Mat Williamson Claims Opening Night Modified Win Saturday At Merrittville Speedway
Story By: JONATHON HOWE / MERRITTVILLE SPEEDWAY – THOROLD, ONT – Mother Nature won what was to be the first two nights of Merrittville Speedway’s 72nd season. However, the racing action on Loop Paint night more than made up for the two week’s that were missed.
Mat Williamson of St. Catharines, Ontario won the Corr/Pak Merchandising 358 Modified event, while fellow St. Catharines native Cody McPherson scored the win in the Right Choice Auto & Leisure DIRTcar Sportsman feature.
Hagersville’ Dave Bailey scored the win in the Hoosier Stock feature and St. Catharines local Alex Riley claimed the win in the Vansickle Pet Valu/PV on the Lane 44-cylinderevent which doubled as the first races for the Insta-Panels Duel on the Dirt in each class. Josh Sliter of Port Colborne took home the checkered flag in the Rona Doidge Building Centres Modified Lites.
Mat Williamson returned home to Merrittville Speedway Saturday night on an absolute heater. Dating back to last season he has won 5 of his last 7 Super DIRTcar series races, he won a big block event Friday at Lernerville, and Saturday he kept up the winning ways against a field he proclaimed the best in the country. Williamson started from the pole after winning his heat with Scott Wood on the outside of the opening row. Williamson controlled much of the 35-lap feature event which never got into any sort of routine thanks to several cautions for single car incidents. Defending co-champion of the Corr/Pak Merchandising 358 Modified’s at Merrittville Gary Lindberg was the main competition for the S&W Service Centre number 6, even taking the lead from Williamson narrowly at the line before a caution came out. Lindberg however could not hold Williamson at bay and settled for second. Wood came home third, with Pete Bicknell in fourth and Chad Brachmann of Sanborn, New York was fifth. Mike Bowman was the big mover the race after starting last of 21 cars, he methodically worked his way to the front and finished a very respectable sixth, while the other co-champion Ryan Susice rallied in the final 1/3rd of the race to finish 7th after bringing out a caution with a mechanical issue.
Cody McPherson and James Friesen picked up where they left off in 2022 in the Right Choice Auto & Leisure DIRTcar Sportsman. The two drivers battled for the title last season with McPherson coming out the victor, and on opening night in 2023, the race went much the same way. Friesen led the field to green and controlled most of the race while McPherson tracked him down from his third place starting position. After a restart, McPherson struggled to keep pace with Friesen, who amassed a comfortable lead, but another caution would give McPherson the chance to cool his tires and have another shot. The battle went down to the wire, with Friesen doing his best around the high side to keep the fight going side by side with McPherson but coming up short in a final drag race to the finish line. Brent Begolo finished third, Chad Chevalier was fourth in his return to DIRTcar Sportsman and Adam Leslie rounded out the top five.
Speaking of great duels, in the Hoosier Stocks Insta-Panels Duel on the Dirt event, fans were treated to another great Dave Bailey and Rob Murray battle at Merrittville Speedway. Mark Fawcett and Zach Bleich led the field of 27 cars to green. Murray was the first to the front after starting fifth. A red flag was thrown before the halfway mark when multiple cars were involved in an incident at the end of the front stretch that took out five cars. The red flag reset the field and on the restart Bailey, moved his way towards the front where he raced side by side for the lead with Murray, while Fawcett and Pete Reid kept the top two honest staying right in their tire tracks. Bailey would emerge victorious with Murray second, Fawcett third, Ryan Beagle gaining 14 spots to finish fourth and Reid finished fifth.
Josh Sliter took car of business in the Rona Doidge Modified Lites feature. He started from pole and was the class of the field all race long. Single car incidents involving R.J. Pietz and Ryleigh Sliter brought the field under caution multiple times. However, defending champion Brent Begolo couldn’t capitalize and Josh Sliter started the season in APC Victory Lane. Begolo came home second with Tyler Winger third, Sean Iftody fourth and Chris Watson was fifth.
Cole Hardy was the hard luck driver of the night. After starting the Vansickle Pet Valu/ PV on the Lane 4 Cylinder Inst-Panels Duel on the Dirt event from the outside pole, Hardy would lead most of the race before suffering a flat tire with less than three laps left and fading to ninth. This allowed Alex Riley to slip by and steal the win in his return to full time mini stock action. Nick Erskine had a strong run coming home second, while pole sitter Austyn Werstroh finished third. Clinton Barrick was fourth and Hana Rothwell was fifth.
Bobcat of Hamilton Weekly Racing returns May 13h at Merrittville Speedway on Auto FX Graphics and Signs night. The night will also mark the Big Bike Giveaway where lucky kids will have a chance at leaving the track with a new bicycle. Corr/Pak Merchandising 358 Modified’s, Right Choice Auto & Leisure DIRTcar Sportsman, Hoosier Stocks, Rona Doidge Modified Lites, and Vansickle Pet Valu/PV on the Lane 4 Cylinders will also be in action. Pit gates will open at 5:00 pm, grandstands open at 5:30, and racing will begin at 7:00 pm.
RACE RESULTS –- May 6th, 2023
Corr/Pak Merchandising 358 Modifieds – MAT WILLIAMSON (1), Gary Lindberg, Scott Wood, Pete Bicknell, Chad Brachmann, Mike Bowman, Ryan Susice, Dalton Slack, Fred Carleton, Brad Rouse, Darrell Farraway, Noah Walker, Dylan Davidson, Trevor Wright, Luke Carleton, Tom Neale, Boyd MacTavish, Shayne Pierce, Todd Gordon, Brandon Gruhl, Derek VanMil
Qualifying Heats – Mat Williamson, Scott Wood, Gary Lindberg
Right Choice Auto & Leisure DIRTcar Sportsman – CODY MCPHERSON (1), James Friesen, Brent Begolo, Chad Chevalier, Adam Leslie, Justin Sharp, Jay Mallory, Rob Knapp, Brett Senek, Jason VanMil, Taylor Vanderzanden, Billy Bleich Jr., Mitch Dumont, Terry Smith, Jordan Cosco, Nathan Peattie, Jeff Panunte, Matteo Panunte, Daniel McKay, Bill Gill, Graeme Toth, Noah Mamo, Curtis Friesen, Ryan Ferri, Paul Gaboury, Nelson Mason
Qualifying Heats – James Friesen, Justin Sharp, Cody McPherson
Hoosier Stocks – DAVE BAILEY (1), Rob Murray, Mark Fawcett, Ryan Beagle, Pete Reid, Donny Lampman, Kyle Pelrine, Chris Hale, Ron Loggie, Kyle Haynes, Todd Shaw, Tyler Lafantaise, Mason Smith, John Overholt, Ross Crowe, Jason Fontaine, Gord Grant, Bryce Richardson, Keith Dale, John Couture, Steve Shaw Sr., Gofast Teeple, Jeff Bean, Kacey Huffman, Trevor Want
Qualifying Heats: Mark Fawcett, Zach Bleich, Pete Reid
Rona Doidge Modified Lites – JOSH SLITER (1), Brent Begolo, Tyler Winger, Sean Iftody, Chris Watson, Ryan Anderson, Leroy Buscumb, R.J. Pietz, Rob Misener, Dan Kviring, Chance Kotar, Dave Cornish, Craig Martin, Anthony Kelly, Ryleigh Sliter, Ashton Anderson, Greg Zack
Qualifying Heats – Josh Sliter, Tyler Winger
Vansickle Pet Valu/PV on the Lane 4 Cylinders – ALEX RILEY (1), Nick Erskine, Austyn Werstroh, Clinton Barrick, Hana Rothwell, Vincent Pagnotta, Jordan Denobriga, John Lubeck, Cole Hardy, Mason Anderson, Rick VanKleef, Blair Rousselle, Douwe Degroot, Richard Hadler, Cierra Keus, Dave Winniger, Danny Wurster, James McDonald, Olivier Laroque, Scott Brown, Alex Tebow, Rick Beales, Randy Alway
Qualifying Heats – Austyn Werstroh, Cole Hardy, Nick Erskine