Drivin' Ivan Little #61
What can you say about Ivan, but Drivin”. My recollection of this colourful pilot goes back to the early sixties. While Ivan and Jeno were off racing an asphalt “bug”, the sport of stock car racing at Merrittville was evolving into a growing spectator sport.
In 1965 Ivan returned to the area ovals, racing regularly at Merrittville Speedway and Speedway Park in Hamilton. This time however, his #66 coupe emerged as a black with red flamed #61 as Bud Barone had already taken #66. During 1966 Ivan being a independent thinking individual, started his own trucking business, which he continues today as “Little’s Haulage”, leaving his job with the City of St. Catharines and teamed up with boyhood friend and master tuner Dan Chish. He dominated the Merrittville Oval, to take his first championship in 1966. During the 1960’s and early 1970’s, Ivan and buddy Dan could be spotted at area tracks. Picture this, 2 young bachelors wearing their bright red Firestone racing jackets, giving full attention to the flaming #61 during the races and partying up a storm in the pits, or elsewhere afterwards. Those were the days.
However, during the mid 1970’s something happened. Ivan settled down and married and then he and his wife Nancy, had a son James Norman Little. During this period Ivan continued to race his black, flaming red and chrome racer, with success. Did I forget to mention that Ivan raced at the Syracuse Mile and represented Merrittville Speedway and this Canadian drivers as early as 1972.
Ivan was always a tough competitor and continued to race at Merrittville and Ransomville ovals during the 1970’s. However, in 1982 Ivan decided to retire, having accomplished much with nothing to prove to anyone. The retirement lasted one year and Ivan returned with a vengeance to not only win races, but won the Points Championship in 1983. After this, “Drivin’ Ivan” would continue to race until the end of the 1986 season. The fun was gone, the costs were high.
Ivan was an individual who built his own cars, owned his own cars, drove them and sponsored them. Ivan sold his equipment to Chris Ricker of Dunnville and became an avid spectator and followed the NASCAR Winston Cup Racing. If you don’t believe me, ask Ivan, Nancy and James about the career of Bill Elliott, and don’t approach Ivan after “Awesome Bill” has had a rough day.
The Littles started to attend many races in the 1980’s and this where our families became friends. Ivan’s exploits in their #61 motorhome were memorable as we all would camp at ovals such as Cayuga Speedway and twice a year at Roger Penske’s Michigan International Speedway.
Ivan, his family, Merv Treichler, Dan Chish and Barb, Keith Winger, brother of Jerry, Hughie Tripp, my wife and girls, and good friend Gerry Brown, would all camp and reminisce the good old days and the races to come.
So thanks for the memories, Ivan and congratulations on your induction into the 1996 Dirt Hall of Fame. Sincerely, Rick Kavanagh