Merrittville Opens 47th Season

VETERANS AND ROOKIES ON TRACK FOR '98 AFTER MERRITTVILLE PRACTICE DAY Thorold, Ontario ... Merrittville Speedway's 47th consecutive season of DIRT-sanctioned excitement kicked off with a practice day Saturday April 18th. Defending and 12 time...

VETERANS AND ROOKIES ON TRACK FOR '98 AFTER MERRITTVILLE PRACTICE DAY

Thorold, Ontario ... Merrittville Speedway's 47th consecutive season of DIRT-sanctioned excitement kicked off with a practice day Saturday April 18th. Defending and 12 time Modified Points Champion Pete Bicknell was one of the first cars on the speedway and the St. Catharines driver looked to be in championship form from the first hot lap. Looking to make their own headlines, veterans shaking down their new cars included '97 runner-up Scott Wood, up and coming driver Wayne Conn, veterans Brian Stevens, Don Turner and Doug Gordon, Don Martin, Luke Carleton, Doug Swinson, Bill Willard, Rich Vinson and Rick Rickner were all breaking in their new cars.

Making his first trip onto the speedway in a number of years was second generation driver Jim Begolo. The fan favorite is making a comeback in '98 as part of a two car team owned by former driver Terry St. Amand. Don McGinnis was also in the pit area running some pretty quick times in the St. Amand-owned car scheduled to be driven by former points champion Ron Smoker.

A true rookie looking to break into the Modified field in '98 include Dan Miller whose #22 is the former Harvey Hainer car of last season.

Chad Brachman looked to have quickly figured out his new Bicknell Sportsmen Chassis - a change for this driver on the move. Veteran Pete Cosco put in some fast laps also loaning his 17C of fellow Texaco Havoline team-mate Larry Lampman who will be ready to defend his first title opening night.

Rookie driver Joe Middlemiss looked quicker after every lap through-out the afternoon. Middlemiss is a former Kart racer and is starting the open wheel cars for 98. Also making his first year in the Sportsmen division John McKenney adapted quickly after recently returning from the Brett Hearn Driving School. Former Mod Stock driver Tim Anderson also put in some track time.

In their first full season the Late Model Division looks to increased fields and further interest in '98 as all cars must run the aluminum aftermarket body & 'spec' engine combination. Ken Sargent looks to repeat as champion with his new Lumina despite an oil pressure problem in the #25. Todd Gordon, Rob Reece and Rob Murray both had some fast laps as well.

Former Pro-Stock points champion Don Spiece is returning to the new division in '98 with a new look for the second generation driver and he was quick to find the fast way around the d-shaped oval. Former driver Bill Spiece also put a few laps in creating some family rivalry as did former Modified driver George Sider.

The Street Stock division had a good turn-out with a number of drivers poised to challenge defending champion Jeff Dayman a new number and look for the Terry Labonte-inspired car. Alex Whalen looks to improve on his first win in last year's rookie season with veterans Mike Ward and Al Smith among those to challenge. Other veterans include Dan Gilbert, Dana Turner, and Rob Knapp with a good rookie crop to include drivers such as Shawn Kews and Tom Wilson. Incidently the Wilson Car was built as a Shop Project at Kernahan Park Secondary School in St. Catharines.

All of the drivers that practiced should have a head-start on the rest of the field when Merrittville Speedway opens for the 47th season Saturday April 25th. Racing will take place in all divisions with the 358 Modifieds looking forward to a showdown. Regular events and points will start for all other divisions - Sportsmen, Late Models, Street Stocks and Pure Stocks. The fabulous four divisions will all run for double points with the 98 358 Modified points race beginning Saturday May 2. Representatives from Champion Sprak Plug will be in attendance on the 25th when the gates open at 5:30. Race time is 7:15. For further information call 905-892-8266.

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Series Stock car
Drivers Terry Labonte , Dan Miller , Doug Gordon , Tom Wilson