Former sprint-car racer Doug Wolfgang entertained the crowd of nearly 400 for more than an hour before six new members were inducted into the Hall of Fame. Several special awards were also presented. Wolfgang began his racing career in 1970 and spent 31/2 years on the local circuit in the mid 1980s. His time in the locally-based Weikert's Livestock machine produced some of the best years of his career, and the area still holds a special spot in Wolfgang's heart.
Although he had only made one visit to the area in the past 18 years, Wolfgang was surprised to find so many of his old friends in the audience. He also was happy to see several of those old friends receiving awards.
The new Hall of Fame inductees were:
Past Driver: The Past Driver inductee was Gerald Chamberlain.
While most folks remember Chamberlain as a top driver in the modifieds at the Reading Fairgrounds, his career actually spanned three different local types of competition.
Known throughout his career as the "Everett Express," Chamberlain found his first success driving the "bugs" that preceded the local sprint cars. He began at the long-gone South Penn Speedway near his Everett home. Chamberlain's first win on record came there in 1963, and he won three times there that year. He followed that with 16 wins in 1964 and 12 more in 1965.
By 1966 he'd branched out some more, winning again at South Penn, but also at Hagerstown, Bedford and Win-
chester, Va. In 1967, Chamberlain won in the "bugs" at South Penn, Hagerstown, Bedford, Winchester, Port Royal and Hershey. Chamberlain completed his career in what are now the local sprint cars with 55 wins.
It wasn't until 1968 that he switched over to the "heavies" or modifieds that competed at Reading and elsewhere. By the time he wrapped up his modified driving career, Chamberlain had won 92 times at Reading and numerous times at many other modified tracks around the Northeast. He stands second on Reading's all-time win list.
Chamberlain also did a bit of NASCAR Grand National (now Cup) racing early in his career, with a best finish of 10th at Darlington in 1969. Late in his racing career, Chamberlain moved to the late-model circuit, often racing as a teammate to another YCRC Hall of Fame driver, Scott Haus. Chamberlain once finished second to Haus in a late-model racer at Penn National in 1995.
Past Owner or Mechan ic: Ron "Speedy" Hays was named as the Past Owner or Mechanic inductee. Hays fit both of those categories.
Hays owned and wrenched the once-popular red No. 44 late models that graced victory lane many times on the local ovals. With drivers such as Sam Nalley, Ronnie McBee and Gary Stuhler doing most of his driving, Hays' cars were always up front, and often in victory lane. Hays died in 2000.
Past Miscellaneous: Raymond Zellers was known simply as "Quack" around the local ovals, and made his mark from the flagstands at Lincoln and Susquehanna speedways in the 1950s and early 1960s.
The York County native was the first flag man ever at Lincoln and was in the flag stand there the night in 1957 when Lee Petty won a NASCAR Grand National (now Cup) race there. He actually was invited to work the first race ever held at Daytona International Speedway.
"Quack" passed away in 1976, but his love of racing has remained in the family. His son, Terry, owns and wrenches the 358 sprint car driven by "Quack's" grandson, Mark Zellers, and a second grandson, Scott Zellers, is the mechanic on the car driven by 2008 Lincoln Speedway champion Brian Montieth.
Present Driver: Sprint-car ace Todd Shaffer was inducted as the Present Driver winner this year. Shaffer has nearly 200 sprint-car wins in his career and 11 track championships.
Shaffer actually started racing go-karts as a youngster and won more than 300 races and eight Grand National go-kart titles before ever setting foot in a sprint car.
Shaffer drove his first sprint-car race in 1986, and claimed his first win in 1987. He's been winning ever since.
Present Owner or Me chanic: The car owners with whom Shaffer has had the most success, Gary and Patty Beam, were honored as the Present Owner or Mechanic inductees.
The Beams started with Maynard Yingst back in 1981 after spending some time with go-karts and snowmobiles. They got their first wins a few years later and have been fielding winning cars ever since.
Before Shaffer their drivers included Yingst, Joey Gravino, Scott Gesford, Larry Jackson, Chuck Reinert and Barry Camp. Shaffer joined the team in 1994, and except for a brief retirement in 2006, has been their driver ever since. T.J. Stutts drove the car when Shaffer tried to retire.
Present Miscellaneous: Williams Grove flag man Gordon "Butch" Book was the Present Miscellaneous inductee.
Book actually started in racing as a mechanic for Bobby Abel as a youngster. He then became the chief wrench for Bob Bender's late-model team, with drivers Ronnie Dunstan, Bobby Goodling and Bender.
Bender had to leave racing when he became very ill in the late 1970s but Book continued to attend races. One very cold, early-season race at Hagerstown found promoter Jack Gunn in need of a corner flag man, and he asked Book if he'd fill the spot that day.
Book became Gunn's assistant flag man at Williams Grove, Selinsgrove and Hagerstown in 1978, and took over the chief starter duties at Williams Grove in 1984. He's been there ever since.
Book has also worked at numerous other local speedways and the indoor races at Atlantic City.
Kevin Gobrecht Special Achievement Award: Red Lion's Joe Darrah was awarded the Kevin Gobrecht Memorial Special Achievement Award for the 2008 season.
While best known as the father and car owner for teenage sensation Cody Darrah, Joe Darrah has done much more for the sport.
Last season he founded and sponsored a safety seminar for local track safety crews that was held at the York County Fire School in Emigsville. This is to become an annual event. In addition, Darrah offered sponsorship for the Adoption Night at Williams Grove Speedway and the Hank Gentzler Memorial Manufacturers' Night at Lincoln Speedway. He has also provided sponsorship for races at Susquehanna, Hill Valley and Path Valley.
Darrah's J&K Salvage and Eichelberger's U-Pull-It have also provided several local tracks with track preparation vehicles and last summer provided fuel for those vehicles on a weekly basis.
While his main focus has always been on his son's racing career, his businesses have also sponsored cars for a number of drivers in at least six different classes of local racing.
Ed Stauffer Memorial Mechanic Of The Year: With his driver and car owners both being inducted into the Hall of Fame, it seemed fitting that Jimmy Russell was awarded the Ed Stauffer Memorial Mechanic of the Year award.
Russell has long been the chief wrench on the Beam racers driven by Todd Shaffer. But he's been around a lot longer than that. He got started with his father's team in the 1970s and it would be safe to say that he's had a winning race car every year since the late 1970s.
Speed Dawg Champion: Fred Rahmer was presented with his 2008 Speed Dawg Central Pennsylvania "Top Dawg" award, and a check for $2,000.
Rahmer also drew, from among the top-10 finishers in the Speed Dawg series, for the "Lucky Dawg" $500 award. Ironically, he drew second-place finisher Todd Shaffer for the award.
Speed Dawg founder Chris Figdore announced that this year, four associate sponsors will join Speed Dawg to increase the Speed Dawg awards for 2009. Hoseheads.com, Butlerbuilt Seats, J&J Chassis and Maxim Chassis will all pitch in so that in 2009, the Speed Dawg champion will get $3,000, while second will pay $2,000 and third will get $1,000. There will also still be the $500 "Lucky Dawg" for another driver in the top 10.
Special guests: A large number of past inductees were on hand, but perhaps the best surprise of the night was an appearance by injured sprint-car driver John Westbrook, of Dillsburg.
Westbrook's late-season crash at Williams Grove has left him in a wheelchair, but he made it to the banquet, and spent the whole night there. It sure was good to see Westbrook back among his friends.
Around the time Wolfgang was racing in this area, the local tracks also had another "invader." Tulsa's Jerry Stone spent several years on the local circuit. While here, Stone lived near Lancaster, and one of his crew members was a teenager named Jim Book. Of course, Stone also became friends with Jimmy's father, Butch Book.
Stone's son has remained in the Lancaster area, and when he found that Book was to be inducted into the Hall of Fame, Stone planned a visit with his son around being able to attend this banquet. Stone was another very welcome guest.
Carber wins again: While so much was happening here in York this past weekend, things again went very well for Michael Carber in Australia.
For the second week in a row, Carber won a feature at Brisbane Speedway. Carber won the New Year's Day program there.
Bryan Householder writes about dirt-track racing for The York Dis patch. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.