Harvey Hainer, Sr
Without a doubt if you have followed racing at Merrittville Speedway through the decades, you have followed the exploits of many drivers - but how many of you know of the dedicated car owners and mechanics behind the scenes.
Harvey Hainer Sr is one of those individuals, who worked on cars, set their chassis' and loved to see them run on the track. Harvey's career started back in 1957 when his brother-in-law Lloyd Holt decided to go racing. Their first car was a Hudson Hornet Big 6, which Lloyd, Harvey and Billy Matthews constructed on their farm. After Lloyd's wife Betty applied the #23 with shoe polish - it was off to Merrittville Speedway to test their skill. The car proved to be a strong runner but it wasn't too competitive against the flat head Fords of that era.
Their next racer was a 1938 Ford coach built to meet the rules of the new Jalopy division. It was painted dark green and white with the J-15 painted on it's sides. Again Lloyd Holt did the driving, Harvey did the wrenching and Ray Stevens Service Center provided the sponsorship. This time the Jalopy division was to their liking. In 1958 the J-15 ran very competitively and Lloyd was gaining valuable experience. In 1959 the car would prove to be super competitive with Holt winning many championship events but falling short of the Points title by 2 points to Bill Binning.
After competing successfully in the jalopies, Lloyd and Harvey decided to move up to the Sportsmen division. Again a green & white coupe was constructed - this time with more power, bigger wheels and a quick change rear end. Ray Stevens returned as crew chief and together with Lloyd and Harvey - the trio would form quite a successful team. Racing on Friday nights at the new Speedway Park and Saturdays at Merrittville - the #15 would be a threat every time out. Lloyd Holt would win many races and was also the last driver of the 1960's era to win the Johnny Spencer Memorial and the Jerry Winger Memorial in the same year - 1965.
Soon, a young late model driver by the name of Mike Zajac would enter the picture. A very consistent winner, Zajac - behind the wheel of his white #88 55 Chevrolet. One thing was missing though as Mike wanted to make the move to the Sportsmen division. Mike had learned the tracks well - contending for championships at both Speedway Park and Merrittville.
If my recollection is correct, Mike had master car builder 'Wimpy' Nicholls build a white Sportsmen coupe again painted white with the #8 on it's side as Bruce VanDyke already had the 88. Harvey Hainer came on board as mechanic and crew chief and the two made a formidable combination. Mike honed his skills as a driver and Harvey kept the car race ready. In 1969 the championship was so close that George Treanor in the 67 beat Zajac in the feature and won the overall points by 2 at Speedway Park on the last night of racing. It was George's year as he also drove the Jimmy Binks' 67 to Merrittville Speedway's Point championship as well.
However, Mike Zajac - now known as the Beamsville Breadman would not be denied. A newly constructed big block coupe with the familiar checkered flag #8 would appear - racing against the likes of Bob St. Amand Sr., George Treanor, Jeno Begolo, and Ivan Little. The early 1970's would belong to Mike Zajac and Harvey Hainer. The two were the only driver-crew chief combination to win 3 Sportsmen Modified Championships - 1971, 1973 and 1974. this was truly a racing dynasty but a quiet one as Mike Zajac did very little talk and kept his focus on racing. However in 1975 while competing in a Modified event at Merrittville Speedway, Mike's now blue # 8 Coupe caught another car's wheel and flipped violently - destroying the once immaculate Coupe. Bob St. Amand Sr - a fellow competitor at the time said it was one of the worst wrecks that he has ever seen. We are able to say that while that wreck ended Mike's career he is here tonight with us enjoying the reunion.
While Harvey Sr was spending all this time on the Zajac car - a young Harvey Jr and Davey Moore would help on the car as well. So after Mike decided to retire a young Harvey Jr took to the wheel of a Late Model in 1975.
For 1976, Harvey joined the ranks of the Modifieds and the 2H was born. While Harvey would wrench on his son's Modified - Harvey Jr would gain success - winning Merrittville rookie of the year honors in 1976. It would be Jr's brother-in-law to be Davey Moore who would dominate the class from 1975 to 1979. Finally in 1981, the Hainer Family- Part Mart Special # 2H would win the Points Championship at Merrittville Speedway. Harvey Sr. would continue to field cars for his son until the 2H retired at the end of the 1997 season.
From 1997 to 2000 Harvey Hainer Sr continues to help up and coming racers set up and work on their cars. Harvey can still be spotted in the pits working on a modified. At first he helped 'rookie' Dan Miller - last week's feature winner. Miller's first car was the former 2H of Harvey Jr. Currently Sr is lending a hand to Chris Ricker and his # 13 Modified.
Harvey has always had the support of his family but especially that of his wife - Mori. When not working with his son at the family business - Hainer's Discount Tire or a DIRT Modified - Harvey and Mori can be spotted cruising in their vintage Ford Flat Head Coach to Cruise Nights - and you can bet that it's not all stock.
So thanks Harvey for all you've brought to our sport - there aren't too many people whose career has spanned five decades at something they love. Sincerely, Rick Kavanagh