Walter DeVilbiss adds to family's racing legacy from supply side

Motor Sports

April 28, 1996|By Stanley Dillon | Stanley Dillon,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

When you mention the DeVilbiss name, you automatically think of auto racing. While the best known family members, Slim, Butch and Doug, were all successful as car owners and drivers, another DeVilbiss is now making a name for himself in the racing tire business.

Forty-six-year-old Walter DeVilbiss Jr. has been involved in auto racing since he was 12. Five years ago he took advantage of an opportunity to be involved in racing from the supply side of the sport when he was offered a position at W&W Hoosier Mid-Atlantic in Finksburg. It was a major decision to change career in mid-life, but he hasn't regretted it.

Motorsports has grown in leaps and bounds over the past 10 years, and so has the demand for racing tires and parts. One of the largest and fastest growing companies in the mid-Atlantic region is W&W Hoosier Tires Mid-Atlantic. Co-owners Bud Watson and Mike Woolford will be the first to say that dedicated employees like DeVilbiss have been very instrumental in their success.

DeVilbiss has been involved in racing in almost every way possible.

"I started going to the races as a kid to watch Pee Wee Pobblets, Ray Kable and Chuck Talbert. I went three times a weekend to Williams Grove, Lincoln and Hagerstown," said DeVilbiss. "I started helping Mike [Woolford] in the '70s. Then I worked with Al Shawver and was part owner of his car when he won the late-model track championship at Lincoln Speedway. I always liked racing.

"When I was younger I sort of wanted to drive -- back then you always think you could -- but I was always a wrench man. But I got a lot of satisfaction out of watching our car do good."

Racing was a hobby for DeVilbiss. Like many county residents, at one time he worked for Black & Decker in Hampstead, as a mechanic.

"I thought the place would never close," remembered DeVilbiss. "After I worked there for 19 years they reduced the work force. It was a shocker. I was lucky to get a job with Black & Decker's air tool division, Master Power. While working there, I began to work for W&W part-time on weekends. I worked at different tracks doing odds and ends."

"Then five years ago I was asked by Bud to come to work for At first I thought it would be hard to start over; I was content where I was. But I also loved being around racing."

DeVilbiss was hired as an outside salesman for street DOT and drag racing tires. He was a natural for the job. Besides his love for racing, DeVilbiss liked being around people and working with them.

While Hoosier Tires almost dominated the dirt and asphalt late-model circuit, they were just beginning with the sprint and drag racing cars.

With Goodyear dominating the sprint car market, DeVilbiss had his work cut out. But he was determined that he was going to change the odds. Last year he worked closely with Hoosier and local sprint car drivers. Dan Dietrich of Aspers, Pa., began to test Hoosier tires, and by the middle of the year they had come up with two-to-three compounds. Over the winter Hoosier developed more compounds with input from DeVilbiss and the local drivers.

The tires, which cost about $185, began to work. So far this year, Cris Eash of Woodbine has been in Victory Lane twice on Hoosiers. Now, nearly 50 percent of the drivers are using Hoosiers on the right rear.

"I knew if they would give us a chance they would see a product that would work," said DeVilbiss. "The wins show that they are working, and when they do they sell themselves."

But DeVilbiss and the rest of the staff at W&W won't be satisfied until everyone is using Hoosiers like the late models do.

In drag racing, Hoosier has also come a long way. Whereas drivers on dirt ovals have several different compounds to choose from, drag racers have two, a D05 and a D07. The softer D05 is for lighter cars that don't have the high horsepower, while the harder tire is for dragsters or heavy door slammers with blowers that have a lot of muscle. Hoosier now makes 30 different tire sizes for drag racing.

Weekend results

Last weekend, late model driver Gary Stuhler of Westminster did it again. For the fourth straight year, Stuhler turned back the Short Track Auto Racing Stars (STARS) at Hagerstown Speedway in the Stanley Schetrompf Memorial. Stuhler took the lead on the 19th lap and led the rest of the way to pick up $8,000 for the 50-lap event. It was a good weekend for Stuhler. On Friday night he was ninth at Williams Grove against the STARS and he placed runner-up on Sunday night at Bedford Speedway.

In other action at Hagerstown, Kenny Dillon of Owings Mills placed second in the pure stock feature and Mike Walls of Taneytown was 12th in the 4-cylinder pure stock main event. At Williams Grove Speedway, Cris Eash of Woodbine finished second in the super sprint feature. At Lincoln Speedway, Eash won his second super sprint feature in three weeks.

At the Trail-Way Speedway, David Parrish of Westminster was ninth in the micro-sprint feature. Mikey Zechman of Westminster was fourth in the 8-cylinder stock feature, followed by Bill Brown of Westminster and John McDonogh of Finksburg.

At Winchester Speedway, Ernie Jones of Westminster was 10th in the late-model feature and Brad McClelland of Westminster was third in the micro sprint main event.

In drag racing at 75-80 Dragway, Jeff Meleo of Keymar won for the second time in Class II. Steve Dustin of Westminster went five rounds. Dave Belt of Taneytown won the motorcycle division. Joe Mayne of Mount Airy won Class I at Mason-Dixon Dragway.

Pub Date: 4/28/96

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