Entering the 46th
Merrittville Speedway is now entering it's 46th year of operation but many spectators wouldn't have given it a second chance after attending the opening day - Dominion Day - Monday July 1, 1952. John Marino and George Cullen decided to open the track during the daytime, however temperatures hovered in the 90's range. The races were accident free but clouds of dust settled on everything. - including the 800 fans sitting in the wooden grandstands - caused by the sliding and spinning racers. For the next five decades racing continued to grow in popularity and Merrittville along with it. During the 1950's many branded stock car racing as a fad that wouldn't last but as we enter the 1997 season, dirt track racing continues to flourish. The names change, the cars change, but the aim is the same, to be first over the finish line, and offer race fans exciting family entertainment. During the 1950's Bill France of NASCAR fame tried to organize tracks and drivers to join NASCAR. His prediction was that a non-NASCAR track wouldn't last without their sanction. NASCAR's backbone in the early days was the Sportsmen-Modified division consisting of pre-World War II coupes. The 'new car' Grand National division was a fledgling division trying to gain momentum. The big enticement for a stock car driver was that if he competed at a NASCAR sanctioned track as a member, he would be allowed to compete at the year end Langhorne 100 miler - the biggest race for stock cars. I remember my father and former track owner Ken Kavanagh saying that Big Bill France in the 1950's stated that a small dirt track such as Merrittville Speedway wouldn't be successful without NASCAR sanction. The facts are that pavement racing became popular in the US - NASCAR shifted it's focus to pavement. More and more grand national races were held on paved short tracks and superspeedways and therefore in 1968, NASCAR renamed it's Sportsmen division to a Late Model division - eliminating the post-war car from the division. Dirt track racing at Merrittville Speedway is a tradition that continues to grow in popularity. The northern NASCAR tour formed an 'all star league' which brought together the best drivers in the northeast to compete on both dirt and asphalt. This continued to 1974. NASCAR was as committed to pavement as Merrittville was committed to dirt. So here we are as the 1997 season starts - you be the judge. You, the fan have been the backbone of stock car racing in Niagara and we thank you. The track owners and drivers - past and present owe you a debt of gratitude for the generations of support shown to this area sport. From our first track champion - Orville Kelly to our present one - Pete Bicknell - we've endeavored to offer - 'fast family fun.' Sit back ... relax and hold on for the ride. WELCOME to our 1997 season!