Fan favorites get all the headline ink at autograph party
Fan favorites ended deservedly in victory lane on Saturday when Merrittville Speedway hosted its first autograph party of the 2022 track racing season.
Mat Williamson led fellow St. Catharines driver Pete Bicknell across the finish line to take the checkered flag in the 35-lap modified 358 feature. It was the 32-year-old rider’s third win of the season at the Thorold track and his 10th win overall in 30 starts so far this season.
Bicknell took top-loader honors in Merrittville’s premier racing class after passing 11 cars to finish top of the standings.
The modified 358 wasn’t the only division to feature a repeat winner in a program presented by Auto FX Graphics and Signs of St. Catharines.
Thorold’s Tyler Lafantaisie rebounded from a fourth-place finish last week to top the 4-cylinder class for the fifth time in six starts at his hometown track.
Lafantaisie’s win from behind over Twisted Metal Racing teammate Austyn Wesstroh in 15 laps was his second victory in as many nights. Lafantaisie, who started the feature 15th in a field of 25, won Friday night’s Mini Stock feature at Ohsweken Speedway.
St. Catharines’ Cody McPherson, the reigning points king in Merrittville’s Sportsman Division, raced from eighth in the field to win his third of the season and his first since May 7. He followed two seventh-place finishes by finishing second last week.
Defending Mod Lite track champion Brent Begolo looked almost certain to win his fourth feature of the season. However, his car began to sputter and slow after a late restart, forcing him into the pits as Ridgeway’s Tyler Winger won his first of the season.
That didn’t end Begolo’s night, however. He was back behind the wheel of another No. 16 two races later and followed only McPherson and Friesen across the finish line in the 30-lap Sportsman feature.
Former Hoosier Stock track champion Rob Murray started the main event at the speedway’s 8-cylinder class night at the field. Midway through 20 laps, the St. Catharines driver was setting the pace en route to the first win of a season that began with engine failure on opening night.
The V6, Merrittville’s entry-level class, has raced only twice this season due to low car numbers. Welland’s Dustin Duga continued his championship defense on the track by winning his second in a row.
Ken Schrader, 67, who raced in the NASCAR Cup Series from 1984 to 2013, is expected to compete in a modified 358 when racing returns to Merrittville next Saturday.
A tour of the Action Sprint Tour, Sportsman, 4-Cylinders and School Bus Races complete Vansickle PetValu’s program in St. Catharines. Pit doors open at 5 p.m., grandstands at 5:30 p.m. and racing starts at 7 p.m.
Here are the top five and the winners of Saturday night’s program round:
Corr/Pak Merchandising 358 Modified, LP: 1. Mat Williamson, 2. Pete Bicknell, 3. Fred Carleton, 4. Shayne Pierce, 5. Gary Lindberg. Round winners: Todd Gordon, Williamson, Chad Chevalier. Land: 19.
Right Choice Auto & Leisure DIRTcar Sportsman 25 Laps: 1. Cody McPherson, 2. James Friesen, 3. Brent Begolo, 4. Taylor Vanderzanden, 5. Rob Knapp. Round winners: Terry Smith, Friesen, Knapp. Field: 20.
Hoosier Tire Canada Stock Hoosier, 20 rounds: 1. Rob Murray, 2. Kyle Pelrine, 3. Bryce Richardson, 4. Zach Bleich, 5. Dave Bailey. Round winners: Jason Fontaine, Donny Lampman. Land: 15.
Rona Doidge Building Center Modified Lites, 20 towers: 1. Tyler Winger, 2. Sean Iftody, 3. Jeffery May, 4. Rob Misener, 5. RJ Pietz. Round winners: May, Brent Begolo. Land: 16.
Vansickle Pet Valu/PV on the 4-cylinder, 15-turn lane: 1. Tyler Lafantaisie, 2. Austyn Werstroh, 3. Trevor DeBoer, 4. Clinton Barrick, 5. Alex Riley. Round winners: Ken Hair, Barrick Wertroh. Land: 25.
V6, 12 turns: 1. Dustin Duga, 2. Jordan Fidler, 3. Jeff Marsh, 4. Zach Dmytrow, 5. Nicholas Browning Storring. Land: 6.
Follow the conversation: The following riders finished Friday night in victory lane as Ohsweken Speedway ran a program for the first time in nearly three years: Dylan Westbrook, 360 Sprint Cars; Darren Dryden, Crate Sprint Cars; Dave Bailey, Thunder Stocks; Tyler Lafantaisie, Mini Stocks in almost three years… A total of 993 days have passed. The final race was on the 3/8 mile clay oval southeast of Brantford on September 14, 2019.