The Merrittville Speedway Wall of Fame, all started twenty years ago this season ,in 1990 ,when the owners of Merrittville Speedway, the Irvine Family, organized a gathering of Alumni to honour members of our racing family who had devoted decades pursuing their love for stock car racing. Jeno Begolo, Ivan Little & Bill Willard Sr. were these people. Bill Willard Sr. was a car-owner who=s passion for stock car racing was shared not only by his wife Annie, but also son Allan and daughter Betty. During the 1950's and 1960's Willard=s Auto Wreckers and Towing fielded bright red stock cars for drivers such as Don Taylor, George Winger, Bev MacTavish and Terry Edwards. It was during this period that the now famous #77 and #777 were born. During the 1970's however the family=s passion for stock car racing passed on to the third generation.
Allan and Laura=s son Bill Willard Jr. showed interest in racing and under the support of Grandpa Bill, Bill Willard Jr. showed up at Merrittville with a stock car, painted red with #77 on the doors. It wasn=t long before Bill Jr. was moved up to the unlimited 6 cylinder sportsman class in a 1933 Ford coupe. At this point, Bill Willard Sr., Annie, Allan and Laura were supporting the budding career of Bill Jr. but by the 1980's Tammy, Bill=s sister was racing go-karts with the Virgil Kart Club and the racing bug was catching on. The Willard Family again supported Tammy=s moving up to the Abomber division@ and after apprenticing in that division, Tammy moved up to the, you guessed it, Sportsman division.
We now had the 77 jr and 77 jr.ette racing in the sportsman division under the watchful eye of Grandpa Bill Sr. and father Allan. At this point in time, Willard and Son Towing had evolved into the CAA towing service founded by Bill Sr. with Annie becoming its first dispatcher. The Willard family lived on First St. Louth, having moved from Rockway where they operated the CAA towing fleet and the Willard Racing Team. Bill Jr.=s and Tammy=s racing careers in the Sportsman division were evolving under family guidance but in 1990, Bill Sr. was diagnosed with cancer and later passed away. After Bill Sr.=s passing the family regrouped and under the watchful eye of Allan, Laura and Annie, the CAA towing business continued to evolve and grow and so did the careers of Bill Jr. and Tammy with their racing at area ovals especially at their home track- Merrittville Speedway.
Allans passion for racing carried over from his father Bill Sr. where he continued to field sportsman racers in the 1990's for Bill Jr., Tammy and even son-in-law Guy McPherson in the 777 who caught the sportsman division racing bug. By the new millenium, Tammy, Bill Jr. and Guy had enjoyed much success in the sportsman division, collecting track championships at area ovals, including Merrittville Speedway. Not only was Allan mentoring sportsman division racing, but Tammy, Guy and Bill Jr. were mentoring the next generation of Willard Racing as Tyler McPherson enjoyed a very successful karting career at Merrittville and by 2004 with multiple Merrittville karting championships in hand, moved up to the Hoosier Stock division, driving a Mike Granton prepared 777 Camaro, sponsored by the McPherson family trucking business. In a short period of time Tyler adapted to the Merrittville oval and other area tracks winning 2 championship titles in 2005.
For 2006 under the watchful eye of Allan, Bill Jr., Guy , and Tammy, Tyler moved up to the sportsman division under the Willard-McPherson family 777. The fourth generation of AWillard Racing@ was now racing sportsman stock cars. After racing for 4 decades and two Merrittville track championships, Bill Willard Jr. decided to hang up his helmet but not before winning the Bill Willard Sr. Memorial feature race on Labour Day weekend 2005, in his new Bicknell, won at the 2004 banquet. After the season finished Bill=s son B.J. having raced go-karts, met with grandfather Allan, father Bill Jr. and it was decided to let B.J. race the 77 Jr. in the sportsman division as a rookie. For 2006 Tyler=s brother Cody also after racing go-karts, moved into the 777 Mike Granton Camaro, for his turn at the wheel. So after a couple of seasons learning his way around Merrittville=s oval, Cody ,as well, decided that he would join his cousin and brother in the sportsman division. These young racers have come a long way in short period of time where these fourth generation drivers are carrying on a family tradition that started in the 1950's under great grandfather Bill Sr., with as many as 4 cars; #77 Terry Edwards, #78 Stan Friesen, #79 Allan Willard and #777 Bev MacTavish. Today Cody McPherson #7, B.J. Willard #77, and Tyler McPherson #777 some 6 decades later are keeping the Willard Racing legacy alive in the sportsman division at Merrittville Speedway under the watchful eye of Grandpa Allan.
Tonight Allan, it is your turn to take your place alongside your father Bill Sr. And daughter Tammy, on the Merrittville Speedway Alumni Wall of Fame. Your leadership in keeping your father=s passion for stock car racing alive at Merrittville Speedway with the fourth generation. Whether on the track, providing towing, or a stage for our 59th Anniversary-Reunion night, the CAA has always been there to help. The difficult part for Allan and Laura is sitting in the grandstands cheering for 3 grandsons in the same feature. In fact, Tyler=s 777 won the 40 lap sportsman AKing of the Crates Arace on June 19, 2010. Congratulations Allan from the Merrittville Speedway Racing family on this evening of celebrating 59 years of continuous Saturday night dirt track racing and your induction on to the Merrittville Speedway Alumni Wall of Fame, sponsored by L. St. Amand Enterprises, CAA Niagara, Auto F/X and Lucas Oil.
Sincerely Rick Kavanagh
“Chairman” Merrittville Speedway Alumni Reunion Committee.