Good afternoon everyone,
They say its good to learn something new every day. Saturday, I learned that it isn’t a good idea to race after Labor Day at Merritt. So other promoters will be happy to know we wont be scheduling events beyond Labor Day in the future.
Rain covered much of the state Friday night and Saturday morning, before clearing up and becoming a beautiful day. The racers turned out in force like we’d been so thankful to have all season, but not so much the fans. Thank you to those that did attend!
First and most important, we were able to raise $1,150 for Jennifer Johnson-Kiel on Saturday through the giving of drivers, fans, and our staff. Thank you very much to each and every person that made a donation! I spoke with Jennifer this morning, and her spirits remain very high which is great. She was getting ready to go in for her first check-up following her release from the hospital, so keep her in your prayers and she continues down her road to recovery.
To the racing, we want to first congratulate Chad Tomczak, who won all three of the segments on Saturday night and winner of the $1,500 purse that we paid to the Four Cylinder victor. We tried to throw a curve ball, and had the final 20-lap segment run backwards, but Chad remained stout. Special nod to Ryan Hamm, who rallied from multiple laps down and raced back to finish third. The fireworks and entire 100-lap special along with the event as a whole presented by Diesel Freak was intended to be centered around the Four Cylinders and we hope you guys enjoyed it.
Pro Trucks… same story, new week. Richie Sutherland swept the night, so congratulations to him and the family, and thanks to the others that came out and competed with him.
Lightning Sprints… again, same story, new week. Although we unfortunately didn’t get the assured turnout that we planned on for this class, we want to thank Tim Mason, Scott Flees, Bridgette Andras, Andrew Scheid, and the Roland group along with their teams and families for coming and supporting the event. Andrew Scheid went to work and collected a very impressive ninth feature win on the season at Merritt Speedway. The 12-year-old surely has a bright future, and congratulations Andrew and his dad on a great season, and again thank you to those that came out on Saturday.
The UMP Modified at Merritt are simply something special. Yet again, they went 30 straight green flag laps caution free. Aaron Morey chased down Jacob Poel, and made a big move to the lead in the closing laps to claim his first career Merritt Speedway win. Aaron’s father Mike passed away recently, and it was an emotional victory lane, as Merritt was the final track that Mike attended before passing away. It was a feel good moment for me to see Aaron celebrating and smiling after the win, having known his dad and Aaron.
The Late Models always put on a great show, and I can’t help but always say that because its just so damn entertaining. Merritt’s own Eric Spangler got the big victory and $3,000 winners payday, passing Billy Bray in the closing laps as the two worked through lap-traffic, after Bray appeared to be the man to beat. It was very fast, entertaining racing all night with a great racing surface from the rainfall we had Friday and Saturday morning. In the Run What Ya Brung event, Nate Murphy cruised to an impressive victory, and congrats to he and the team. Thank you again to all the competitors that battled with us once more in 2016 and we already are excited for next season!
Don’t forget that the Merritt Speedway Awards Banquet is coming up on November 5, again being held at The Wexford County Civic Center. Ordering information will be available tomorrow, so keep an eye on our website and Facebook page.
Thank you to everyone who helped make 2016 a success! Looking forward to seeing you at the banquet!
On Monday we participated in the Racing Awareness Charity Golf Outing, which supports Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital in Grand Rapids. It was a great day for a great cause, and at the end of it all they raised more than $42,000 for kids in the hospital. Very Cool! On our way home, I left my phone at my bowling alley in Grand Rapids. It took two-and-a-half hours for me to get it back, and I’m not sure how I survived before cell phones existed haha. Imagine then, what life must be like for Jennifer Johnson-Kiel, who was the young lady that was hit in the freak accident at the speedway. Losing your ability to walk for three to four months during rehabilitation would be incredibly difficult. Her positive spirit is inspiring to me and we can’t forget about her as she goes through the recovery process. This Saturday, every Adult grandstand ticket and Adult pit pass will have $2 from it go directly to the family. We also will be doing a 50/50 fundraiser, and we will also be accepting donations for Jennifer and the family that we will pass along to them as well.
Thank you to everyone who has stepped up and supported them. The racing family truly is remarkable in times like this. On that note, I’d like to say thank you to Thunderbird Raceway and their drivers for going into the grandstands and taking a collection for Jennifer last weekend. That was a special thing and thank you to the fans and drivers who donated.
While at Thunderbird, I was able to see one of my former employees Kyle Heemstra get a win which was fun to watch. It was a very strange thing not seeing the Merritt crew last weekend with our rainout, so I’m not looking forward to the long winter ahead!
This weekend we have our Diesel Freak Speed Fest, as our final non-points intended to be fun special event. We invite all the racers, teams, fans, and friends to come out and support the event, as we fundraise for Jennifer and have a great last weekend. Rain is in the forecast for Saturday morning, but we are going to do everything in our power to get the event in, as there will be no additional makeup or rain date for it. So, come on and let’s go racing! Our Run What Ya Brung division is for Pro Stock, Factory Stock, and similar cars with no rules. Late Models, Modifieds, and Sprints of any kind are not allowed in that event, but will have their own regular heats and features!
The Merritt banquet will once again be held at The Wexford County Civic Center, just like last year, on November 5th. Tickets will be available soon for that, but make plans to be in attendance.
We look forward to seeing everyone this Saturday for our final event of 2016!
Not exactly sure where to start or what to say, but I’ll try. As most of you probably know by now, we had an unfortunate incident on Sunday during one of our Late Model heat events. The throttle on the #42 of JT Anderson’s car stuck, and sent him off the end of the speedway in turn 1. The car struck Jennifer, who just happened to be walking through at that moment, as well as Merritt track staff members Les Hana, and Dorene and Troy Baldwin. This is the most difficult thing that I’ve been through as a promoter, and something that we will likely all be thinking about and praying for healing for weeks and months.
The good news, is that Jennifer had pelvis surgery yesterday, and is going to likely be discharged yet today or tomorrow. The bad news, is that she has a long road of recovery in front of her and will not be able to walk or work for several months. She has two beautiful children to care and provide for. I went to the hospital yesterday to visit with her and her friends and family, and she is in great spirits considering the situation. As a very new fan of auto racing, she understands that the incident was simply a freak accident, and has no ill will toward the driver or Merritt Speedway. More importantly, she has a very positive outlook on everything and that is a blessing in itself. Les Hana, along with Troy Baldwin were checked out at Mercy Hospital in Cadillac, and released clear of anything serious, except for bruising and a few knicks.
The racing community is one big family, as was mentioned before, and now is the time to rally up and show Jennifer our support. A GoFundMe page has been setup (Click Here). Any donation no matter will go a very long way in her effort to care for her children, and rehabilitate her pelvis and other wounds to get back on her feet. While this was a very serious incident, we will continually work on safety standards and practices implemented at the track and are incredibly thankful that is wasn’t even worse like it could’ve easily been.
Thank you to every single person who assisted in the extrication process, setting up a helicopter landing zone, keep things clear and calm. Combined with the Merritt staff, I believe the situation was handled well and we are thankful for all of you who stepped up.
On to the racing…
Let’s start with car counts Saturday. 27 Late Models, 33 Modifieds, 14 Lightning Sprints, 15 Pro Stocks, 8 Pro Trucks, 16 Factory Stocks, 25 Four Cylinders, and 18 Mini Wedges! Oh, and 6 Side Board Late Models, 161 total cars! WOW!!!! And with all those cars means lots of racing, and they provided lots of entertainment. Congratulations to Eric Spangler who capped off another Championship season with a feature win. David Mielke and Jacob Poel battled intensely in the Dirt Cup Modified race, before Mielke went off the backstretch on the final lap, allowing Poel to take home the big win. Jordan Erickson flexed his muscle Saturday, fending off Andrew Scheid and a stout field of Lightning Sprints to get into Allstar Victory Lane. While winning at neighboring tracks over the last several seasons, Merritt victory lane eluded Roger McQueen, that is until Saturday night. In what was a wild final few laps, McQueen edged to the line, putting his 53 into the winners circle for the first ever time for a feature win at Merritt. A pair of veterans and also 2016 champions in Richie Sutherland and Jim Miller Jr. both had tough roads, but captured wins on Saturday and Sunday nights respectively. Congratulations on the hard work that paid off this season. Dirk VanAuken topped the stout huge field of Four Cylinders Saturday, and found himself and the #72 in victory lane. And last but not least, the young guns of the Mini Wedge Association put on what had to be by my observation the biggest crowd pleaser of them all. Corcoran Schmitz grabbed the checkered flag in an impressive run. The racing was so good, that it is giving me second thoughts about building another smaller circuit for these cars next year. Oh, and we celebrated Angie Barber McKinley’s 50th Birthday with a little surprise on the front stretch before the races too.
Sunday rolled around, and the final points night of the year. 30 Late Models, 24 Modifieds, 11 Lightning Sprints, 12 Pro Stocks, 7 Pro Trucks, 15 Factory Stocks, 29 Four Cylinders, and 17 Mini Wedge cars again packed the pits, totaling 145 cars from end to end.
Another very entertaining night of race action, with the point battles being tight in a few of the divisions and guys trying to get a win before the season expires. Congratulations to Sammy Eppling on getting his first victory at Merritt this season. Chad Bauer got his second big win of the year in what was another fantastic, caution free Modified feature event. 12-year-old Andrew Scheid had to try and top defending track champion Mack Erickson, as the two drivers were nearly tied for the points lead coming in to the night. Racing side by side for a few laps, both drivers showed their strength, and Scheid edged Erickson by the time the checkered flag was in the air, also securing the points title. Kevin Newberry did everything in his power to get around the M65 of Rick Spencer, but the black car was just too strong, as Rick held him off for the win, and also collected the Pro Stock division championship. As mentioned above, both Sutherland and Miller Jr. won features both nights, and their divisions championship. The tightest battle of them all, was in the Four Cylinder division. Chad Tomczak knew he had to win and get a little luck, in order to also capture the track championship in back-to-back season. Well, the cards fell just right, as the 1T went to victory lane and also was able to celebrate a points win. And Andrew Bogart again proved to be one of the strongest Mini Wedge drivers of the season, collecting the win on Sunday night around the 3/8-mile oval. Congratulations to our champions, all of the heat and feature race winners, and thank you to everyone who came out and supported Merritt Speedway and put on one heck of a great show for the fans in the stands each night. The night concluded with a great fireworks display to close out the weekend.
This weekend we close things out with what is designed to be a purely fun event. Diesel Freak, one of our newest partners, stepped up as we present the Diesel Freak Speed fest. UMP Late Model and Modified classes along with our Lightning Sprints, Pro Trucks, and Four Cylinders will all be in race action with higher payouts. The Four Cylinders will race in three segments, 40, 40, and 20, spread out through the evening. Oh, and the winner will take home $1,500!!! We will also have a “Run What Ya Brung” race, which is open to any vehicle generally, with the ability to run sideboards, wings, or whatever crazy and SAFE ideas the drivers may have. That race will exclude Late Models, any type of sprint car, midget, lightning sprint, MORA outlaw car, etc for safety sake and realistic parity. Come one come all, this Saturday. We will also be doing a 50/50 to benefit Jennifer and her family, as well as $2 off each Adult admission and Pit Pass will be given straight back to the family.
Gates will open at 4:00, with racing at 7:00 p.m., all presented by Diesel Freak of Gaylord. We hope to see you there.
Good late afternoon,
What a weekend! Another first for me, hosting the World of Outlaws at our race track was an honor and learning experience. They are a first class group and we want to thank all of them for taking the trip north to compete with us.
First, thank you to Keyser Manufacturing for making last weekend possible, by their tremendous partnership and support for the event. Scott and Anna, and wonderful to work with and we are very happy to have their partnership.
For just the second time all season, a non World of Outlaws regular took home the checkered flag, as our defending UMP Late Model Champion Eric Spangler drove away from the field and won $6,000, claiming his first career World of Outlaws Late Model victory. It was pretty cool to see Eric run up front and congratulations to he and his team. Nick Kurtz, wow! Nick ran up front and caught, passed, and drove away from Josh Richards to get the second spot in what was an incredible effort. After that win a few weeks ago, the confidence seems higher than ever and we are happy for that team. Also a shout out to Bill Bray who took home a top ten finish, in the 25-straight green flag lap feature.
We had 92 cars in the pit area Friday, which was a fabulous showing for the divisions that raced, including 40 of the best Outlaw Late Models in the country. Congratulations to Gaylord’s Jacob Flickinger on coming from fifth, and edging out Mike Currie in what was a fantastic race, to collect the hard earned victory! Congratulations again to Chad Tomczak, getting another W in his 4-Cylinder Friday over Buddy Palahunk who gave him a run for his money. And finally congrats to the youngest driver at the track last weekend, Andrew Scheid, on coming from behind the inversion and chasing down Mack Erickson who led the majority of the 25-lap feature, before being passed by Andrew in the closing laps to collect the Lightning Sprint victory. All in all we want to thank everyone who came out and raced Friday night, as well as the fans in the stands.
Saturday was forecasted to be nice, until Wednesday, when it turned to a high percent chance of rain all day and night. The last thing we wanted to do was have to cancel the show, or postpone it until Sunday since that had not been announced as a possibility.
One thing that I learned last weekend was you cannot run an entertaining race on the dirt, mid-afternoon. The best of the World of Outlaws drivers, as well as their staff strongly advised against it, and so we landed on an evening show instead. Had we raced during the day, the track would’ve rutted and rubber up to a one groove surface, and that’s not what anyone wants. Generally everyone from a few sponsors, World of Outlaw officials, etc. thought it would be in my best interest to cancel entirely instead of pushing for a Sunday show. But knowing our drivers, and the Michigan race fans, I felt confident we could pull it off and be successful in our efforts. And that came to fruition!
We want to thank Tri City, Thunderbird, Kalamazoo, Berlin, and Crystal for all posting and sharing the news that we were having our race on Sunday evening, and helping inform the race fans for us. Teamwork and cooperation like that helps everyone in the long run and we greatly appreciate their assistance in promotion.
I woke up Sunday to beautiful blue sunny skies, and that certainly made me happy. Although it down poured overnight from Cadillac all the way to Traverse City, including at the race track, we still were able to work the track in to make it race ready. Although we didn’t know exactly what we’d get being a Sunday show, we were very pleased and grateful to all the cars that came out Sunday to race, jamming the pits full and totally 122 racing machines. We had 39 World of Outlaws Late Models back Sunday, and we also started all of our support division cars and did not send anyone home. Your support was felt and we wanted to give everyone the chance to race since they gave us the effort of showing up to put on a show and have some fun.
Thank you to each and every driver and crew member who helped carry the American flag up on to turn two during the opening ceremonies, in what I was told was a touching moment for several up in the grandstands. The fans came out for a Sunday show and we were three-quarters full.
On to the racing, we moved through the show as quickly as possible, having additional heats more than normal due to the high car count. Great problem to have! Dirk Vanauken held off Nick Jenema in an exciting Four Cylinder feature. Congrats to Dirk on collecting the $500 winner’s payday and trophy! Gary Hammar was awarded the victory after having a caution-filled Pro Truck race that saw several different leaders throughout the event. The race was called short due to time, and was reverted to the last fully completed lap on our scoring system, which put Gary in victory lane. The Pro Stocks came out in force, and we started all 23 cars cars in what turned out to be one of the better races of the weekend. Tim Near came out on top and we congratulation he and his team on the victory. 24 UMP Modifieds were on the property, and they all took the green in the final race of the night and yet again put on a fantastic 30-lap feature race. Jacob Poel is a tough man to beat and he proved that again, fending off a very fast Collin Thirlby for the win.
Last but not least the World of Outlaws Late Model tour went 50-laps caution free, making it 75-laps in total feature racing without a caution between Friday and Sunday. It was some damn good racing, and we congratulate Josh Richards on picking up the victory and big pay day. Thank you to the drivers that supported us and all of our weekly regulars who gave the touring stars a run for their money all weekend. We couldn’t do it without you, and we hope you know our level of gratitude is high. The World of Outlaws teams wanted to be done with their race by 10:00 p.m., and we nearly met that goal, with a checkered flag at 10:07. All in all it was a fabulous weekend… one that we look to continue annually moving forward!
This coming weekend we race on Saturday and Sunday, with the Engine Pro Gene Kregear Memorial Championship Weekend events. All of our divisions will be in competition and racing for double points both nights. The Dirt Cup Modified Tour will be with us Saturday night, and the Late Models will have the opportunity to run sideboards in a special feature for the nights show, along with our weekly UMP Late Model events. Sunday we come back with full heats and features once again for all divisions, where we will officially find out who our 2017 division champions will be in every division. You do not have to race Saturday, to compete on Sunday, as they are two entirely separate events. And, we will cap it all off with a giant fireworks spectacular on Sunday immediately following the last feature race.
Also don’t forget that we will be holding a special event on September 10th, known as the Diesel Freak Speedfest. Lots of money will be on the line for this purely fun night at Merritt, and you are all invited out to have a good time with us. Drivers, please make note that if you need tires for September 10 or for another event and you plan to purchase them through Merritt, please do so this coming weekend, as we will not sell tires on September 10th.
Thank you again to everyone who made last weekend so special, and we look forward to making this coming weekend just as great! Until then…
Well, mother nature finally got one on us this weekend. With all the race teams traveling from a greater distance than normal, coupled with the extensive widespread thunderstorms spanning across the Midwest, Kevin and I felt it best to pull the plug early. In my hometown, there was a confirmed tornado that went about a mile and a half away from my house. Hope everyone stayed safe and dry during the storms, and what was a nice extra soaking heading into this week.
Suddenly, we’re down to the final three weeks of our scheduled season beginning with the World of Outlaws Late Models this Friday and Saturday night! Fans have the opportunity to see the nations best Late Model stars wheel around Merritt and try to beat our local stars who I’m sure are going to give them a run for their money. It would be awesome to see the big money ($6,000-to-Win Friday and $15,000-to-Win Saturday) stay local, but either way it will be a genuine honor to host this globally recognized organization at our track.
The Modifieds race for $1,500-to-win on Saturday night and $150-to-start, with increased payouts for every support division on Friday and Saturday both. Four Cylinders will go for $500-to-win Saturday, but remember Saturday will be a non-points special since it was a late addition. Whether you are a Late Model chaser or simply a racing fan, these two days are going to be a treat. Come camp with us, beginning Thursday through Sunday and anytime in-between for only $20 and have some fun.
One note to our competitors, that the Late Model Sideboard special originally scheduled for September 10, is now taking place on Saturday, September 2 so that guys can run at Merritt, along with Crystal and Tri City with the same setup. Our Championship weekend is going to be a special two-day event again, and more information along with all the details for this weekend, and the Diesel Freak Speedfest are on our website under the Special Events tab.
We look forward to seeing you all this weekend! Keep your eyes peeled… you never know who may be walking around, with NASCAR just down the road in Jackson this weekend as well. There could be a surprise superstar behind the wheel or sitting next to you in the grandstands! We are excited and hope you are too.
See everyone Friday and Saturday!