In 1982, at the conclusion of the annual Race of Champions asphalt Modified event at Pocono Raceway, veteran area race announcer Ken Hangauer Jr., made a special handshake that day. It's one he will never forget and one that means even more the last few days.
Maynard Troyer, an area asphalt Modified driving hero who won numerous races and championships, drove his last race of his brilliant driving career that day. After the race was concluded, Hangauer went to the pits to offer congratulatory words and a handshake praising Troyer's storied career.
Troyer, 79, died this past Thursday following a long illness. His death has had many in the Western New York racing community remembering him.
Troyer's son, Kenny Troyer, was at Lancaster Speedway Saturday night spotting for driver Eric Beers in the Queen City Clash 75. Kenny, now retired as a driver, is Lancaster's 1986 asphalt Modified champion. Kenny was thinking of his late father and used Saturday's event as a bit of therapy as he copes with his loss.
"It's good to be here," Kenny said. "It's better to be busy than sitting at home and thinking about things. I'd rather be here doing something and helping. I love these race cars. My dad got me into racing. I've been going to the races since I was 2. It's what I enjoy doing and my dad did too. My dad would love that I'm here tonight involved with racing."
Hangauer announced many races that Maynard Troyer competed in at Lancaster Speedway.
Maynard Troyer is universally considered one of the greatest asphalt Modified drivers of all-time, in the same category with the late Richie Evans, Jerry Cook, Geoff Bodine, Jimmy Spencer, George Kent and a few others. He also launched a stock car building business in the Rochester area in 1977 that produced many winning chassis on asphalt and dirt.
"That day at Pocono I walked down and walked across the track," Hangauer said. "I went into his garage and I shook hands with Maynard and he thanked me. He said that he really appreciated me coming over. We both laughed because he knew that I was pretty close with Richie Evans. He said I know you're close with Richie, and I told Maynard it didn't make any difference. I told Maynard that day that I had great respect for him as a driver and crew chief. I told him he did a lot including building cars and that he had a terrific career."
Troyer was born in Plain City, Ohio, in 1938, and eventually moved to Upstate New York, living much of his life in Spencerport.
Troyer's list of accomplishments behind the wheel is lengthy. Highlights included four asphalt Modified championships at Lancaster (1975, '76, '78, '79) and two at Spencer Speedway ('75 and '78). He won the prestigious Race of Champions in both 1976 and 1977. He competed in a few NASCAR Grand National (now Cup Series) races including the 1971 Daytona 500, where his car flipped more than 14 times on Lap 9. He suffered a concussion, bruises and a shoulder injury.
"Maynard was a legendary driver," Hangauer said. "The man won the ROC, also the Spring Sizzler at Stafford (Conn.). He won everyplace he ever took his race car. The other thing is his race team was a class act. They came to the races and their car would be prestine, their hauler would be beautiful and his whole team was dressed in nice uniforms. He was way ahead of the game as far as knowing of how to present a good image of the sport."
Also, Troyer is being remembered as not just a great racer but a quality individual.
"Maynard was Amish and was a quiet man who let his gas-pedal foot do his talking," said former ROC official and good friend Marilyn Toal. "For all he accomplished he never bragged. It was very special days when Maynard and Richie were racing back then. We were very close friends and our daughter Colleen handled all the t-shirt and jacket sales for Maynard. His stuff was popular. Maynard was a class act."
Retired driver Jim Rudolph was wearing a big smile in the pit area Friday night at Ransomville Speedway after watching his grandson Erick Rudolph win the 358 Modified race. Jim fondly recalled his racing days competing many times against Troyer.
"Maynard was a very nice gentleman," Jim said. "We had a lot of fun together. He was a true racer. He built some real good cars too. I raced all over New York State against him. I most remember the parties after the races with Maynard. We always had a few beers together. I'm sure Maynard would enjoy the fact that I'm still going to watch races and still drinking beer!"