Auto racing legend Maynard Troyer dies at 79

DEMOCRAT AND CHRONICLE    by Sean Lahman    May 11, 2018

Maynard Troyer, a former NASCAR driver and legendary car builder has died.  The longtime Spencerport resident was 79.

A statement from Troyer Race Cars, the company he founded, said that Troyer died Thursday after a long illness.

Troyer rose to prominence as a race car driver in the 1960s, but his greatest success came in designing and building cars and specialized racing parts for others.

Born November 22, 1938 in Plains City, Ohio, Troyer moved to Florida to race on the modified sportsman circuit before coming to western New York.

"I had a friend up here," Troyer told the Democrat and Chronicle in 1969. "I came here to work for a summer and raced a few times.  I liked the area and stayed here."

He quickly established himself as a star of the modified circuit, winning track championships at Spencer Speedway and Lancaster Speedway in 1966 and 1967. He continued to dominate during the 70s, driving to victories at modified tracks across New York, Pennsylvania, and the rest of the northeast. His No. 6 Pinto, painted in orange and white, was a familiar sight to race fans.

Troyer's peak as a driver probably came in 1977, when he won the Atlantic Coast 300 and the Richmond 150. He also claimed his second straight win in the Race of Champions and the first of what would be three consecutive wins in the Spring Sizzler in Stafford Springs, Connecticut.

His move to NASCAR's top circuit, then known as the Winston Cup Series, began in spectacular fashion.

Just nine laps into the 1971 Daytona 500, Troyer's  engine blew and his wheels locked. Spectators watched in horror as his bright orange stock car tumbled violently, flipping more than a dozen times and shedding pieces of its body before coming to rest right-side-up on the track's infield. Broadcasting the race for ABC's Wide World of Sports, Keith Jackson exclaimed breathlessly: "What a crash! I don't think I've ever seen one this bad."

It was Troyer's first Winston Cup race.

He suffered a concussion, a shoulder injury and lots of bruises, but was back racing several weeks later.

Troyer finished that year with three top-10 finishes in 13 races, including a fourth-place finish in the Yankee 400 at Michigan International Speedway.

He finished as a runner-up to Walter Ballard for the 1971 NASCAR Rookie of the Year award, in all likelihood losing out on the honor because the injury forced him to miss some races.

"I guess that accident was my career highlight," Troyer said in a 1975 interview, "if something like that is a highlight."

He launched Troyer Engineering in 1977, a company which manufactured dirt and asphalt race cars and parts for other drivers. It became arguably the most recognizable and sought after name in the industry.

"I'd rather go racing but it doesn't pay," Troyer told the Democrat and Chronicle in an 1980 interview. 

Troyer retired from driving in 1982 and sold the business in 1999. Now known as Troyer Race Cars, the shop is located on Lyell Road in the town of Gates.

Members of the racing world took to social media Friday to remember Troyer's strong influence on the sport.

"Anybody who’s anybody has driven a Troyer modified at some point in their career," said Burt Myers, the 2010 NASCAR Modified Tour champion. "He helped make modified racing what it is today."

Writer Ken Bruce of Dirt Track Magazine said Troyer was one of the sport's great innovators. "Not only was he a great driver, Mr Troyer was a master in building great modified race cars, both on asphalt and on dirt," he wrote.

Tim McCreadie, a Watertown native and former NASCAR Busch series driver, called Troyer "an icon of auto racing."