And just like that, my first season with Merritt is over with. 2015 was full of learning experiences, starting out a bit slow and I feel finishing strong with our Gene Kregear Championship Weekend.
The inaugural event on Saturday and Sunday was a pretty solid event, as we hosted more than 160 cars across the two days. Considering the uncertain weather on Saturday, the grandstands filled up nicely and did again Sunday even with the hot and muggy weather. Tons of $1.00 beer and hot dogs were sold all night, and the fireworks display was enjoyable to close out the night Sunday.
With seven divisions and two touring series, we had a ton of races and laps made last weekend. 37 Late Models showed up Saturday to race in our championship event, and put on a great show as usual with good runs by Greg Gokey, Ryan Vanderveen and Ed Reyes. Congratulations to Rich Neiser who took home the checkered flag. Sunday night 27 Late Models raced with us, and Rich Neiser picked up the checkered flag once again, in the Gene Playter Memorial 41 American Ethanol Series race. We want to congratulate Eric Spangler on his championship win in the Keyser Manufacturing Late Models and an outstanding season! Rich Neiser, Brook Brasington, Bill Bray, and Mike Kresnak rounding out the top five. The accident with the Dave Bowen was unfortunate, as of course we never like to see anyone get tangled up or in an accident like that. But I do feel the driver and everyone else involved, including myself, could learn from this.
David Mielke continued his winning ways, topping the 24 other Modifieds who showed up with the Michigan Dirt Cup Tour Saturday night. Brent Banning, Joe Rokos, Brian Brindley, and Aaron Morey were the top five. Sunday, Aaron Morey led and ran up front all race, and battled with Mielke to the finish. David picked up the win again Sunday, Morey second, Chad Bauer, Joe Rokos, and Brent Banning were the top five. I mentioned it earlier in the year, but it was an honor to have David Mielke race with us weekly this season, and congratulations to him on his title win in the Cadillac Tire Center Modifieds. Joe Rokos beat Brent Banning by just 4-points for second, Chad Bauer, and Travis Stemler were the top five.
The Lightning Sprint races were the only features of the weekend to go caution free, which I think everyone loved including myself. 11-year-old racer Andrew Scheid raced up through the field and passed for the lead in traffic, before capturing his first Merritt Speedway checkered flag. Sunday he backed it up, with another win to close out the season, over a great run by Lindsey Erickson who led much of the race. Congratulations to Mack Erickson on getting the Lightning Sprint Championship, after dominating this season with five wins and 12 top five finishes. Lindsey Erickson, Chuck Erickson, Tom Hunt, and Justin Ward round out the top five.
Dick Stout and his green 66 Pro Truck got to the winners circle for the first time this season on Saturday, and rode the wave of momentum right back to his second win of the year Sunday. Bobby Liuzzo Jr. wins the Hardcore Performance Pro Truck championship, over Bob Hammar, Gary Hammar, Jerry Mynarcik, and Dick Stout round out the top five in Pro Truck points, of 16 total trucks the competed in the division in 2015.
Tim Near was the big winner on Saturday night in the Pro Stocks, and we had a great field of cars on hand with 22 cars. T.J. Erickson, Dan Hersey, Chris Peyerk, and Steven Hilliker were the top five Saturday. Sunday Chris Peyerk snagged the win, his first of the season, over Steven Hilliker, Rick Spencer, Ritchie Sutherland, and Archie Miles were first five. Steven Hilliker was the man most of the season, racking up 10 wins and 14 top fives in his 16 starts. Congratulations to him on an outstanding season, as well as Rick Spencer, Bob Timmer, Chris Peyerk, and Ritchie Sutherland who were the rest of the top five.
The Factory Stock division saw 53 different drivers come and chase the checkered flag throughout the season, but Jim Miller Jr. showed the way for a lot of the year. Jim won the feature races on both Saturday and Sunday, as well as captured the division title with nine impressive victories and finished in the top 10 in every one of his starts. Kevin Miller, Will Stanley, Doug Patterson, Eric Lake, Kendall Marlink, and Mike Roe all had great runs last weekend. Congratulations to Kenny Keller, Jacob Flickinger, Vern Smith, and Aaron Spearling who finished in the class’ top five season points.
Last but most definitely not least, is our 4-Cylinder division. Nick Jenema powered to a win on Saturday, over Dale Sunderman and Dwight Crawford. Crawford won Sunday, fending off Dirk Vanauken, Chad Tomczak and Radian Schmidt. Congratulations to Chad Tomczak on winning the the division championship, scoring six victories on the year. Dwight Crawford, also had a great season with four wins, followed by Dirk Vanauken, Radian Scmidt, and William Sian rounding out the top five in final points.
The goal of paying out everyone at the bar following the races Sunday, was to be able to personally say thank you and talk with the drivers as we finished the year. We wanted to provide a nice atmosphere for everyone, offering free food, live music, bonfires, and just a good time. With the over 150 cars we had, coupled with a later than hoped evening on Sunday made this a bit longer and later and thus created a challenge. The intent was good, but probably not something I will do again in the future as we continue to learn and try new things and go through the process. Thank you though to everyone who had nice things to say and still made it a fun night.
Stay tuned this week for banquet information and as well as the coming weeks as we begin to make announcements regarding 2016. Thank you once again to everyone who had a part of making this first season a success and enjoyable for me and our staff, and we look forward to continuing to grow and make things bigger and better.