THOROLD, ON – It was a special night at Canada’s oldest dirt track for fans and drivers alike as Merrittville Speedway held its annual feature race in honour of Flyin’ Brian Stevens presented by DDL Accounting. Mat Williamson of St. Catharines, ON swept both the $444 Pole Dash Challenge and the 44 lap 358 Modified Feature.
James Friesen of Niagara on The Lake, ON won in the Sportsman main, while Hagersville, ON native Dave Bailey returned to victory lane in the Hoosier Stocks. The Modified Lites was won by Brent Begolo from Thorold, ON and Cole Hardy from Welland, ON won the 4 Cylinders event.
Flyin’ Brian Stevens meant a great deal to many around the Merrittville Speedway community including the driver and crew of the number 6 358 Modified. After defeating Brad Rouse in the final head-to-head to race of the $444 Pole Dash Challenge, Williamson turned down a significant amount of bonus money to try and win from the tail of the field.
With the added meaning to this 44-lap feature race, Williamson elected to start on pole alongside Rouse and lead the field to green. It wouldn’t be long until the first caution when Derek VanMil spun on lap 3.
Again, the caution came out on the restart as Dave Flannigan Jr. came around in the middle of turns three and four. Williamson survived the quick restarts and began opening up an advantage while Pete Bicknell moved into the 2nd position from 6th.
Caution was brought out again for multi-car incident on the back stretch that involved Scott Wood, Ken Winfield, and Derek VanMil on lap 11. The field did get a long green flag run following the restart, in which Williamson opened up a five second plus advantage on the field. Gary Lindberg passed Bicknell for 2nd and would get two shots at Williamson on restarts with 5 laps to go and in a Green-White-Checkered finish.
The late drama would not be enough to topple Williamson on this night though and driver number 6 scored the win in the Brian Stevens Memorial with Lindberg, Bicknell, Dalton Slack and Ryan Susice completing the top five finishers.
Ryan Ferri and Jeff Panunte made up the front row for the start of the Right Choice Auto & Leisure DIRTcar Sportsman feature. Ferri did a great job pacing the field early, surviving a couple early restarts. After a caution for Graeme Toth and Nathan Peattie tangling in turns 3 and 4, the race was taken over by some of the best heavy hitters in the Sportsman division including Cody McPherson, Justin Sharp and James Friesen who came away with the lead.
Friesen managed a 11-lap green flag run to the checkers to score his first win of the season over Sharp, McPherson Ferri, and Chad Chevalier who rallied after a spin on lap 3 to finish fifth.
Saturday night marked the second home track event for the Insta-Panels Duel on the Dirt in Hoosier Stock action. Bryce Richardson started on pole alongside Jason Fontaine who led the race early. Father and Son duo Jim and Donny Lampman emerged as contenders from rows two and three battling at times three cars wide with Fontaine for the lead of the race. Jim Lampman would emerge with the advantage.
Dave Bailey advanced from 13th through the field to race with the Lampman’s in their own three car battle for the top spot. With five laps to go, last week’s winner Pete Reid tangled with Rob Murray bringing out a caution.
On the restart, Bailey was finally able to dispose of the Lampman’s and clear to the lead but had to hustle around the final lap as Ryan Beagle slipped into second and chased Bailey to the checkered flag, coming up short. Bailey secured his third win at Merrittville on the year, with Beagle second, Jim Lampman third, Fontaine fourth and Donny Lampman rounding out the top five.
Brent Begolo was seeking redemption in the Modified Lites on Saturday. A week ago, he appeared to have the fastest car in the closing laps, closing on leader Josh Sliter, before a fluid leak ended his chances of winning. This Begolo was once again bad fast, quickly slicing through the field from eighth starting spot to the lead.
His race was not without drama as a restart with 5 laps to go brought main rival for race wins this season Josh Sliter alongside. However, Begolo would not be denied, driving off on the restart to win by a few car lengths over Sliter. Rob Misener finished third, Chris Watson came fourth after starting on the outside of the front row and Leroy Buscumb picked up five spots to finish fifth.
A jam-packed field for the 4 Cylinder Duel on the Dirt feature was led to green by Alex Tebow and Dave Winniger. Tebow unfortunately made headlines for the wrong reasons on lap 12. Leader John Lubeck was approaching Tebow set to put him a lap down, with Cole Hardy and Tyler Lafantaise knocking on the door of the leader.
Out of turn four, Tebow failed to make room for the faster lead pack, colliding with Lubeck, spinning him out of first place and gifting the lead to Hardy. Hardy was put the test, having to hold off last year’s 4-cylinder champion Lafantaise on a green-white-checkered finish, but was able to finally breakthrough for his first win since 2019 after health problems forced Hardy out of the car full time for a few seasons. Lafantaise held off teammate and friend Kyle Rothwell for second, Alex Riley finished fourth and Ken Hair brought home a top five finish.
RACE RESULTS –- June 3rd, 2023
Corr/Pak Merchandising 358 Modifieds – MAT WILLIAMSON (5), Gary Lindberg, Pete Bicknell, Dalton Slack, Ryan Susice, Fred Carleton, Boyd MacTavish, Shayne Pierce, Todd Gordon, Brad Rouse, Tom Neale, Trevor Wright, Darrell Farraway, Dylan Davidson, Scott Wood, Glenn Styres, Dave Flannigan Jr., Brandon Gruhl, Ken Winfield, Luke Carleton, Derek VanMil
$444 Pole Dash Challenge – Mat Williamson
Qualifying Heats – Gary Lindberg, Brad Rouse, Mat Williamson
Right Choice Auto & Leisure DIRTcar Sportsman – JAMES FRIESEN, Justin Sharp, Cody McPherson, Ryan Ferri, Chad Chevalier, Jordan Cosco, Terry Smith, Jay Mallory, Brent Begolo, Matteo Panunte, Adam Leslie, Paul Gaboury, Jason VanMil, Curtis Friesen, Jeff Panunte, Daniel McKay, Nelson Mason, Billy Bleich Jr. Rob Knapp, Nathan Peattie, Wayne Swinson, Bill Gill, Graeme Toth, Taylor Vanderzanden, Mitch Dumont, Noah Mamo, Rob Pietz
Qualifying Heats – Ryan Ferri, Curtis Friesen, Cody McPherson
Hoosier Stocks – DAVE BAILEY (3), Ryan Beagle, Jim Lampman, Jason Fontaine, Donny Lampman, Bryce Richardson, Ron Loggie, Ken Sargent, Jeff Larmet, Ryan Dinning, Kyle Pelrine, Rob Disher, Mark Fawcett, Pete Reid, John Couture, Zach Bleich, Rob Murray, Gofast Teeple, Tyler Lafantaise, Kyle Haynes, Jeff Bean, Kacey Huffman, Keith Dale, John Overholt, Terry Larmet, Murray Nichols, Trevor Want
Qualifying Heats: Jim Lampman, Zach Bleich, Kyle Pelrine
Rona Doidge Modified Lites – BRENT BEGOLO (3), Josh Sliter, Rob Misener, Chris Watson, Leroy Buscumb, Tyler Winger, Sean Iftody, R.J. Pietz, Ryan Anderson, Dan Kviring, Anthony Kelly, Ryleigh Sliter, Craig Martin, Cohen Corbett, Dave Cornish, Chance Kotar, Ashton Anderson
Qualifying Heats – Tyler Winger, Brent Begolo
Vansickle Pet Valu/PV on the Lane 4 Cylinders – COLE HARDY, Tyler Lafantaise, Kyle Rothwell, Alex Riley, Ken Hair, Olivier Larocque, Brian Aube, Vincent Pagnotta, Cierra Keus, Clinton Barrick, Sam Iftody, Randy Always, John Lubeck, Richard Hadler, Douwe Degroot, Jordan Denobriga, Donald Deagle, Blair Rousselle, Kevin Conley, Alex Tebow, Roger Winfield, Dave Winniger, Rob Goulding, Austyn Werstroh, Mason Anderson, Scott Brown, Hana Rothwell, Steve Conway, Steven Ellis, James McDonald
Qualifying Heats – Ken Hair, Tyler Lafantaise, Alex Riley