The points champion in Merrittville Speedway’s premier racing class and a driver who finished in the top three in two divisions ended 2017 with the Thorold track’s top awards.
Chad Brachmann of Sanborn, N.Y., 358 Modified points champion for the third time in his career competing at Merrittville, received the Archer Truck Centre Driver of the Year Award.
Brent Begolo of Thorold was honoured as Performer of the Year after winning the Mod Lite track title as a rookie as well as for placing second in the Sportsman points race.
Begolo was also in line to receive the Mod Lite top rookie award at Saturday night’s banquet at Club Castropignano at Port Robinson, but he asked that the honour go to fellow rookie Tucker Wood of Stevensville, who turned 12 in July.
Smithville’s Trevor Wright and Caistor Centre’s Donny Lampman were this season’s top rookies in Sportsman and Hoosier Stock, respectively. There were no first-year drivers eligible for the prize in the 358 Modified and Mini Stock classes.
Brad Rouse of St. Catharines, Sportsman; Dave Bailey, Hagersville, Hoosier Stock; Tony Kelly, Niagara Falls, Mini Stock; and Greg Rauscher, Thorold, Novice Sportsman; were the other points champions honoured at an awards banquet emceed by Jim Handley and Lou Caetano.
It was Rouse’s second division title at his hometown track, and the second in a row for Bailey who also topped the 8-cylinder divisions at New Humberstone Speedway and Ohsweken speedways, also for the second year in a row.
The points championship of Merrittville’s 4-cylinder class was the first of Kelly’s career.
Front-runners in three mini series were also recognized when the checkered flag officially fell on the 66th racing season at the dirt track.
Rouse received a $500 gift certificate toward the purchase of a GM 602 crate engine for winning King of the Crate Series, a three-race competition sponsored by David Chevrolet Corvette Buick GMC.
Kelly raced to the overall champion in the Triple Crown Series sponsored by Kyle Tomaski, while Dylan Llord of St. Catharines won the Eataly Foods Pro 4 Triple Truck Challenge Series.
The Billy Matthews Crew Chief of the Year Award went to veteran Hoosier Stock driver Jim Lampman of Caister Centre.
When he wasn’t busy working on his own car, Lampman was busy in the pits getting rides for son Donny and daughter Kathleen race-ready. All three cars rarely missed a Wednesday night practice.
Gord McIntosh of Smithville received the Ed MacPherson Construction Kelley-Winger Sportsmanship Award after coming to the rescue of fellow Sportsman racer James Michael Friesen. After a crash at Ransomville Speedway rendered Friesen’s racer unrepairable, McIntosh let Friesen drive his car to remain in the points race at Merrittville.
The Pete Cosco Memorial Merrittville Speedway Car Owner of the Year Award was presented to Andrew Sittler of St. Catharines.
Thorold’s Alex Riley, who finished second in the Mini Stock standings and third in points in the Triple Crown Series, went home with the Begolo-Little Award as most improved driver.
Former Merrittville co-owners Pete Bicknell and Randy Williamson and their families received the Gordie Award. Named in honour of former track announcer and wall of famer Gordie Wilson, the trophy is presented annually to an individual or group of people who exhibit dedication to the sport of dirt track racing.
Best-appearing car awards were presented to a driver in each of the five regular Saturday divisions: Fred Carleton, Niagara-on-the-Lake, 358 Modified; Trevor Wright, Smithville, Sportsman; Tucker Wood, Stevensville, Mod Lite; Derek Van Mill, Welland, Hoosier Stock; Cole Hardy, Welland, Mini Stock.
Race director Tom Beales closed out the banquet by announcing the top five drivers in the Sportsman division next year will be eligible for a draw for a Wegner W16 engine that would help them move up to the 358 Modified, the track’s premier and most-expensive racing class.
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