one of the first to do that," according to DOn Kreitz Jr. One of the premier racetracks on the sprint car circuit, Williams Grove Speedway is a regular stop for Kreitz, who won won four consecutive track championships there in the early 1990's and beat the Outlaws to the checkered flag in 2001.
As a businessman and a racer, Don Kreitz Jr. transformed his success on the race track to increased sales of race car parts. "I won't sell anything here that I wouldn't use on my own race car, he said. Kreitz often experiments with race car parts to assure himself they are durable and safe before he orders a supply for his customers. It pays off in the long run, through customer interest and support.
"If we win a race, the phone just rings off the hook on Monday," he said. "You can't imagine how well that sells parts!" Kreitz uses his varied experience as a race car driver on many different tracks to offer advice to his customers. "I can pretty much relate to what they are asking and know what to recommend," he said, "especially when it comes to parts that are critical to the basic handling of a car, from torsion bars and shocks to gears."
But being a racer and a businessman can be a double-edged sword, he admits. Although two dozen top sprint car teams call central Pennsylvania home, Kreitz Jr. races against them on a regular basis, so they generally don't want him to know any of their chasis setups. Fortunately for him, however, the region boasts hundreds of limited sprints and Kreitz Oval Track Parts does business with customers from all across the United States.
Kreitz does work hard to keep his two lives separate, regardless of how intertwined they really are. At the track, he is totally focused on the race itself and rarely leaves his pit area other than to examine the racing surface. At the store, he's very personable and quick to followup with customers to see how his recommendations worked.