2013 Season Opener in the books at Merritt Speedway
Sunny skies and perfect race conditions greeted fans and drivers as Merritt Speedway kicked off the 2013 race season this past Saturday night. 81 cars in the 5 regular classes rolled into the pits on opening night to thrill fans with an action packed night of side by side racing on the new race surface.
The action started with veteran driver, Eric Spangler and Late Model rookie Jordan Erickson setting fast time of the night in the UMP Late Model division with laps of 14.36 sec. Chad Bauer topped the charts in Super 8 UMP Modified qualifying with a lap of 15.47.
Opening ceremonies included a moment of silence honoring past promoter and flagman, Rod Ancel and the passing of the torch from Rick Ancel to new promoters, Steve and Stacey Potter.
The UMP Late Models would get things off to great start with Rich Neiser carrying the first checkers of the night in the Dash over Andy Chester, Eric Spangler and Jordan Erickson. Spangler, Josh Knoll and Neiser scored the heat race wins while Greg Gokey found his way to victory lane in the “B” Main. In the 25 lap “A” Main event, pole sitter, Eric Spangler would take the lead as the green flag flew with the two 87’s, Rich Nieser and Josh Knoll in hot pursuit. It wasn’t until midway through the race that Spangler was finally able to stretch out a lead over the competition leaving Neiser and Knoll to battle for the runner up position. Spangler would drive on to score the first feature race of the year in UMP Late Model action over Rich Neiser, Josh Knoll, Curtis Roberts, David Hilliker, Andy Galgoci, Allen Markel, Jeremy Tulick, John McDonald and Mike Kresnak.
In the Super 8 UMP Modified Dash, Kevin Miller made it to victory lane over Roy Harvey, Chad Bauer and Tyler Norton. Roger Steig carried the checkers in heat #1 over Norton and Bauer while Larry Cade picked up the win in heat #2 followed by Brent Banning and John Taylor. In the feature event, Chad Bauer took the lead from outside the front row as the green flag flew from pole sitter, John Taylor. On lap 5, Taylor fell off the pace leaving Larry Cade and Roger Steig to battle for the runner up spot behind Bauer. By mid – race Brent Banning had worked his back to second and set his sights on the leader, but Chad ran a smooth consistent line to lead flag to flag for the win. Kevin Miller passed Banning with just three laps remaining to finish second over Banning, Larry Cade, Roger Steig, Roy Harvey, Donnie Roberts, Paul Johnson and Andrew Terrill.
Richie Sutherland started his season off with a bang in the Pro Truck division by scoring the heat race win over last year’s champion, Mike Nelson Jr. and Dick Stout. In the “A” Main, Sutherland took the lead from the pole while Brent Neverth battled with Mike Nelson Jr. for second. On lap #3, Neverth cleared Nelson and started his pursuit on Sutherland. Richie would hold off all challenges and drove on to sweep the night with his feature event victory. Brent Neverth held on to finish second followed by Bobby Liuzzo III, Mike Nelson Jr., Jerry Mynarcik, Mark Sheffield and Dick Stout.
The Pro Street division was strong with 18 cars checking in to do battle on the new surface at Merritt Speedway. Steven Hilliker carried the checkers in heat #1 over Bob Fetters Sr. and Rob Brillhart while 2012 Merritt champion, T.J. Erickson scored the win in heat #2 followed by Randy Radabaugh and Timmy Near. Steven Hilliker led the field to the green flag in the feature event but was unable to hold off T.J. Erickson from taking the lead from outside the front row. Hilliker had his hands full trying to hold off Randy Radabaugh. Radabaugh took over the runner spot on lap #6 but Hilliker battled back and regained the position two laps later. Erickson took advantage of the spirited battle for second and cruised on to score the win. Hilliker held on to second followed by Timmy Near, Randy Radabaugh, Rick Beauchamp, Tim Tabaczka and Rob Brillhart.
Jimmy’s Collision Factory Stock division saw Rick Stewart make his way to victory lane in the heat race followed by Terry Fancett and Art Johnson. In the feature event Mike Champlin took the lead as the green flag flew with Rick Stewart glued to his tail. On lap #3 Stewart took over the point and paced the field for the next 5 laps until surrendering the lead to the hard charging Terry Fancett. Terry would go on to lead the final 8 circuits and score the victory with Jamie Fancett a close second. Rick Stewart, Scott Boyde and Craig Wertz rounded out the top five.
Spring Championship races are on tap for this Saturday, May 25th for all 5 regular classes at Michigan’s most award winning dirt track, Merritt Speedway.
See ya at the races.