As a salesman for Valley Supply, Dylan Cisney spends a great deal of time traversing the Pennsylvania countryside. The hypnotic sound of tires on pavement provides a perfect backdrop to sort through the challenges and dilemmas life presents.
In such moments he can be excused for envying some of his sprint car racing peers who can afford to devote their entire focus to racing. On the other hand, he is thankful for what he has.
At age 31, Cisney and his wife, Maggie, enjoy their sons Connor and Mason, and somewhere near Memorial Day they hope to hold their new daughter for the first time. For most of us, the demands of a full-time job, racing every weekend and being a father and husband would constitute a full agenda.
Not for Cisney. With whatever spare time he can squeeze out of the day, he also attends to his duties as mayor of Port Royal, Pa.
If you have the chance to spend 10 minutes with Cisney, one thing becomes clear — he is enthusiastic about racing and his hometown. In many ways the two are inseparable.
Few race tracks are more picturesque than Port Royal Speedway. Situated on a fairgrounds that exudes history, the nearby mountains provide a setting that is captivating no matter how many times you’ve seen it. One additional feature draws comments from outsiders.
Right along the backstretch stands a row of two-story homes that are so close it feels you can reach out and touch them.
Cisney knows this territory intimately.
“There is a tan house with a light brown roof that is basically dead center across from where the back gate is,” he says, “that’s where I grew up.”
Not long after he took his first steps, Cisney longed for those Saturdays when the race track was transformed into a beehive of activity.
“The pits used to be in the infield so when I was a kid, I could sit on the porch swing and see all the sprint car trailers come in,” Cisney explained. “Back in those days a lot of the cars were on open trailers and the pit shack was a hundred feet from our front porch. Then, me and dad would go over and sit on the top row of the old, covered grandstand and watch. He would take me home after the sprint car feature and put me to bed. But all that meant was that I would go upstairs and open the blinds and watch the late models and stock cars from my bedroom window.”
Dave Cisney had dabbled in enduro racing for fun, but he was dead serious about karting. Tooling around in twin-engine laydown karts, he traveled extensively and even made it to Daytona Int’l Speedway. By the time he turned 7, Dylan Cisney began racing karts. Father quickly gave up racing and devoted his attention to preparing his son’s kart.
“We had built a go-kart and I was like, all right, this is cool, so I held it right to the floor, got into the marbles in my very first lap and backed it right into the fence,” Cisney said. “That put the fear of a race car in me for the rest of my life. I learned to respect them.”
Despite his inauspicious start, Cisney got the hang of matters quickly. He raced at Little Greenwood, Selinsgrove, Path Valley and up and down the East Coast. He won a championship at Path Valley in 2003, topped the WKA Winter Nationals at Volusia Raceway Park in 2006 and captured a Pennsylvania Dirt Karting Speedweekend title.
“A lot of us who are racing sprint cars today are the same age,” Cisney reported. “So during this time, I raced with guys like Brock Zearfoss, Logan Schuchart and Brent Marks. We all started in go-karts and all took different paths from there. Some went to micros, some tried pavement racing, but we all ended up here.”
For a single year Cisney turned his attention to the Xcel Chassis 600 modified series. The car was a half-scale version of a classic East Coast-style modified. He won a race at New York’s Five Mile Point Speedway, but it was back to karts in 2007.
Super sportsman racing came next. It was a big adjustment. Dave and Dylan Cisney purchased their equipment from John Stehman and quickly realized they had a lot to learn. The car was race ready and Stehman’s group helped them install the seat and did their best to point them in the right direction.
“We learned sprint car racing from them,” Cisney said. “It was a struggle at first. I was 15 years old when I started and now, I was dealing with a big, heavy, box tube sprint car chassis, with steel wheels and a manual steering box. I was about 5-foot-8 and barely 100 pounds. It taught me to get in shape really quick.