Story By: JONATHON HOWE / MERRITTVILLE SPEEDWAY – THOROLD, ONT – As the calendar rolled over to September, Merrittville Speedway was ready to crown champions on the final points night of the season Saturday night presented by Semenuk’s Esso.
Pete Bicknell of St. Catharines, Ontario won the 50 lap John Spencer Memorial feature in the Corr/Pak Merchandising 358 Modifieds.
Chad Chevalier of Port Colborne, Ontario saw the checkered flag first in the Right Choice Auto & Leisure DIRTcar Sportsman. Canfield, Ontario’s Mark Fawcett was the feature winner in the Hoosier Stocks. The Rona Doidge Modified Lites Feature went to Brent Begolo of Thorold, Ontario and the Vansickle Pet Valu/PV on the Lane 4 Cylinder feature was won by Olivier Larocque of Welland, Ontario.
The season ending 50 lap John Spencer Memorial began with Dave Flannigan Jr. and Ken Winfield at the front of the field. By simply starting the race, Pete Bicknell clinched his 25th track championship at Merrittville Speedway. While the event started with a touch chaos, leading to two cautions in the opening five laps, drivers did eventually find a groove, including Bicknell who took control of the race after just 10 laps from Ken Winfield. The final caution came on lap 18 when Brad Rouse had a mechanical failure while running second. Bicknell drove away from the field on the restart, building a large lead over Fred Carleton. Bicknell was unmatched and without any cautions in the races final 33 laps, he cruised to the win and the championship. The win was Pete’s eighth in the John Spencer Memorial. Carleton came home second with Todd Gordon, Justin Sharp and Shayne Pierce completing the top 5 finishers.
Bill Gill and Graeme Toth led the Right Choice Auto & Leisure DIRTcar Sportsman field to green. Lap six saw Taylor Vanderzanden take the lead only to surrender the top spot a few laps later when a rear suspension failed. Chad Chevalier took the lead at lap 10 and never looked back. The race ran Green to Checkered without caution. Cody McPherson claimed the track title with a second-place finish. Billy Bleich Jr was third, with Noah Mamo fourth and James Friesen fifth.
The Hoosier Stocks ran a caution filled feature event Saturday night, that saw the yellow flag wave seven times by lap 13. It was a race of redemption for Mark Fawcett, who lost a photo finish by .001 a week ago. This week, the veteran won handily over the field, leaving no doubt in anyone’s mind who was the winner. Pete Reid finished in the second spot, while Ryan Dinning, Ron Loggie and Zach Bleich completed the top 5 finishers. Dave Bailey clinched the track championship in Hoosier Stocks a week prior thankfully for the driver of the number 49. After picking up damage in the races early incident’s and losing laps to the leader, Bailey limped home to a 15th finish.
The Rona Doidge Modified Lites track title was also already signed, sealed, and delivered to Brent Begolo. However, the champ was still on a quest for double digits. Begolo entered Saturday Night’s feature event with nine wins. To get number 10, Begolo had to drive up the field from eight position. This was exactly what he did and wasted no time doing so. Begolo took the lead on lap four after a restart. The champ held off the field on restarts with six, five and four laps to go, putting an empathetic exclamation point on a season for the ages. Josh Sliter would finish second again to Begolo with Rob Misener, and Tyler Winger rounding out the feature top five finishers.
The Vansickle Pet Valu/ PV on the Lane 4 Cylinders had the tightest points battle heading into the final night. Four drivers were with 28 points of each other, with all the pressure on Austyn Werstroh to hang on to his slim margin over Alex Riley. Werstroh had a horrible start to the feature when he was caught up in an early multi car incident. Just a few laps later Werstoh became the caution when he stopped on the high side of 3 and 4. Meanwhile, championship hopefully Olivier Larocque paced the field as the leader with Riley driving up to third position from his 15th starting spot. On the final lap, the yellow came out setting up an overtime finish to decide the race and the track title. Werstroh was suddenly in the hole, needing to move to at least seventh spot with where Riley was running to hang on the title. The restart saw Larocque drive off with a lead, while Riley maintained third. Werstroh made a valiant effort driving from 12th to ninth with a damaged car, but he ultimately came up short and Alex Riley would win the track title with a third-place finish. Larocque, who was 28 points back when the race began, won the feature but needed to be closer to potentially walk it off with the win and championship. Rob Goulding ran second with Riley third, Kyle Rothwell fourth and the other championship hopeful Cole Hardy in fifth.
Next week is the final stock car racing night of the season at Merrittville Speedway with racing action as Cotton Inc helps us welcome the Southern Ontario Sprints back to Merrittville. Joining the 360 Sprint Cars will be the Right Choice Auto & Leisure DIRTcar Sportsman, Hoosier Stocks, Rona Doidge Modified Lites and Vansickle Pet Valu/PV on the Lane 4 Cylinders who will all compete in their final Bobcat of Hamilton Weekly Racing. Pit gates will open at 5:00 pm, grandstands open at 5:30, and racing will begin at 7:00 pm.
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RACE RESULTS –- September 2nd, 2023
Corr/Pak Merchandising 358 Modifieds – PETE BICKNELL (3), Fred Carleton, Todd Gordon, Justin Sharp, Shayne Pierce, Boyd MacTavish, Jay Mallory, Dave Flannigan Jr., Darrell Farraway, Scott Wood, Paul Gaboury, Derek VanMil, Brian Page, Billy Bleich Jr., Ken Winfield, Brad Rouse, Luke Carleton, Brandon Gruhl
Qualifying Heats – Brad Rouse, Luke Carleton
Right Choice Auto & Leisure DIRTcar Sportsman – CHAD CHEVALIER (2), Cody McPherson, Billy Bleich Jr., Noah Mamo, James Friesen, Nelson Mason, Terry Smith, Matt Sharpe, Jay Mallory, Rob Knapp, Tyler Willard, Mitch Dumont, Jordan Cosco, Adam Leslie, Graeme Toth, Matteo Panunte, Curtis Friesen, Jason VanMil, Daniel McKay, Nathan Peattie, Taylor Vanderzanden, Bill Gill, Joey Mastroianni, Brent Begolo
Qualifying Heats – Terry Smith, Rob Knapp, Graeme Toth
Hoosier Stocks – Mark Fawcett, Pete Reid, Ryan Dinning, Ron Loggie, Zach Bleich, Jason Fontaine, Donny Lampman, Rob Murray, John Couture, Gofast Teeple, Jim Lampman, Kyle Haynes, Jeff Bean, Rick Book, Dave Bailey, John Overholt, Keith Dale, George Grosul, Ken Sargent, Kyle Pelrine
Qualifying Heats: Kyle Pelrine, Donny Lampman, Mark Fawcett,
Rona Doidge Modified Lites – BRENT BEGOLO (10), Josh Sliter, Rob Misener, Tyler Winger, R.J. Pietz, Chris Watson, Sean Iftody, Cohen Corbett, Leroy Buscumb, Ryan Anderson, Anthony Kelly, Chance Kotar, Dan Kviring, Ashton Anderson, Dave Cornish, Roger Pardis, Ryleigh Sliter
Qualifying Heats – Sean Iftody, Brent Begolo
Vansickle Pet Valu/PV on the Lane 4 Cylinders – OLIVIER LAROCQUE (3), Rob Goulding, Alex Riley, Kyle Rothwell, Cole Hardy, Ken Hair, Mason Andersob, Randy Always, Austyn Werstroh, Cierra Keus, Blair Rousselle, John Lubeck, Vincent Pagnotta, Douwe Degroot, Ray Cerenzia, Richard Hadler, Roger Winfield, San Iftody, Brian Aube, James Marshall, Jacob McIntyre, Tina Ronning, Clinton Barrick, Nick Bowman, Hanna Rothwell, Dave Winniger
Qualifying Heats – Ken Hair, Olivier Larocque, Cierra Keus