Former local racers honored as Hall of Famers in Hagerstown

Both Paul Devilbiss and Van May were regular competitors on the local circuit during their decorated careers.

Bryan Householder
For The York Dispatch

The Auto Racing Club of Hagerstown held its annual banquet last Saturday evening at the Elks in Hagerstown. As always, ARCH honored all of the Sportsmanship drivers from the various tracks they attend each year. In addition, many special awards were presented, and this year three drivers entered the ARCH Hall of Fame. 

Two of those three Hall of Famers, Paul Devilbiss and Van May, hold a special place in the hearts of longtime local racing fans.

Devilbiss, known to race fans as “Big Slim,” was the first to be honored. “Big Slim” — and he really is, even as he approaches his 90th birthday — was a top late model racer on the local circuit from the inception of the class in the early 1960s until he ended his career in the early 1980s.

Along the way, Devilbiss, who drove a black and white Ford No. 400 for many of those years, was a big winner and a track champion. He won more than 60 races and is still ranked high on Lincoln’s all-time win list for the late models.

Devilbiss is still very active at the Eastern Museum of Motor Racing and often attends the York County Racing Club’s Hall of Fame banquet in addition to the ARCH affair. Devilbiss is also a member of the YCRC Hall of Fame.

Second to be inducted was sprint car driver Van May. May moved from El Paso, Texas, to Hanover in 1971 and raced in the area and beyond until an eye injury ended his career in the late 1980s. He then served as a car owner for many years afterwards.

May won close to 70 sprint car races in his career, including the 1977 Williams Grove National Open. May’s National Open win came in a car he built himself from the ground up. Last winter, he brought that car back out after a complete restoration, and he paced the field for the National Open last fall with this car, which had won that race 45 years earlier.

Now that car will be heading west to the National Sprint Car Hall of Fame in Knoxville, Iowa, to be a part of this year’s tribute to the Williams Grove Speedway. Late in his career, May set quick time on his qualifying night at the Knoxville Nationals, so he is no stranger to the Knoxville track.

In addition to sprint cars, May was quite good at racing the Midgets. He was a many-time winner in the smaller cars at Williams Grove, Lincoln and Grandview. May also won the very first time he drove a Modified at Williams Grove.

The third driver to be inducted into the ARCH Hall of Fame was the late Late Model racer DJ Troutman. Troutman competed mainly in the western part of the state, with Bedford and Cumberland, Md., as his main tracks. He passed away very young from an illness a few years ago.

Troutman was a second-generation driver who is now being followed in the sport by his teenage son Drake Troutman.

Special awards: The ARCH club always presents favorite driver awards that are voted upon by their entire membership. Lance Dewease was the winner in the open wheel class, Gary Stuhler in the Super Late Model Class, James Spielman in the pure stock class, Alyssa Rowe in the E-mod class, and Hunter Kendrick in the miscellaneous class.

Teenager Gunnar Walls was named favorite in the limited late model class and also won the Fletcher Family Young Driver award.

The Frank Sagi Tribute Best Appearing Car award is another favorite at the ARCH banquet. The Robert Hynes sprint car of driver Robbie Kendall picked up this award for the open wheel class. Kendall is Hynes' grandson, and has been driving a family car since he started in the smaller cars many years ago. Prior to Kendall’s career, Hynes fielded super late models for many years with Denny Bonebrake among the drivers who raced his car. Hynes has just retired as a car owner, and Kendall is expected to drive for John Westbrook in 2023.

Other best appearing car awards went to Austin Berry in the super late models, Bobby Beard in the limited late models, Ray Kable III in the Mid Atlantic modifieds, and and Jason Stoner in the stock cars.

Alan Sagi was on hand at the banquet to present the Frank Sagi awards, and passed along the past drivers who will be honored at this year’s Frank Sagi Tribute Race at Hagerstown. The three drivers are former sprint car standout Lynn Paxton; former super late model competitor Gerry Fries; and Hal Browning, who was a winner in the sprint cars and the bugs that preceded them as well as the super late models and the modifieds. Browning raced until he was 75 years old, and scored his last win at age 73.

BACK INDOORS

The Indoor Racing Series resumes this weekend with the running of the Gambler’s Classic in Atlantic City’s Boardwalk Hall. The long-running event will actually have two full days of racing starting on Friday.

The Gambler’s Classic was one of many events to lose out to COVID-19 in 2021. That event was never held, so this Friday’s Atlantic City event will serve as the makeup of that race. A completely new program will then be held on Saturday as this year’s Gambler’s Classic.

The Three Quarter Midgets headline the indoor program, with the Slingshots and Champ Karts also on the docket. Returning this year will also be a full program of racing for the dirt 600cc micro sprints. It should be interesting to see how the dirt cars handle the concrete racing surface inside Boardwalk Hall.

The Trenton Indoor event at the end of February will also feature the 600cc micro sprints. At that one, they put down a clay surface inside the building for the racing events.