Hope you all had an enjoyable weekend! Last Saturday, we hosted 108 race cars on our Champion Recognition Night. Thank you to all the competitors who came out and put on a great show for a solid crowd. Special thank you to the former speedway champs who came to the front stretch pre-race and the meal served as well. It was also my pleasure to recognize the Ancel family, as we honored the late Rod Ancel. It was a joy to have them all out at the track last week, as we presented them with a photo, as well as flowers and had a group photo taken.
Recapping the night of racing, which proved to be pretty entertaining again in all of our divisions. The Mini Wedges took to a new makeshift track on the front straightaway and had four really good races, as the youngsters had to adapt to the new layout and surface. The girls ruled again Saturday, with Katie Robinson and Bella Erickson capturing the feature wins. Katie Robinson currently sits tied with Steven Niewenhuis for the points lead in the Mini Wedge season standings.
The Four Cylinders diced it up in their 15-lap feature, with Willard VanHaitsma claiming another feature win, over Chad Tomczak and Buddy Palahnuk. The Factory Stocks saw three guys charge from deep in the field, with Rick Spencer getting the win over a fast Jim Miller Jr, and Jake Thompson third. A mere 4-points separate Spencer from Miller Jr, on top of the Factory Stock standings in a battle that is sure to come right down to the end.
The Pro Stocks had a rough start to their 20-lap feature race, but settled in nicely and put on their standard wild, two and three wide racing. Current second place point runner TJ Erickson continued his hot streak, winning the feature on Saturday, edging now point-leader Rob Westergard who finished second, while Kevin Newberry finished a strong third. Four points separate Westergard from Marc Super, who currently sits third in the Pro Stock standings.
Hudsonville’s John Norder went back-to-back in the Lightning Sprint 20-lap feature on Saturday in impressive fashion, fending off former track champion Mack Erickson who came home second. Point leader Jordan Erickson finished third, with Kyle Vermilyea and Scott Flees rounding out the top five. This class has been enjoyable to watch grow and develop into a nice full-time division at Merritt. We thank all 24 drivers who have been with us to race at some point this year, and look forward to having you back on August 19 for open wheel night, where we have a special payout in store!
The UMP Modifieds raced for $2,000-to-win and $200-to-start last Saturday, and the racing didn’t disappoint! Yet another fantastic show they put on for everyone - again. Jacob Poel has been maybe the driver of the year in the State of Michigan, and he went to Allstar Performance Victory Lane Saturday. Poel had to earn the win though, as Joe Rokos made him work for it with a late race battle for the lead. Current point leader David Mielke finished third, while Rokos sits second in the standings in a battle that will really be good to the end.
A full field of Late Models raced for a great payout that Gilboe’s Lock and Safe put up last Saturday night and we want to thank them again for their support. Shout out to Chris Brindley, who won the Hardcore Performance Fast Car Dash in his 25 car, while Herb Reich, Bob Timmer and Greg Gokey picked up heat wins. After starting sixth, Gokey proved to be too much, and picked up his second win on the season, over Wade Witherspoon, Andrew Terrill, Steven Hilliker, and Herb Reich. Terrill made up some ground on current point leader Eric Spangler, now just 34-points out.
This coming Saturday, we host our second fan appreciation night with adult tickets only $10. We’ll have $1 canned beer and hot dogs from 5:00 to 6:30, as well as an autograph session on track for the youngsters. We will also have a bike raffle giveaway for two lucky kids in attendance, as well as a special Mini Wedge driver spotlight on track just before we go racing at 7:00. UMP LM & Mod drivers please note that we will qualify you at 5:30, so we can do the autograph session and stay on schedule. Pill draw cut will be at 5:00 on Saturday.
We’re quite excited about the rest of our schedule, as we host our final ‘regular’ night of racing this week, before we have specials for the final three weekends. First up will be the Open Wheel Spectacular with the Sprints on Dirt and Michigan Traditional Sprints both racing with our top classes. On August 26 and 27, the bad fast bad ass World of Outlaw Late Models come to Merritt for their only races in our State all season. That is going to be a really big event and we hope to get a lot of support for that show. Camping is free, and the party will be big, so be sure to come out.
We close the regular season with championship weekend, with both the American Ethanol Late Model and Modified Tours racing. Details regarding championship weekend, as well as our ‘Indian Summer’ hopeful race in October will be released next week. We hope to see many of you here for at least one, if not all, of these final weeks of racing before the long grueling off-season.
We are disappointed to have to announce that we will not be running the sideboards during championship weekend this year. To put it simply, my staff and I work very hard to promote and host big time events and partner with other tracks to unify racing in Michigan. We've worked with Mt Pleasant Speedway, Hartford Speedway, and others recently with great success. We formerly partnered with two non-UMP tracks to make the sideboard special neat for everyone who wanted to participate, and spectate both. Those two tracks now only seem interested in opposing whatever Merritt Speedway attempts, and therefore we won’t be moving forward with this special in conjunction with them.
Along those same lines, we soon will no longer be permitted to sell the stamped B Modified tires we’ve carried all season long for our racers. What we have in stock is all we’ll be able to sell. Merritt has evidently taken a bite out of those two tracks pie and they’re indirectly fighting back, which only hurts racing in our area. We strive simply to provide the best race track for drivers, teams, owners, along with fans young and old, families and friends. We’ll keep doing our very best to this end and thank you all for the continued and often overwhelming support of Merritt Speedway.