Bob St. Amand
Bob St. Amand has been involved in the sport of stock car racing since he was 14 years old, when he was interested in the next door neighbour’s stock car. The car owned by Ralph Taylor was a flathead Ford coupe, racing in Merrittville’s stock car division. Ralph Taylor and Bruce Swartz were two of the area’s stock car pioneers and Bob St. Amand was interested in pursuing the sport.
In 1958 Bob got his start as a jalopy pilot racing the J-21 jalopy class and as the story goes, Bob and his wife Sue, were 21 years old and their daughters Colleen and Barbara were ages 2 and 1. In 1962 Bob still raced in the stock car class as #21, when Merrittville ran 3 divisions, Sportsman Late Model and stock car.
Bob learned his lessons well and he decided to move up. His next car was a six cylinder hobby car, that raced on dirt and asphalt. The local division for this type of car was Humberstone’s B-modified class. While Merrittville never ran this division, Bob St. Amand would change suspension and wheel set ups and if necessary a V8 engine and ran with the top Sportsmen of the day on Saturday nights. It was during this period that Bob adopted the #30 on his cars and it stuck from that point on to the end of his career. Bob occasionally would venture to Perry Speedway on asphalt and Cayuga on dirt.
Bob’s skill further developed and he moved up to the sportsman division, now running against the likes of Mike Zajac, Jeno Begolo, Fred Hurst, and Ivan Little. Bob’s cars were now root beer brown and one of his first successful sportsmen modified cars was the ex-Jeno Begolo Chevrolet coupe #30. Bob now had top equipment and made his presence known, both at Merrittville and Ransomville and Speedway Park.
For 1971 Bob was awarded rookie of the year at Merrittville, Humberstone and Ransomville Speedways. It was quite a feat to accomplish three titles at three tracks, in one season. For 1972, Bob St. Amand returned with a beautiful root-beer brown #30 coupe, sponsored by the family business and brothers, along with Keith’s Sunoco. It was a close fought battle, but Bob St. Amand came in to his own, winning the Merrittville Speedway Modified points title.
Drivers such as Jeno Begolo, Don Turner, Ivan Little, were breathing down Bob’s back, but he held them all off during the final night of racing at Merrittville going for double points. Bob’s close friend Pat “Dudley” Collins took over the wheel of Bob’s ex-Jeno Begolo coupe #34 for the 1972 season, sponsored by Bob Patrick’s store in St. Catharines.
The two root-beer coloured cars were pristine
pieces of machinery on the track and very competitive. The final
1972 points were as shown:
#30 Bob St. Amand 881
#16 Jeno Begolo 876
#39 Don Turner 843
#61 Ivan Little 840
The top four cars were only separated by 41 points. Jeno Begolo got his rematch, as he won the “run-what ya brung” event over Bob St. Amand on October 8, 1972. For 1973 Bob and his crew would campaign a car at Merrittville, but this is when he would assume his pit steward’s position at Ransomville.
For 1974 and 1975 Bob did double duty and campaigned his #30 Pinto bodied very competitively and finally hung up his helmet for good in 1976. Bob’s second career as a pit steward at Merrittville and Ransomville Speedway started, a post Bob has maintained for over 26 years. During this time, unfortunately, Bob’s wife Sue passed away. Bob kept two jobs, one at Columbus McKinnon, while he looked after his children, Colleen, Barbara, Bobby Jr. and Susan, while still working at L. St. Amand Enterprises.
As the children grew, they also became involved in the sport of auto racing. Bobby Jr., Colleen, Barbara and Susan- taking up various jobs at Merrittville Speedway. Eventually, Bobby Jr. ended up working with his father, as race director.
The whole St. Amand family were into the sport and loved every moment of it. Today Bob and his family some 25 years later, still acts as pit steward at Merrittville, while Colleen works the pit gate and Bobby Jr. is race director. The St. Amands truly love dirt track racing and when not officiating they can be found travelling to big events on the Dirt circuit. After retiring the #30, Bob Sr. returned to the driver’s seat for Jim and Tim Hatt, helping them to sort out and campaign their 01 modified briefly.
Bob St. Amand is a fixture in the pits at Merrittville overseeing the law and order in the pits, carrying on a tradition established by the late Orville Kelley.
In 1986, Bob St. had a chance to drive one last time on the Syracuse Mile, in Vic Moore’s modified arranged by fellow camper and Merrittville announcer Gordy Wilson. As the story goes, Vic Moore’s driver couldn’t get up to speed and Gordy persuaded Moore to let his friend Bob St. Amand try the car. Apparently after driving home for his fire suit and helmet, Bob climbed in the modified and gave it a respectable drive on the treacherous Syracuse miles.
While Bob’s family and grandchildren- Brent and Brooke all work at Merrittville, Bob Sr.’s second wife Colleen, can be seen at the races and fully supports her husband Bob’s career. So while we call stock car racing a family sport, yours is proof of true racing devotion.
So tonight is your night Bob Sr., from all of us in the Merrittville racing family, down through the decades, as a competitor during the Kavanagh and Russell families’ ownership of Merrittville, to the Friesen and Uhl years, as competitor, pit steward and to today, with the Irvine Family.
We are pleased to honour you as patriarch of the St. Amand family and welcome you to the Merrittville Speedway -Wall of Fame, #30 Bob St. Amand. Congratulations, Rick Kavanagh