HOUSEHOLDER: A tribute to a lost friend

Bryan Householder
The York Dispatch
  • Wolford won 145 features in super sportsman cars and 86 times at Silver Spring.
  • Brent Marks went wire-to-wire to win at Path Valley on Sunday night.
  • Labor Day Weekend features numerous races at various tracks around the area.

Just after submitting last week’s column I learned of the death of Gary Wolford.

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The long time racer had been ill for a long time and, as he did while racing, Wolford surpassed all estimates of the time he had left.

Wolford’s career in local auto racing was a long and colorful one, with numerous wins and track titles. He began racing in the 1950s and continued until a career ending injury at Silver Spring in 1991. While he started his career in the stock cars that preceded today’s sprint cars, Wolford was best known for his racing in the super sportsman class.

Early in his career Wolford won five times with the stock cars that are now sprint cars. Two memorable moments from that long ago time were his win in the final flathead stock car race at the Reading Fairgrounds and the night he won at Susquehanna while driving for his mentor Bobby Abel. In that race, Wolford was tabbed to drive for Abel, who at the time was driving the famed #1080 machine that would later see much success with Johnny Mackison Sr. at the wheel. Wolford won the race with his car owner, Abel, second.

Wolford then went on to spend many years in the super sportsman cars winning 86 times at Silver Spring and 145 overall features in those cars. Both are series records.

But even with all that success, it is Gary Wolford the man most of us will remember. Wolford was a very tough competitor and ruffled more than a few feathers during his driving career, but he cared deeply about the sport and those who took part in it. Away from the race track those who were his fiercest competitors were also his best friends.

He started a fish fry for his friends at his shop in Brogue and it became so large that he had to move it elsewhere. He asked the Eastern Museum of Motor Racing if it could be used as a fund raiser for their efforts and it has become one of the focal points of the season for many in the local racing world.

Rest in peace Gary Wolford.

Stief also passes: At nearly the same time as Wolford death, former sprint car racer Billy Stief also died.

Stief started with stock cars at the Reading Fairgrounds, but found his mark in the sprint cars on the local circuit.

Stief won 22 times in local sprint cars, including a World of Outlaws race at Williams Grove.

Marks races to win at Path Valley: Brent Marks raced to his second win of the weekend in Sunday night’s Party at the Path sprint car feature. Marks collected $5,300 for his victory.

After winning both his heat race and the dash, Marks started from the pole position and led all 35 laps of the feature event to best Lucas Wolfe. Brian Montieth finished third, with Cole Duncan and Ryan Smith in the top five.  Rounding out the top 10 were Gerard McIntyre Jr., Billy dietrich, Tyler Reeser, Lewisberry’s Kyle Moody and Mike Wagner.

Tyler Walton won the 600 cc micro sprint feature over Alex Bright and Freddie Rahmer.

Coming up this weekend: As always, the Labor Day Holiday weekend will be a big one on the local circuit.

Williams Grove will race twice over the weekend. On Friday evening, the Grove presents the inaugural Gary Beam Tribute Race. The race will honor the memory of long time local car owner Gary Beam, who fielded cars for a number of top racers including Maynard Yingst, Scott Gesford, Larry Jackson, Chuck Reinert, T.J. Stutts and Todd Shaffer.

A former Beam car will be on hand as will his wife, Patty, and Shaffer. The sprint car feature will pay $4,088 to win (Beam’s cars were #88). The 358 sprints also compete and there will be fireworks.

Sunday evening the Grove present the Billy Kimmel Memorial Race in honor of the budget racer who was fatally injured there a few years ago. The sprints and super sportsman compete.

Other Friday action includes the final leg of the Lincoln/Trailway 358 sprint shootout at Trailway. The Legends, limited stocks and street stocks also compete. The wingless super sportsman race at Path Valley Friday.

At Lincoln on Saturday, the track will honor the memory of another longtime car owner/sponsor, J.L. Howard. Howard fielded cars in the sprint, 358 sprint and super sportsman ranks over the years and all three of those divisions will compete.

Like Williams Grove, Port Royal also has a two race weekend. Saturday night is the start of the 162nd Juniata County Fair at the track. The late models will compete in the annual Butch Renninger Memorial Race. Sprints, econo late models and xtreme stocks also compete.

On Monday afternoon the Port hosts the 65th annual Labor Day Classic. Sprint cars headline, along with the Legends and mini stocks.

Susquehanna races Saturday with the PASS 305 sprints, limited late models, street stocks and PennMar vintage cars, while Hagerstown hosts Championship night for the late models, late model sportsman, pure stocks, hobby stocks and e-mods.

Selinsgrove takes Saturday off, but is in action on Sunday with the World of Outlaws late models and the limited late models.

50 years ago: As one might expect, the Labor Day weekend was a big one 50 years ago in 1966.

Things started on Wednesday at Williams Grove, when Ray Tilley put Bud Grimm’s #88 in victory lane for his 38th win of the season. Tilley would also win at the Grove on Labor Day Monday for his 39th win of the season.

Williams Grove also raced on Friday night and that race was actually the very first time the Grove opened up it’s weekly races to sprint cars. The winner of that first sprint car race at the Grove was a URC competitor who would go one to modified fame, before retiring to help with his son’s career. Don Kreitz Sr. won that race with the #93 sprint car.

In other Friday action that week, Gerald Chamberlain drove the Don Rice Ford #31 to his fifth season win at Hesston, while at Dorsey, Maryland, it was Red Fouts picking up his second win of the season in the #22jr. At Winchester, Virginia, Ray Dovel scored his 17th win of the season in the Lee Stutz #S-3.

Saturday at Lincoln, Bobby Abel parked his own #2 in victory lane for his 17th win of the season, while at Port Royal, Mitch Smith won his 21st of the season in the Flock Brother’s Flying Tiger #2. Boyd Arnold got his second win of the season at south Penn in Everett on Saturday in the #49.

At Susquehanna that Sunday, Lynn Paxton parked Ree Smith’s #1 in victory lane for his 13th win of the season.

Port Royal and Hagerstown also both raced on Monday. The Labor Day Classic at the Port fell to Dick Tobias, who parked the Regester #6 in victory lane for his second win on the local circuit that year.

At Hagerstown, Johnny Grum was the winner in Harry Fletcher’s sidewinder #66.

— Reach Bryan Householder at sports@yorkdispatch.com