Racing Pioneer - St.Catharines, Ontario

Bob Hatt


Back in 1952 when Merrittville Speedway opened as a 1/4 mile clay oval, many young individuals thought about trying their hand at racing.  Long before there was a highway 406 connecting St.Catharines to Welland, there was only the twisting and turning Merrittville Highway leading right to the farm country of Thorold Township. 


On Saturday Nights from May until September it was common to see race car upon race car, being flat towed by these racers, with their families from St.Catharines, Welland, Hamilton and Niagara Falls to try their skill on the new oval. 


Hatt Vintage Car


One such individual was Bob Hatt who with mechanic Jimmy Simpson and wife Thelma, was one such   competitor, who would flat tow their #9 stock car behind their Studebaker family car.  In fact, it wasn’t uncommon to have Thelma driver the Studebaker and Bob ride in the race car only to start it up while    climbing the hills and curves of Merrittville Highway, helping the underpowered family sedan to get to the race track and back. 


Bob’s early race cars were built at Rectangle Auto Wreckers on Cushman Road in St.Catharines.  As the cars and classes evolved, so did Bob’s race cars.  The Hatts were consistent racers in the mid 1950’s, then moved to the new jalopy division driving the J-9 coupe. 


The now familiar brown and gold race cars won their share of races, but then my 1963 when the late model division replaced the jalopies, Bob Hatt had much success in a 1957 Chevrolet and later a 1965 Chevrolet where he competed until the late 1960’s. 


Jimmy Hatt

Jimmy Hatt


By early 1970’s the 6 cylinder unlimited sportsman, became another division on Merrittville’s now d-shaped 3/8 mile oval.  At this point Bob Hatt had teamed up with John Crosby, building and racing as many as four cars out of the Vineland Texaco garage.  #9, #09, #90 and #19.  John Crosby and Bob Hatt formed “C&H Racing” and by 1974 built a modified and raced the familiar #9 car at area ovals.    During the same period a young Pete Bicknell also raced his #42 gremlin style modified with           sponsorship from Vineland Texaco and John Crosby. 


By the late 1970’s Bob’s #9 modified was a     consistent and top finisher at area ovals, and in fact, Bob won the last dirt track race held at Stoney Creek’s Speedway Park, according to his family members.  Bob Hatt had an influence on many competitors including his nephews Jim and Tim Hatt.  From the late 70’s into the 80’s the Hatt family competed in the modified division at Merrittville Speedway where they expireenced both triumph and tragedy. 


Today, Bob Hatt and family operate a trucking company while now 81 years old and married to Thelma for over 60 year, while no longer flat towing stock cars behind the family sedan, Bob still has a love for the sport.  Bob has supported many racers from Brian Halliwell, in the old prostock division, to Dennis Giancolla in the modifieds for 2010. 


Today Bob Hatt along with family and friends assembled a replica vintage stock car, from spare parts painted the familiar red-brown with #9 on its doors.  While Bob likes to avoid the limelight and hang out with his buddies in the pits, tonight it’s our pleasure on behalf of Merrittville Speedway’s Alumni Reunion Committee, to induct you on to our “Wall of Fame” sponsored by L.St.Amand Enterprises, CAA Niagara, Auto FX and Lucas Oil.


Sincerely Rick Kavanagh, “Chairman” Merrittville Speedway Alumni Reunion Committee

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