Merritt Speedway Celebrates 50 Years with Huge Double Header Weekend
Lake City, Michigan (Saturday August 4th, 2018): The Merritt Speedway celebrated its 50th year in operation this past weekend with awarding it’s highest payouts of the 2018 season with all eight divisions competing. The weekend began with the preliminary races that were held on Friday followed by the dash for cash and main event feature that ran on Saturday followed by a great fireworks display. The show featured the Soaring Eagle UMP DIRTcar Late Models, Cadillac Tire Center UMP DIRTcar Modifieds, Diesel Freak B-Modifieds, Cadillac News Lighting Sprints, Auto Value Pro Stocks, Lake City Materials Factory Stocks, XLT Engineering Four-Cylinders, and Allstar Performance Mini-Wedges. The show was presented by Gilboe’s Lock and Safe.
Kicking off the main events of the weekend were the youngest competitors on the property which were the Allstar Performance Mini-Wedges, as usual running both “Restricted” and “Un-Restricted” divisions with fantastic turnout on Saturday night. The “Un-Restricted” division had enough drivers to run two A-Mains. The first winner was Jake Erickson who finished just ahead of Lillian Erickson, Landyn Neitling, Pierson DeShano, and Teegan Williams. Then in the second feature it was Claire Krajniak winning over Autumn Erickson, Troy Yetter, Leilynd Strehlke, and Cole Shanteau who finished out the top five. Then, in the “Un-Restricted” division it would be Kyron DeShano who picked up the win. Brennan DeShano, Clay Lachcik, Bella Erickson, and Nathan Winters rounded out the top five. The heat race winners were Cole Schymanski and Landyn Neitling (Restricted) and Landon Kirt (Un-Restricted).
13-year old Chase Burda and Aaron Spearling led out the 25-lap main event for the Lake City Materials Factory Stocks. The green flag dropped and Burda jumped out in front of everyone with the early race lead. A race long battle would begin with Burda trying to fend off both the 2017 track champion Rick Spencer and Jake Thompson. Burda held the lead until Spencer made the pass on lap 9. It was then Spencer’s race to lose with Burda and Thompson in hot Pursuit. However, when the dust settled it was Spencer picking up the victory. This was his fifth win of the year in his Spencer’s Auto Salvage #M65. Thompson scored the second-place finish. Burda, 16-year old Dale Kaake III, and Spearling made up the top five. Burda also won the four-car dash.
The Cadillac News Lightning Sprints rolled out for their 25-lap A-Main. It would be Lindsey Erickson and Johnny Roberts on the coveted front row. Erickson pulled out with the advantage early on. She would be able to hold the top position until lap 5 when Johnny Roberts powered his way by to take over the lead. Roberts would see pressure from the 2015-track champion Mack Erickson for several laps. Unfortunetly Mack would suffer from mechanical issues and was forced to pull off, leaving Roberts to sail on to get the win. This was Robert’s second win of the season in his Pat’s Auto #2A. Lindsey Erickson, John Norder, Chuck Erickson, and Rusty Havens finished out the top five. Lindsey Erickson also won the four-car dash.
The XLT Engineering Four-Cylinders competed in a 20-lap main event. 2017 track champion Willard VanHaitsma and 14-year old Gabby Susdorf brought the field out to take the green. VanHaitsma pulled away with the top position after lap 1. VanHaitsma held his ground through the first 18 laps and then a hard charging Bobby Fetters worked his way up to challenge VanHaitsma and would indeed take the lead away. That turned out to be the last move needed by Fetters who went on from there to win the event. This was the 14-year old rookie driver from Standish, Michigan’s second main event win in his DL Racing #3. 19-year old Cheyanne Emery, Jakub Burr, George Finney Jr., and 18-year old Trent Matthews capped off the top five. Jacques Julin and Blake Gokee won the four-car dashes.
The Cadillac Tire Center UMP DIRTcar Modifieds hit the track for a 50-lap feature event with Joe Rokos and 2008 track champion Chad Bauer sitting on the first row. Rokos wasted little time in charging away from the rest of the field leading after the green flag waved. He would be able to lead until on lap 11 the 4-time track, and 5-time UMP DIRTcar Michigan state champion David Mielke would propel his way past to take the lead over. No matter what any of the other great talent on the track tried there was no stopping Mielke as he would maintain the lead all the way from there and go to victory lane. Bauer would finish second. 2017 American Ethanol Modified tour champion Jacob Poel, Collin Thirlby, and Dave Baker rounded out the top five. Thirlby won the four-car dash.
The Auto Value Pro Stocks squared off in a 25-lap feature race with Tim Murphy and Tim Tabaczka leading the field at the start. Tabaczka won the battle for the lead on the opening lap. It wasn’t until lap 11 when a hard charging Chad Bieri thundered by taking the top spot for his own. Things would remain that way until with five laps to go Nate Murphy had maneuvered his way up to the front of the field and did take the lead. He would go on to be the first to the checkered flag. Murphy the native of Coleman, Michigan picked up his second feature win at Merritt in his #69. Three-time track champion T.J. Erickson finished just behind in second after starting 15th. Tabaczka, Bieri, and Jacob Flickinger completed the top five. Tabaczka also won the four-car dash.
Reid Sanders and 15-year old Austin Harnick brought out the Diesel Freak B-Modifieds for their 40-lap main event. When the green flag waved Scott Payton pulled away as if he was shot out of a cannon, with everyone else battling for position behind him. The event saw several of the drivers who started at rear of the field make their way up to the top ten, one being Timmy Near who originally started 13th and was up to second trying to catch Payton. But despite everyone’s best effort Payton would lead the entire event picking up the big win. Near had to settle for second. Harnick, Scott Smith, and Josh Loomis made up the rest of the top five. Myron DeYoung won the last chance qualifier, and Harnick won the four-car dash. Payton driving out of Gaylord, Michigan in his Big Boy Tv / Longhorn Chassis #711 picked up his fifth main event win.
The night ended with the 50-lap A-Main for the Soaring Eagle UMP DIRTcar Late Models ran in the memory of Gene Kreager who built the speedway back in 1968 and Ed Vanduinen who was one of the longest serving promoters. Greg Gokey and two-time American Late Model Series Champion Brandon Thirlby led the field down to chief starter Randy Hose’s green flag. Thrilby charged off with the lead after lap 1. Soon after though David Mielke would answer and take the lead for himself on lap 3. This began a thrilling battle between the two drivers, each leading at several points until lap 30. Mielke was eventually able to put some distance between him and Thirlby. The race would see several cautions, but when it was all over Mielke made the trip to victory lane. This was the Gladwin, Michigan native’s first major event win in the Dan Moriarity / Rocket Chassis #87. Nick Kurtz would finish in second. Thirlby, Six-time track champion Eric Spangler, and two-time UMP DIRTcar National Champion Rusty Schlenk finished off the top five finishers. JC Witherspoon and Chris Brindley won the last chance qualifiers. Schlenk won the four-car dash.
The next event for Merritt Speedway will be this Saturday August 11th. The show will be headlined by the Soaring Eagle UMP DIRTcar Late Models. Plus, the Cadillac Tire Center UMP DIRTcar Modifies, Cadillac News Lighting Sprints, Auto Value Pro Stocks, Lake City Materials Factory Stocks, XLT Engineering Four-Cylinders, and Allstar Performance Mini-Wedges.