Ronnie Tobias…Terrific Husband, Father, Brother…And Quite A Race Driver, TooAction Track USA
by BARRY ANGSTADT
Quiet and reserved, but friendly and willing to help anyone…a terrific fabricator who was dedicated to carrying on the family business…always there for family members, especially in time of need…and one heckuva racecar driver, too.
These personality traits and characteristics are certainly true of a local racing icon, Dick “Toby” Tobias of Lebanon, PA. But they also describe, quite accurately, the eldest of Toby and Mary’s three sons – the late Ronnie Tobias.
“Ronnie was a bit backward at first; he wanted to race, but Toby had to push him a little to get him to bring a car to the track,” remembers Mary Tobias. “But he was really good, and once he started racing, that was it. He loved it.”
“When Toby was killed, Ronnie was always there for me and for the rest of the family. He helped out in so many ways,” says his mother. “He was probably natured more like his father than any of our other kids. He was a real good husband to Dianne and he adored his kids; he was a very good father.”
After his father’s tragic, fatal crash in a USAC Sprint Car event at the famed Flemington Speedway in 1978, Ronnie took the reins of the company his dad had successfully built from the ground up. Tobias Speed Equipment continued to build racecars and supplied parts to local teams as Ronnie cared for his family and constructed a very solid driving career for himself.
His winning ways actually began in 1975, three years prior to his dad’s passing, and Toby was no doubt unbelievably proud to be in the field himself on the night that his oldest son won his very first Modified feature at the Reading Fairgrounds.
When he captured that checkered flag on July 14, 1975, Ronnie Tobias became the youngest winner, at age 19, in the storied history of the half-mile oval that is known to this day as the Home of Champions. He still holds that distinction, as the fairgrounds closed for good in 1979.
After Reading closed, Ronnie found much success at speedways in New Jersey, Delaware, and at Penn National in Grantville, PA – a track not far from the family’s home base and, in fact, was promoted by the Tobias clan for a few years.
The year 1986 turned out to be a stellar campaign for Ronnie, as he captured point championships at Bridgeport, NJ (for Big Block Modifieds) and Penn National (Small Block Modifieds) in the same season. He also won Penn National’s biggest race of the year, the Lebanon Valley 100 – the first of his three victories in that event (he also won in ’87 and ’92).
In 1987, Ronnie added a Grandview Speedway point title to his resume. He also recorded a track championship at Georgetown, DE, when that big half-mile was named Seacoast Speedway.
During the course of his all-too-short 14-year career behind the wheel, Ronnie Tobias registered 95 feature triumphs at tracks in New York, New Jersey, Delaware, and Pennsylvania.
All of those championships and victories, combined with his dedication to the sport and willingness to assist others in racing, led to Ronnie’s induction into the Pennsylvania Sports Hall of Fame in 2004.
That would have been his 30th year as a race driver, but it was not meant to be for Ronnie Tobias…
During a race at Susquehanna Speedway on September 6, 1998, he suddenly and unexplicably pulled off the track. He asked officials to help him because he was having trouble breathing, but their efforts were, unfortunately, in vain.
Ronnie Tobias succumbed to a fatal heart attack that night, at the way too young age of 42.
Tonight, June 12, the JeffreyHogueRealtor.com Action Track USA at the Kutztown Fairgrounds is proud to present the first Ronnie Tobias Memorial Race. To honor his memory and the famous number that adorned many of his cars, as well as his father’s, Twin 17-lap features are scheduled for the Sunoco USAC Championship SpeedSTR’s, the Pioneer Pole Building Wingless 600cc Micro-Sprints, the NAPA Auto Parts All Star Slingshots, and the winged 270cc Micro-Sprints.
Ronnie Tobias…a devoted family man with amazing skills as a fabricator and race driver, just like his father. And, just like his dad, he may gone…but he will never be forgotten.