FRIENDS OF BRIAN STEVENS MEMORIAL 44 EVENT
A Reunion Committee Perspective
It was nearly one year ago, that the Merrittville Speedway Reunion Committee had chosen 2nd generation driver and two time Merrittville Speedway modified track Champion 1982 and 1992, Brian Stevens to take his place on the Merrittville Speedway Alumni Wall of Fame, alongside his father Ray Stevens.
Brian’s induction was heartfelt by all of us who knew him, since we knew he was fighting a quiet battle with cancer. Unfortunately Brian lost his battle early in 2015, but those of us who knew him, assembled again on May 18, 2015 to celebrate his championship career at Merrittville Speedway, by holding a Syracuse Qualifier, named in his honour with a duration of 44 laps, his car number.
While the race event was a huge success, as you can read on Jim Irvine’s race report, it was the pre-race assembly that meant most to many of us.
Inside the front gate was a collage of photos, uniforms and trophies, celebrating the driving career of Brian Stevens. His crew from Stevens Racing headed by Ray Samuels and had not only gotten everyone together including Brian’s daughters Amanda and Melissa, just as they did to celebrate the life of Ray Stevens, when Andrew Sittler and Brian had re-panelled the modified #44, on August 13, 2011. This time Reunion Committee member Bill Willard Jr. had taken son B.J’s #77 CAA Sportsman and re-panelled it as #44 again this time in honour of Brian Stevens.
Many of us on the Reunion Committee hold a lot of respect for Stevens Racing. I myself brought a panel from one of Brian’s modifieds from 1996, that was used on Brian’s Commemorative Card and also displayed Brian’s 2014 induction plaque at the start finish line and in Victory Lane, one last time. Brian and I go way back at Merrittville, when we were young teenagers.
Erica Bicknell knew how to help the team and family celebrate Brian’s life by being the backbone of organizing the event, pre-race, purse donations and the race event in general.
Jim Irvine took photos to capture the pre-race, some of which will be posted here, but the truly touching part of the evening for me was when Jim read a tribute to Brian’s life, which I knew came from the heart. The Irvine Family has been involved with stock car racing, long before owning Merrittville Speedway. For many years, Bryant Irvine’s business, York Electro Plating was one of the primary sponsors on the Stevens Racing Modifieds #44, and Jim long before being assistant general manager at Merrittville was a crew member on the #44 team.
Relationships and friendships run deep in this sport and one of our late committee members Bruce Swartz started racing with and for Ray Stevens, back in 1952, when Merrittville Speedway opened. Present committee member Ted Renshaw, who won a Jalopy Division Championship for Ray Stevens in 1961, spends his retirement building and enjoying his two vintage modifieds and crews for the #6 of Mat Williamson.
The friends of Brian Stevens 44 lap feature was a huge reunion of friends, family and fans for one final evening to pay respect to a Family whose life centred on Dirt track Modified racing,especially at Merrittville Speedway.
Many fans may not know, but there were many unsung participants who contributed monetary donations to the event, including the Reunion Committee’s small gesture of $44.44 for the 4th place car at the half way point, won by Bill Bleich. At the end of the night, after all the Victory Lane photos were taken, the #44 body panels were dismantled from the Willard racing #77 and given to those friends and family members who wanted a keepsake. I personally will remember Brian, at his best behind the wheel of the #44 Stevens Family Racing Modified.
On Brian’s Commemorative Remembrance Card, is written the following: Live – Love – Laugh In loving memory of Flyin’ Brian Stevens 1953-2015
Rick Kavanagh on behalf of Erica Bicknell, Jim Irvine, Terry Huffman, Ted Renshaw, Bill Willard Jr., Ken Walsh, Mark Swartz