Big time racing comes to Merritt Speedway this August long weekend
Hold onto your hats, folks, and maybe plug your ears. The big boys are comin’ to town.
This weekend, at the Merritt Speedway, the racing schedules on Saturday and Sunday are going to include even more exciting, heart-pounding dirt-track action than usual.
In addition to the highly-entertaining four classes regularly featured at the 3/8-mile oval located 5 km west of Merritt on Hwy 8, the local Merritt Stock Car Association is playing host to cars and drivers from the Northern Provincial Pipeline Late Model Series based out of Edson, Alberta.
According to MSCA representative Lonnie Boszko, the NPP Series features full-bodied, 5-Star manufactured NASCAR-type cars that are big and powerful, and capable of reaching speeds well in excess of 100 km/h in a very short amount of time - even on a tight, unpaved track.
“It’s going to be the biggest, fastest race weekend of the year at the Merritt Speedway,” states Boszko. “We’re really hoping for a big crowd.”
NPP spokesperson Gord Craig says this will be the Series’ first-ever race in B.C.
“This is going to be quite a show for everyone in Merritt. We have nine of the top ten cars and their drivers confirmed for the event.”
Craig goes on to clarify that Merritt is not going to be an exhibition race. “This is for championship points. The competition is going to be intense.”
Heading the list of NPP participants this weekend are a pair of B.C. drivers - 2012 Series leader Chris Beaulieu from Campbell River, and sixth-place Darrell Midgley from Sidney. He won a Late Model Series’ title back in 2009.
Also scheduled to compete both Saturday and Sunday is 2011 Series’ champion Mike Tom from Stony Plain, Alberta.
An 11-year resident of Salmon Arm before moving across the Rockies, Tom figures he’ll be coming to the Nicola Valley with a whole mess of support.
“I’ve got a lot of friends [in Salmon Arm] still, and none of them have ever seen me race in the Late Model class,” says Tom. “We’re probably bringing a hundred people from there with us to Merritt.”
Asked what lured him to and excites him about NPP racing, Tom says, “What’s probably the best feature is the competition. Usually, in most classes, there might be one, two or three cars that are really competitive. The rest aren’t quite at that level. In our series, on any given night, eight to ten different cars could win the feature, which makes the level of competition just crazy.”
Tom is one-half of a father-son racing team that includes his dad, Allen.
“We’ve been doing it for 17-18 years,” says Mike. “We call ourselves FAST Racing which stands for Father and Son Team. We enjoy it. Gives us something to do together. Keeps us connected.”
According to Craig, another participant this weekend in Merritt who should turn a few heads is Trevor Emond from Leduc, AB.
“ A three-time NPP champion, and the winningest NPP driver in history, this will be Trevor’s first time running in our series since 2010.”
“The NPP Late Model Series evolved from the hobby stock class in 2001,” explains Craig. “In addition to the 5-Star manufactured body specification, NPP cars also have a rigid carburetor spec, and a minimum car-and-driver combined weight rule of 3,100 lbs.
Most of the NPP Late Model Series take place in Alberta, at tracks in Edmonton and Spruce Grove. There is also one stop in Kindersley, Saskatchewan slated for the Labour Day long weekend.
“You can thank the closure of the track in Lethbridge for opening up the August long weekend and making a stop in Merritt possible,” states Craig.
“None of our drivers have ever raced in Merritt before. It’s going to be quite an eye-opening experience for all of them, and quite a show for all the racing fans.”
Racing on Saturday and Sunday begins at 5 p.m.