It’s DIRT not MUD, and It’s in Your Blood!

As we standby for work to resume on the Canadian Motor Speedway site in Fort Erie, the local Niagara racing scene is emerging from its long winter’s nap to start a brand new season. Just a short drive from the CMS location, the three dirt tracks in St.Catharines-Thorold and Port Colborne on The Canadian side, and a short hop across the bridge in Ransomville New York, form a solid and long surviving Niagara racing fan base.CMS will draw fans and competitors from across North America, but Niagara’s dirt track racing fans, who already know how important the sport is in this market, already make up the foundation of what will be a large, enthusiastic and loyal percentage of CMS ticket buyers and customers.

The three clay ovals in the immediate CMS neighbourhood have been vital sports attractions in the region for generations.

Very much aware of the vitality of the local racing tradition, CMS established immediate  dialogue with the management of all three tracks. We have all pledged to co-promote each other’s events and to work closely together.

It can’t and shouldn’t work any other way.

For those not familiar with the area dirt tracks, let me take you on a little written tour with some photographic assistance from my good friends Alex and Helen Bruce. Thanks to Softouch Photo as well.

Merrittville Speedway, the 3/8’s mile D-shaped banked clay oval just south of St.Catharines in Thorold, is only 12 miles from the U.S border and a stone’s throw from CMS.

The elder statesman of dirt track racing, Merrittville opens this month for their 63rd consecutive season. They are the oldest and longest operating dirt track in Canada.

My Dad first took me to Merrittville when I was seven years old in 1960, so the place has been part of my life for 54 years.

I eventually met my wife Janice at Merrittville, as her family co-owned the track in the 70’s and 80’s.

Janice started working there in popcorn when she was a kid, moved to hotdog sales and then graduated to the control tower as an official scorer.

I figured if she could put up with my ridiculous race calling as the track announcer every week, she would make the perfect spouse.

I was right.

We had daughter Katelyn at Merrittville when she was a baby, and I’m proud to say Katie spent 12 years as a scorer herself, inheriting her mother’s prowess for keeping track of cars at the historic bull ring.

Owned by the Bicknell and Williamson families, with Pete Bicknell himself a multi-time track champion who also builds most of the cars, their feature division on their Saturday night card is small block DIRT Modifieds.

Full House at Merrittville!

For those who haven’t been entertained by these cars, a DIRT Modified is like a big, long and heavy sprint car without wings, with body panels attached. You broad-slide these 500 horsepower machines around corners.

Supported by several support divisions at all three tracks, the Modifieds keep the fans coming back for more every weekend from April to September, season after season!

The same machines are the headliners Friday nights at Ransomville Speedway, Ransomville NY, just east of Lewiston NY, just a short drive across the Queenston-Lewiston bridge.

It’s a unique facility in that it’s located in New York State, but it’s owned by long time friends the Friesen family of St. Catharines.

Janice’s Dad Kurt co-owned “The Big R” and Merrittville together with since departed Friesen family patriarch Stan Friesen in the 70’s and 80’s.

Stan’s sons Jamie and Joel and their families run the speed plant into 2014, Ransomville’s 56th season of dirt track thrills on the larger, faster 5/8th mile high banked clay oval.

The Modifieds Pack Them In at Ransomville!

The Modifieds Pack Them In at Ransomville!

Ransomville’s ticket buyers hail mostly from Western New York, boosted by a loyal Canadian following of fans and race teams.

The closest track to CMS geographically is Humberstone Speedway just outside of Port Colborne, less than a twenty minute drive from the Fort Erie site down highway three.

Operating Sunday nights, Humberstone is a banked 3/8’s mile clay oval, slightly wider than Merrittville,  that’s been drawing fans and drivers from both sides of the border since 1958.

Their main division is DIRT Sportsman cars. They are essentially the same as a Modified, only with slightly less engine power.

Turning Right to Go Left at Humberstone!

They bring in the Modifieds several times as season as a special guest attraction.

All three Speedways are clean, well lit, well run facilities with ultra-modern enclosed hospitality areas, excellent concessions and ample parking. Ransomville also offers a camping area.

Canadian Motor Speedway Directors, Planners and Investors know The Niagara Region is the perfect location to build our world class racing and entertainment complex.

The fact the region already has a long standing and prosperous local dirt track racing fan base and tradition is a well recognized, greatly respected and valuable bonus for CMS.

I’m proud and privileged to have been associated with the dirt track scene in Niagara and Western New York almost my entire life, personal and professional!

It will make the connection and cross-promotion of our racing programs and attractions, a marriage of dirt and asphalt, all the easier going forward.

We are going to be excellent racing neighbours!





The Rights of Spring a Good Show!

This has been one of the most entertaining spring sessions in the sport I can remember, and we have been doing this a while!

We’re seeing lots of changes, lots of different results and different faces at the top. For those of us who like some variety, it’s been great stuff to watch and cover.

It might be a coin-toss as to what series has experienced the most significant changing of the guard, but let’s go with the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series first.

The first seven races of the new 2014 season produced seven different winners, and that’s unusual.

We didn’t get our first repeat winner until Darlington, where “The Lady Too Tough to Tame” allowed Kevin Harvick into victory lane for a second time.

NASCAR’s change in the Chase qualifying format that puts more emphasis on winning, has drivers thinking and talking more about wins than points, since all you need to do is basically win one race to make the playoff.

Not only are we seeing some extremely good racing in CUP so far with the drivers pushing harder for  “that win”, I for one, like the look of the cars this season.

I’m not a big fan of ugly race cars.

Called the Generation Six or “Gen 6 “car, they look tougher, meaner and fast, even standing still.

The elimination of pre and post-race front ride height rules and tech inspections, a new square leading edge for the front splitter, adjustments to the side skirt and rear fascia areas, plus the eight-inch rear spoiler has the cars looking less box-like with a lower racier profile.

I just think they look more like stock cars.

The Formula One World Driving Championship so far has not looked anything like the last few seasons and for those bored with The Red Bull/Sebastian Vettel domination, this is very good news.

The new cars wrapped around brand new V-6 turbo-charged engines have been a handful for many teams trying to find grip and aero balance, save Mercedes and drivers Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg.

The Mercs have been the class of the field so far, already enjoying a sizable lead in the Constructor’s points tally.

So far it’s been a Mercedes party! Rosberg won the season-opening Australian Grand Prix, then proceeded to finish behind stable-mate Lewis Hamilton in Malaysia and Bahrain, back to back.

They are also 1-2 in F-1 driver points.

Force India is second in Constructor Points! Where are McLaren and Ferrari? They are fighting mid-pack and toward the back with Vettel and Red Bull!

The F-1 landscape has changed drastically this spring, and you won’t hear me complaining!

On the down side, there have been complaints and howls of protest from some promoters and fans over the much quieter and raspier engine sound.

Some promoters say the much less dramatic F-1 engine note is not what fans pay for and are demanding a rule change to get the car sound back closer to the ear-splitting scream they used to emit up to this season.

I do prefer the wicked screech of the old motors, but a smaller, lower-revving V-6 that’s also turbo-charged can’t sound anything close to the old power plants, so adjusting the sound of their show is not an easy fix.

The IndyCars entered the new season with a brand new and badly needed title sponsor, Verizon. The largest cellular telephone provider in the States comes on board as the main bill-payer.

After supporting Penske Racing for several seasons, Verizon already understands the series. Their familiarity with the drivers, the administration and inner-workings of IndyCar will mean positive strides in marketing, communications and technology.

Four-time Series champ and three-time Indianapolis 500 winner Dario Franchitti has retired, former champ Juan Montoya has returned, lone Canadian James Hinchcliffe has stumbled a bit out of the gate, and there’s still a twin-bill IndyCar race this summer in Toronto.

IndyCar continues to be a big mountain on the Canadian racing landscape.

On the Canadian Motor Speedway beat, crews are just waiting for the slow-to-arrive warmer weather to thaw the ground on the Fort Erie site so work to finish Miller Creek can continue, and excavation on the core land can begin.

CMS has been out at various sports and trade shows over the winter with our display, talking it up. Fans are very excited the project is underway and can’t wait for that first race!

This is going to be a huge spring and summer for CMS, and you can catch all the updates right here on

The local Niagara Speedways: Merrittville, Ransomville and Humberstone, that form the racing fan base in the region, are into testing and tuning as their seasons are ready to bloom.

Merrittville, the longest operating dirt track in Canada, is set to open their 63rd consecutive season!

The snow blower has officially been put away, and the lawn mower test-started first pull.

The Rights of Spring are lining up as they should, as the 2014 racing season is ready to fire on all cylinders right across the board!