ELMA — An overflow crowd of auto racing fans, drivers, officials and family members came together Saturday night to honor the ninth class of the Elma Auto Racing Hal of Fame at the Stay Beyond Inn & Suites Conference Center in Elma.
Five legendary personalities and one couple from Grays Harbor Raceway’s history were inducted on Saturday night — Dick Wilskey, Al Lytle, Dick Aududdell, Corinne and Bruce Williams, Arie Callaghan Sr. and Brian Sutherby. The ceremony was also a fundraiser for the non-profit organization, which featured a silent auction and a desert auction.
Gaylon and Carla Stewart, promoters of the Northwest Focus Midget Series, were the guest speakers. The couple played a video honoring the late GHR promoter Fred Brownfield, who is credited with helping start the regional series, and updated the crowd on the series’ growth and popularity.
The series will have a 26-race schedule, including a 10-race program to determine the Northwest champion, and currently has 41 race teams signed up for the 2017 season.
The longtime Northwest auto racing driver, promoter and car owner was the final inductee on the night.
Wilskey, who currently lives in Mount Vernon, was unable to attend the ceremony due to his health. Rick Leighty, of the EARHoF, along with others from the organization met up with Wilskey in late February to honor him and present him with his hall of fame jacket.
He was also presented with the Fred Brownfield Exemplary Contributions Award for 2017. Wilskey was a mentor to Brownfield and the announcement drew one of the biggest cheers of the night.
Wilskey helped run GHR after Brownfield’s death in 2006, ran the Northwest Sprint Challenge Series in 2007 and was a successful driver in the 1970-80s, as well as a car owner. His influence over a generation of drivers, including Brownfield, has been felt in the Northwest for years.
“I want to thank Rick and the entire organization for bending over backward to make the ceremony happen for Dick; it was special and pretty important,” former GHR race official and Northwest promoter Rick Terry said to the crowd in Wilskey’s honor. “Wilkey said, ‘Ever since that night (at Spanaway Raceway), I’ve had 47 years of the most amazing marriage (to Jan) and 47 years of friendship with the most wonderful people called this racing family. It is made up of great competitors, officials, promoters and most of all, the fans. I’ve been very fortunate to have a wife and daughter (Shawna) who shared my love of the sport and a great group of friends who have kept my car running and going fast.
“‘This award is very special to me and all I can say is thank you,’” Terry read.
As a 17-year-old from Hoquiam, Lytle found his first car behind his mother-in-law’s house — a 1930 Chevy — and received help from a few friends (including EARHoF member George Wixon) to turn it into a racing jalopy to run on the half-mile Elma Speedway in 1960s.
From there, Lytle met fellow hall of fame inductee Arie Callaghan in his first season racing and became a key member of the Elma Raceway community.
Lytle thanked the crowd, especially his family and Arie Callaghan’s family for being there, and told several stories of his time racing and having fun at Elma.
“For me, it was just about having fun,” he said. “Nowadays, it is pretty expensive to race. However, my level is the enjoyment of the race and that always stuck with me.”
Corinne and Bruce Williams
The couple, whose son, Tom, is a 2013 EARHoF inductee, were instrumental in running, maintaining and expanding the old Evergreen Auto Racing Association in the 1980s.
Bruce Williams ran in the jalopy division in the 1960s, a well respected car builder in the 1970-80s and was a raceway official as well. Corinne helped out at EARA as a secretary/treasurer and the duo were credited with keeping the organization going.
The couple’s work with the EARA also earned them the 2017 Larry Spoon Distinguished Service award.
“This was a surprise,” Corinne Williams said of the Spoon Award. “I wish Bruce was here to enjoy this. We were a team since the first time we met.”
The Elma driver was a popular hobby stock and sprint car driver at GHR and won several sprint car track championships in the 1980s, even with a childhood injury that impaired his left leg.
Sutherby was the GHR hobby stock champion in 1987, won the sprint car track titles in 1990-91 and was an influential figure at the track.
His father, Jim, was a past EARA president and is a 2009 EARHoF inductee and Brian thanked him and his family for their support.
His daughter Alyssa, who was a standout Elma High School soccer player, spoke for her father and relayed several stories from his career. Brian’s other daughter, Brooke, was a former quarter-midget driver at the Grays Harbor Mini-Raceway.
Arie Callaghan Sr.
Callaghan’s racing career was short due to his untimely death due to cancer in 1970, but his influence was large and wide-spread at Elma.
The Hoquiam native, whose family helped create the Push Rods of Hoquiam, was a drag racer and jalopy racer who was tough to beat from 1965-70. He was also known as a friend to many of his fellow drivers and brought a lot of fun to the track every weekend.
Al Lytle talked about Callaghan during his induction speech, mentioning how close the families were and how much of an influence he was on his racing career.
“I look at all of the names up here (in the hall of fame) and I think about what a great honor it is for my Dad to be a part of them,” Arie Callaghan Jr., who accepted the award, said. “All of them were great race car drivers. Some of my fondest memories of my Dad was working with him on the cars in the garage. This is just a great honor for him and for all of us.”
Aduddell was a well-known Northwest regional driver who was known for his engine-making magic — a distinct sound from a Buick straight 8 that made everyone notice — in the late 1960s-early 1970s.
Aduddell’s racing career was short, but he helped himself and many other drivers afterward by building parts for many cars throughout the Northwest. Auddell won several races at the half-mile Elma Raceway and was a constant figure at several Western Washington tracks.
“I am glad to have all of my old friends here; we are all survivors,” Aduddell said. “It was a lot of fun and I wish we can do it all over again. I really miss it.”