ONCE A RACEr, ALWAYS A RACER
Back in the early 1970’s at the corner of Quaker Rd. and Niagara St. in Welland were two gas stations, Bert’s Sunoco and Sam’s Shell Service. While both service stations are long gone, there was an involvement in racing that goes back in time to Merrittville Speedway.
While Bert’s Sunoco was a sponsor for Wall of Fame inductee-Hughie Tripp, the Shell station owned by Sam Elsie was an influence on son Mark. At an early age Mark’s fascination with cars lead to racing go-karts successfully then evolved into a brief drag racing career. However with Merrittville Speedway just a couple of miles north, they considered dirt track oval racing.
In 1972 Mark and his brother in law Ted Elmer bought the orange championship winning #67 modified coach that George Treanor drove for Jim Binks, now two “Wall of Fame” members.
Jim Curran, would become a crew member on the now yellow and white #99 coach and with Mark Elsie at the wheel, the race car helped introduce the Elsie/Elmer racing team to the world of modified stock car racing.
In 1974, Mark and his crew, Ted Elmer, Jim Curran, Gord Bowman and Mark Brauweiler built a new improved #99 Chevrolet Coupe that met with success, winning a feature in 1977. This was a beautifully finished car and won many best appearing car and crew awards as “The car was well cared for by Bowman’s Kar Kare”. In fact the body from that car sits in Mark and Sue’s backyard today. By 1978 the Gremlin body became popular and so the coupe body was switched for a Gremlin #99.
During the 1980’s Mark drove modifieds for various owners Tom Ewings #99E, John Brauweiler’s #30 sportsman, the Finlayson’s #99 and Gary Reeds #12. Mark drove both locally and downstate at U. S. tracks and crew members Jim Curran and Jake Leeuwenberg always travelled downstate to crew the #99 modified. Mark however, would win again at Merrittville in Gord and Al Finlayson’s #99 modified in 1983.
For 1984, Mark would purchase the former Alan Johnson, Kenny Weld built “circus wagon” to be repainted yellow white and blue striped #101, co-owned by Gary Reed. Mark Elsie’s final ride was from 1987-1989 for Gary Reed and the Unocal #76 modified from Tonawanda, New York competing at area ovals and as far away as Syracuse, N.Y. Some of the most memorable moments were the Merrittville feature wins, and the friends met along the way, including the Veach Family and during the early modified years, where a barbeque would evolve into an all night pit party with fellow competitors such as Ivan Little. “Partying until the Sun Came Up” lead to many fond memories for Mark and Sue Elsie before the cost of modified racing skyrocketed.
While Mark’s racing was always supported by wife Sue and son Sam, it was time to raise a family and pursue other interests. While Mark has maintained an interest in dirt track racing and attends Merrittville Reunions, he still has a passion for automobiles, being the caretaker of his father Sam’s Oldsmobile, which was probably serviced at Sam’s Shell Station when new. As far as a career goes, Mark is employed at Auto Value Hyundai in Niagara Falls, Ontario as a service consultant.
Congratulations Mark Elsie for being a top modified competitor at Merrittville Speedway and “Partying until the Sun Comes Up”!
On behalf of the Merrittville Speedway Reunion Committee, Welcome to the Wall of Fame ,sponsored by L.St.Amand ,Pat St.Amand &Family.
Sincerely ,Rick Kavanagh.