is one of those competitors, who was
enticed by the sport, back in 1951 when
he first saw a race at the old Chippewa
track where drivers such as Orville
Kelley & Bruce Swartz first competed.
Don built his first racer with the help
of Sparky Rand and his brother-in-law
Harvey Williams, when Merrittville
Speedway opened in 1952. The plan was
for Harvey and Don to drive on alternate
race nights, but Harvey didn't like the
driving and took over the pit work,
while Don drove.
While enjoying his
driving career, Don operated a wrecking yard
- Lincoln Street Auto Wreckers in Welland by
day while holding down a regular shift at
Atlas Steel also in Welland. Many of Don's
coupes came from his wrecking yard. His
position at Atlas provided a living for Don
and his wife Allie and their daughters
Eleanor and Darlene.
Don's career as a
driver continued first under the number 333,
then 33 and finally 31. His patented black
and white coupes were always a constant in
the pits at Merrittville and he also
appeared at opening nights for Humberstone
Speedway and Speedway Park. While Don never
won a points championship at Merrittville,
he was always a fixture in the pits along
with friends Hugh Tripp and Ray Stevens.
One of Don's most
memorable moments happened when his flathead
Ford racer caught a wheel of another
competitor while leading the feature. His
car became airborne off of turn 2 and he
rolled to turn 3 seven times. When it came
to a rest, the speedy racer of John Bezanson
struck his car. Don escaped with only a
scratched elbow. They towed the car to Bill
Willard Sr.'s garage in Rockway with Bill
lending him the 777 Ford Coupe until Don's
car could be repaired.
Don continued to
drive but his brothers Earl, Charlie and Jim
also tried the sport with some success. It
was Don though that stuck with it in a
driving career that lasted some 33 years -
retiring at 57 years of age in 1984.
That year, Don helped his nephew Rob got
started as a driver in the 6 cylinder
Sportsmen Class. Don also helped his
grandson Mark Edwards get started in the Mod
Stock and Sportsmen divisions.
After 40 years at
Atlas Steel, Don retired - deciding to
devote his time to building a replica of his
#31 Race Car. So in 1995 Don built the car
#31 - a 1936 Chevrolet coupe that has Mark
Edwards behind the wheel tonight as part of
the CMRHS on track action.
Don continues to
enjoy the sport of Stock Car Racing and
enjoys his trips to Merrittville Speedway.
At 73 years of age - he isn’t slowing down.
A racing career is not done without help and
Don would like to recognize the help of his
wife of 53 years - Allie as well as his
brother Earl and friend Harvey Williams.
Don's 2 daughters
- Eleanor in California and Darlene in
Welland along with grandsons Mark Edwards,
Paul Feddick, granddaughters Kim and Dawn
and many more of Don's family and friends
are here tonight - they will be watching the
progress of Rob Ledingham's career in the
Sportsmen division as he contends for a top
finish in the points. Rob earned his first
feature win last week since returning in
2000 after a 5 year absence from the sport.
Thanks "Gramps" for being part of our
history of dirt track racing at Merrittville
Speedway, as we celebrate 49 years tonight