Former Karters looking forward to
Saturday Night Racing
As much as this past winter was the same for Alex Riley and Chris Watson in getting their racers ready for another season – it was completely different. The two former kart racers have made the move to the Saturday Night Lucas Oil Weekly Racing Series for 2014.
When Pinty’s Night launches the Championship Chase on May 3rd, Riley and Watson will make their debuts in the Turn 4 Collision 4 Cylinder and J&S Heating and Air Conditioning Modified Lite Divisions respectively.
Both drivers were part of April 12th’s Bicknell Racing Products Chassis Seminar and Pete Bicknell Driving School but didn’t have the initial results that they were hoping for. Riley who will turn 14 a few days after his first full Saturday Night of racing made heavy contact with the front stretch wall while Watson experienced engine problems but did return for the evening on track session after changing power plants at home. Riley’s car is the former Tony Kelly #12 which was built by Evan and Baden Curtis and is back at their shop being repaired.
Alex Riley in the Driver's Seat
“We were hoping to make Test and Tune Day,” said Riley the Grade 8 Student at Monsignor Clancy in Thorold, “but the job should be done so that I can run some practice laps at Humberstone before my first race the first Saturday in May.” “When we considered making the move,” revealed Riley’s Father Jeff who got Alex into Kart Racing in 2006, “obviously my first priority was safety. It’s a well built car and the impact proved that. We think that the 4 Cylinder Division is a pretty economical means to get started and for someone so young … a full frame closed wheel car is just the thing. I can’t say enough about the NECKSGEN Restraint System as well – that was some impact.”
“When we returned,” relayed 22 year old Chris Watson said of his evening on track experience April 12th, “there had been a lot of laps on the track and it was a little rougher than the first time out … I’m really looking forward to getting out there with other cars.” Alex’ car was still under repair when cars hit the track April 19th for Test and Tune but Chris was back getting all important seat time, “I’m getting more and more comfortable … it’s so different on the big track though as the track can change throughout the night … with karts it doesn’t change much from start to finish.”
Rookie Mod Lite Driver - Chris Watson
Chris got his start in karting after a visit to Niagara Square and seeing a Merrittville Kart Display that was in his home town some 12 years ago. With his brother Matt – the two would begin racing the next season with Chris racing until last year – 11 years of Tuesday Night action. Chris recently graduated from Niagara College and currently works at Can-Eng in Mechanical Engineering Technology Support. Matt has always played baseball while racing eventually giving up Tuesday Nights and is currently studying at Brock University and playing for the Badgers Baseball Team. “I’ve always wanted to race a Mod Lite,” said Watson, “we had been thinking about it for three years and this January the right deal came along.
The last few months in putting the car together we had been following instructions basically from RCM Racing Equipment’s Chris Long and Paul Klager so the Classroom session was really interesting … learning the reasoning and theory behind set-ups and all.’
For Alex – it was his dad Jeff that signed him up for Kart Racing and Jeff still remembers his first time on the Kart Track 8 years ago, “he had a big wreck then too.” As excited as Jeff is about their new move to Saturday Nights – he is just as excited about his new involvement in Karting. The Thorold Auto Parts Sales Rep took on the role of Kart Race Director this season. “It was quite an experience being part of the first 20 years of Karting,” said Riley ahead of April 22nd’s Kart Test and Tune, “I want to build on the history … bring new racers into the sport and increase exposure in the community.” With the overnight rains continuing into Tuesday morning – chances are pretty good that the Karters will have to wait another week .
For the Rileys racing has always been a family affair. Many Saturday Night fans may remember seeing Alex’ Kart on display in the Lucas Oil Display inside the front gate. In 2014, it will be staffed by his dad John and his wife Rhonda who has given her unconditional support to it all. Her son Brayden will be helping Alex and Jeff in the pits. Alex couldn’t do any of his racing without the support either without the support of companies including Brian’s Tire Repair, Henley Honda, Pirie’s Appliances, Mr. Transmission, Drummond Home Hardware, Thorold Auto Parts, Pizza Jerry’s, the Merrittville Kart Club and the Betheny Youth Nation – a youth club at his church.
Even as young as he is, Alex has been quite involved as a volunteer for a number of causes including those in support of his late friend Matteo Mancini. For a number of years, Alex has also been a volunteer with the Thorold Blackhawks Junior B Hockey Club assisting Equipment Manager Dan Rothwell. “Hockey and Racing are what I love,” admitted Alex who will start Grade 9 at Eden Christian Secondary next fall “at the track and at the rink … I really enjoy meeting new people.”
Volunteering is also key for Chris Watson who has donated a lot of his time at Heartland Forest who he is proud to include on his car this season joining the family-owned Drummond Home Hardware, Eagles Nest, Stelfab Fabrication Niagara, Castle Products, Magnum Services, Storm’s Meat & Deli and Dan’s Produce.
Alex would like to thank everyone that has helped him with his karting and especially in the move to the 4 Cylinder Division – his Dad Jeff, Chris and the Watson family, Evan and Baden Curtis, his stepmother Rhonda.
Chris credits his mom and dad Rob and Dorla Watson for all their help and support as well as Jeff Hughes, George, Henry, his grandparents Bob and Jan Watson and his brother Matthew. With their limited laps on the track so far, both Alex and Chris have found similarities they can draw on from their karting past but both realize they have steep learning curves ahead of them. Alex’ first time driving his new racer was in the Speedway Parking Lot before the school has gained an awful lot of respect for his car and what it can do.
Chris’ first extended time on the track was Test & Tune Night but added, “in the Driving School – having the cones out on the track showing the proper lines and breaking points was a huge help.” Merrittville Speedway celebrated 20 years of karting in 2013 and along with former Kart Tracks such as the Virgil Kart Club and Bieda’s – the sport continues to provide the grounds for Stock Car Careers such as the ones Alex Riley and Chris Watson are about to embark on.
For all the news on Merrittville Speedway’s 63rd Consecutive Season in 2014 including the 21st Season of Tuesday Night Karting – visit www.merrittvillespeedway.com. Race fans and Race teams alike can follow Merrittville on Face Book (Facebook.com/Merrittville Speedway) and Twitter (Twitter.com/Merrittville). To reach Merrittville Speedway – call the Office at 905-892-8266 or via e mail – email@example.com.
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