Yesterday evening, I had the privilege of having dinner with Jenifer Johnson-Kiel and her boyfriend, the young lady that was swept up in the accident at the race track near the end of the year. It was excellent to get to know her a bit more and learn about her recovery. She still has a battle ahead of her, with roughly six weeks remaining in a wheelchair. Most days, her spirits are good, but some days are challenging for her as it would be for me or anyone that’s put in that position.
Anyone that has taken the time to send her a message, call, send a card, or make a donation to her for recovery, we want to say thank you. I want to give a special call out to Anji Morey, Aarons wife, who went out of her want to befriend Jenifer during this challenging process, take her out to lunch, bring her food, and more. What a prime example of the racing family support each other.
While she is more than halfway through her recovery, there is still a long road ahead. If you’d like to send a note of encouragement, it can go to 3375 Sunset Drive, Muskegon, MI 49444. We again want to thank everyone who’s sent something already and thank you to those that will in the days and weeks to come, along with your thoughts and prayers of support for Jenifer. (GoFund me page here)
Construction at the racetrack is underway and ongoing, with replacement of the bleachers and lights on the racetrack! It is certainly going to be a different look and feel next year and should be neat.
We are just over two weeks away from the awards banquet, which will again take place at The Wexford County Civic Center in Cadillac. There are a handful of you in the top 10 of our divisions that we have not heard from at all, and want to remind you that you must be in attendance to receive your trophy and purse money as the final note of 2016 gets finished. To notify us, email [email protected]. We estimate a similar or slightly larger crowd than last year, and would love to have you all there. We will have a few announcements regarding a handful of different topics, have some previews about our 2017 schedule, several videos, food, and more. If you missed last year, be sure to get there this year as we hope to put on an entertaining evening for all.
Hopefully your racing withdrawals aren’t as bad as mine as I already can’t wait until we open next spring! Looking forward to seeing you all at the banquet.
Hope everyone has been well. I know that we have been able to take a step back and breath a little bit after what was a generally very successful 2016 season.
Last weekend Kevin and I made the trip south to Eldora Speedway. It was my first time at the track and I was extremely impressed with the facilities, layout, and everything end to end. One thing I was not though, was surprised. I’ve always heard great things about Eldora and was pleased to be able to witness it for myself. We made the trip down to watch some of our local Michigan racers compete, and visit with them before the races. Although the weather put a damper on the Modified race causing it to be delayed, we had a great time.
We have slowly begun laying out the 2017 schedule and hope to have a few announcements during the banquet. Speaking of the banquet, we invite you to get your tickets as soon as possible. If you are unable to send in for your tickets yet, but are planning to attend, please email ([email protected]) or call 616-669-7178 and let us know. We are going to be placing our trophy order on October 14 and must know by then if you are planning to be in attendance. The final ticket order deadline is Wednesday, October 26. Tickets will NOT be sold or available at the door, so be sure to get yours purchased soon. We have hopes to make this years banquet even better than our first.
We are working on our 2017 rules package, and again hope to be in line with our neighboring tracks. We will be a DIRTcar-sanctioned track again next year for our UMP Late Model and UMP Modified classes. Also we will be adding the B Modifieds as a full-time division for 2017 and beyond.
The new Musco lights are in the process of being layed out for best coverage and will be in before the snow flies!
Follow our Facebook page for the most up-to-date information, pictures, videos, news stories, and more. It tends to get the updates while our website doesn’t always, so keep an eye on Facebook.com/MerrittSpeedwayRacing
Until next time,
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.