Even though the temperatures are beginning to cool off, the racing scene in Michigan is definitely heating up.
Throughout the state there are several late-season specials on tap over the next few weekends, and although it’s nearly September already there is still plenty of time to check out a few races at places like Merritt Speedway in Merritt, Michigan before the book closes on the 2019 racing season.
Last Saturday (August 24th) I visited Merritt for their Pro-Stock Invitational. The $1,000.00 to win special drew competitors from all over the Midwest and the racing action was nothing short of awesome.
Mike Blackmer and his staff have done an amazing job of changing the racing surface to one that is racy, groovy, and full of action. Over the past few weeks the team has purchased additional equipment to really create and maintain a great racing surface.
Not only was the racing full of side by side passing, but the entire show was run efficiently and cleanly. Six divisions took the first green flag promptly at 7pm and the final checkered flew just after 10:30pm making for an incredibly family friendly event.
The B-Mod feature was the first to roll out and Joey Burch in the #16 took the win over a hard charging Jacob Flickinger in the #08, after breaking a suspension component while leading with just a few short laps left; Aaron Raby in the #04 was still able to hold on for a 4th place finish.
In Lightning Sprints Mack Erickson took the win after working his way up from the 3rd row in his #38 machine, but the one to watch without a doubt was the #2S of Brendon Cascadden who started 12th on the grid to finish 2nd in his first outing in a new car.
There was no match for Rick Spencer in his #65 Station Wagon in the Factory Stocks. Spencer powered up from his 7th place starting spot to take the win, but Randy Woodbury was also one to watch driving the Cops & Donuts police cruiser to 5th from his P-13 starting spot.
In Late Model action there was no match for Brandon Thirlby who took his #M14 fairly early on in the feature after dominating his heat race. With non-stop action and lapped traffic it was definitely a fun race to watch. David Mielke chased Thirlby to the line, but the intense action wasn’t reserved for just the front of the field as Cody Bauer who earned his spot in the feature via the B-Main methodically worked his way up from 21st to grab an 8th place finish.
Merritt regular Adam Erickson continued the long-time tradition of the #104 sitting in victory lane in the Pro-Stock division. The Erickson family has been a staple at Merritt and the new extinct Cherry/M-113 Raceway for decades and although Adam usually sports a #7 in the Late Model division, it was definitely nice to see the #104 sitting in victory lane. Erickson bested the #69N of Nate Murphy of Coleman, Michigan and the #J3 of Tim Murphy of Holland, Ohio.
The best show of the night was definitely the UMP Modified feature though. David Mielke #87 and Joe Rokos #77 put on a stellar show in the early stages of the event before Mielke’s car encountered a mechanical failure and he was forced to retire. From there it looked like it might be fast qualifier Joe Rokos’ night, but with lapped traffic coming into play veteran Brent Banning kept digging, and gaining on Rokos as the laps dwindled, and then as the white flag flew Banning got his #99 within striking distance and made his move coming out of 3 to win by mere inches at the line. The duo was chased to the line by the #7 of Caleb Kill,
#33 Landon Kirt of McBain picked up in A-Main in the Unrestricted Mini-Wedge division trailed closely by a very smooth and consistent Grayson Brindley in the 3G. The Restricted division saw Leilynd Strehlke #68 picking up the win over #7C Keeton Cade.
I was definitely impressed and entertained by my evening at Merritt Speedway, and if you have yet to make a trip up north in 2019, it is well worth a visit.
To celebrate Labor Day the track will be playing host to the Gene Kregear Championship weekend with all 7 usual divisions doing battle along with a Mini-Wedge special.
September 6th & 7th will be the season finale. Closing out the year with a $10,000 to win B-Mod show combined with a $2,000 to win UMP Late Model special.
DeLayna had her own takeaways from our evening at Merritt Speedway, “I got to go to the park first thing before the race and that was the bomb!” To a four-year-old, getting some energy out is definitely a bonus and the fact that Merritt has some play equipment behind the main grandstands was pretty exciting. Of course once the rumble of engines could be heard in the make-ready shoot she was grandstand bound.
Another exciting aspect was, “The snack shack. I got a little car toy that’s filled with candy, but I get to keep the car forever to play…aaaaaaaand when I got the little car the lady there gave me beach toys with more candy and that was awesome”. The snack shack at Merritt is quite a nice alternative to the normal concession. Selling bottled beverages, popcorn, dipping dots and of course candy the shack is a favorite of kids and kids at heart. The $1.25 candy filled racecars are also the perfect souvenir, priced not much higher than a typical candy bar the car provides a sweet treat and also a great source of entertainment that comes home. The added bonus of a surprise beach toy basket for all snack shack visitors was also a major bonus.
“The bathrooms are nice and I can go potty in them easily and they don’t have automatic flushes and I got to wash my hands in warm water and that is so nice and cozy”. Merritt’s bathrooms definitely rank amongst some of the cleanest in motorsports and are amazingly pristine for a dirt track. Spacious stalls make it possible for children to be assisted properly and also make wardrobe changes in private actually possible. Also, with working hot and cold water late evening hand washes don’t equate to having Popsicle fingertips when the weather cools.
As for the on track action, DeLayna definitely had her favorites and enjoyed the fact that the well-lit racing surface made it possible for her to carry out her photography duties into feature time. “In the Late Models I loved cheering for Brandon Thirlby and Mielke too, but my favorite kind of car was the Mini-Sprints. They make a cool noise [insert 4-year-old sound effects of a Lightning Sprint and hand gestures portraying cars passing one another], They have one side of their wing down and one side up and they are just pretty awesome”.
To see and hear and see the “awesomeness” of Lightning Sprints and the rest of Merritt Speedway’s typical line up you can visit them halfway between Houghton Lake and Lake City, Michigan on M-55 Saturday nights starting at 7pm.
Thank you for reading and I’ll see you when the next green flag flies.