Close your eyes. Can you hear it? The roar of the engines? The screams of nearly 15,000 exhilarated and delighted fans? The deafening rumble of 200 cars surging by at speeds of 120 miles an hour? The twelfth race in the 1955 SCCA National Sports Car Championship season, the Fairchild National Sports Car Races took place at the Hagerstown Regional Airport on Sunday, October 16, 1955. The Fairchild National Sports Car Races consisted of seven separate races, all of which were run on a makeshift, 2.4 mile closed circuit track built on the runway. The first major event of its kind to take place in Hagerstown, the Fairchild National Sports Car Races was sponsored by the Fairchild Aircraft Employee Recreation Association.
Although it wasn’t technically a “pro” race (the drivers were considered amateur racers, and they weren’t competing for purses, but for trophies, plaques, and silver serving trays), the Fairchild National Sports Car Races drew more than 200 participants nationwide! Most notable among the participants was Jim Kimberly, William C. (Big Bill) Spear, World Champion Phil Hill, Briggs Cunningham, Paul O’Shea, and the Boston, Massachusetts speed ace Sherwood Johnston. In addition to the racers, the event garnered a crowd of nearly 15,000 sports car enthusiasts from across the U.S, who crammed the airport to see the seven races, and a car show featuring a red fiberglass sports car (built by Hagerstown’s own Frank Dallage)!
Starting sharply at 8:30 a.m., the first contest was the Pegasus Club race – a 17 lap event – which was won by Ed Crawford driving a Porsche 550 Spyder. Immediately following the Pegasus Club race, the winner of the Lavender Hill Mob race (13 laps) was Bethesda native Steve Spitler, who outraced the competition in an MG TF. The CAP Special race (17 laps) was won by Charles Wallace of Camden, NJ, who drove a Jaguar. Operating a Porsche, the winner of the City of Hagerstown race (17 laps) was Lake Underwood. Michel Rothschild won the Air Force race (25 laps) in a Morgan, and the Governor McKeldin race (25 laps) was won in style by Paul O’Shea, who piloted a Mercedes-Benz 300 SL Gullwing Coupe.
The main and final event, the second annual Presidents Cup race, was a 100 mile slugfest in which 40 racers – including the previous year’s winner Bill Spear – competed for the coveted – and magnificent – Presidents Cup. The Presidents Cup, donated anonymously by R.W. Woodruff, the President of Coca-Cola, was slated to be presented to the winning racer by then-President of the United States, Dwight D. Eisenhower. After a thrilling contest – which featured several vehicular wrecks – Sherwood Johnston, who outraced the competition in a gorgeous, Jaguar D-type, was declared winner of the 1955 Presidents Cup Race! Following the day’s jam-packed events, the winning racers retired to the Fountain Head Country Club, where they participated in a victory dinner and awards ceremony. For winning the Presidents Cup Race, Johnston received a replica of the Presidents Cup (the real trophy was to be delivered to him, engraved, at a later date), and an invitation to the White House, where he would receive personal congratulations from President Eisenhower, who, regrettably, could not make the ceremony.
Taking place on Sunday, October 16, 1955, the Fairchild National Sports Car Races was the first major event of its kind to take place in Hagerstown. Although it wasn’t technically a “pro” race (the drivers were considered amateur racers, and they weren’t competing for purses, but for trophies, plaques, and silver serving trays), the Fairchild National Sports Car Races drew more than 200 participants, and 15,000 exhilarated fans from all across the United States. Despite the event’s immense success and popularity, for reasons unknown, the SCAA never came back to Hagerstown, and the 1955 Fairchild National Sports Car Races have been largely forgotten…relegated to the annals of history.