Canada’s oldest dirt track, Merrittville Speedway St.Catharines/Thorold still under a heavy blanket of winter white!
This time of year, we deal with a lot of dates and a lot of numbers.
As numbers go on a calendar, the major racing series issued their 2015 schedules quite a while ago, many just after last year wound down for the winter.
NASCAR’s major touring series are well underway. The NHRA, SportsCar, Motocross and Rally sanctions are now active, while Formula One and IndyCar are a few days away from firing up their engines for their brand new campaigns.
And while numbers do tend to go in one ear and out the other, and often baffle and mystify us, especially as we close in on income tax time, there is a set of numbers tied to local and regional racing that shouldn’t confuse and confound.
They should amaze all who stop and think what they signify.
Most know I’m very closely rooted to the dirt modified scene in the Niagara Peninsula going back to the 1960’s.
It’s where I was first exposed to our sport, with the bug hitting hard enough to eventually make the coverage of auto racing my full time occupation.
And with my wife Janice’s Dad Kurt Uhl and his partners co-owning two of the three speedways located very close to home back in the 70’s and 80’s, it’s where our families grew up.
But why is the long-term health of the roots of our sport so important, and why is it vital to The Canadian Motor Speedway development?
If you are a regular listener to Raceline Radio, you already know the answer. The Motor Racing Networks’ Dave Moody, a good friend said it best and I have borrowed his wisdom many times, “ … if the roots of our sport die, the whole tree dies!”
Dave of course is right on the money, but being healthy is one thing. Staying healthy for long periods of time is quite another when tied to precarious things like the economy.
Going by the numbers, dirt track racing in the Niagara Region leads the nation when it comes to healthy racing roots, and we are reminded of that as spring approaches.
As Humberstone Speedway in Port Colborne, Ransomville Speedway in Ransomville New York, and Merrittville Speedway in St.Catharines, all within a 60 mile driving radius, release their schedules for the new season, you realize the survival and longevity of these clay ovals is nothing short of remarkable.
And it is this long standing racing history and fan support that will form the foundation of the CMS fan base.
Humberstone Speedway, owned by Linda Cosco of St.Catharines, opens their 56th consecutive season of operation May 3rd. Ransomville Speedway, owned by the Friesen family of St.Catharines, kicks off their 58th season in a row May 1st.
The granddaddy of them all is Merrittville Speedway, listed as located in St.Catharines, but is technically in Thorold. The Bicknell and Williamson families, the current owners, will launch their 64th straight season April 25th.
That makes Merrittville the oldest and longest operating dirt track in Canada!
I get the occasional note from listeners discounting that claim, but their case faulters when I point out Merrittville boasts 64 consecutive years of uninterrupted operation. There might be older ovals in Canada by age, but invariably their timeline is broken by closures and re-openings.
Merrittville has thankfully avoided those problems, as have the other two area tracks, thanks to fervently loyal fans, who have been coming to these parks for generations!
Applying a little arithmetic, the three speedways in Metro Niagara have a combined service of 178 years to the dirt track racing fans of the region, a situation unique and exclusive to the area, equalled nowhere else in Canada!
The length of life of these facilities proves how important our sport is in Niagara and across Canada.
And those very healthy roots make sure the big stuff stays alive and kicking.
The same roots that will nurture a very bright future for Canadian Motor Speedway!
Tale Pipes: The Raceline Radio Network is thrilled to re-connect with the fabulous fans in Winnipeg! TSN 1290 joins us Friday nights at 10 PM Central to boost the Network to 17 affiliates, 22 airings a week year-round!