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Merrittville Speedway's 50th continuous season, as well as the Irvine family's 15 years of management, will be celebrated July 1 at the DIRT-sanctioned track in Thorold, Ont.

Merrittville opened under the ownership of John Marino and the late George Cullen on July 1, 1952. It was a smaller dirt surface oval that was not enlarged to its present four-tenths of a mile D-shaped oval layout until years later.

After the founders got the ball rolling, new owners Ken Kavanuagh and Bill Russell took over in 1956. In 1971, partners Stan Friesen and Kurt Uhl bought the operation.

The facility was again sold in the early 1980s to a group of businessmen who presided over the property until the Irvines arrived in late 1986. Bryant and Marilyn Irvine, parents of current General Manager Jim Irvine, and businessman Alan Ley began running races in 1987. While Ley departed a few years ago, the Irvines hope to be around for years to come.

"Merrittville has been a staple part of the community here for all its years of operation," Jim Irvine said. "We've got a good relationship with the government and the area business community. We got second, third and even fourth generations of drivers, teams and fans who have been here for so many years. With the addition of our Go-Kart program a few seasons ago, we're enjoying new generations as well.

"On opening night of this season earlier this year, the mayor of Thorold was here along with other local politicians and business leaders. They'll be back on July 2 for our biggest race event in history plus the July 21 Merrittville Reunion night."

On July 2, Azurix of North America will showcase the DIRT 358 Modifieds in Triple 50-lap features for the Sunoco Race Fuels DIRT 358 Modified Super DIRT Series. A purse of $72,000 (Canadian) will be up for grabs.

"We will run time trials and then run heat races to set the field for the first 50-lapper," Irvine said. "Then we will invert the finishing order of the first 50 to set the field to start the second 50. The starting field for the third 50 will be set based on combined points from the first two 50-lappers with the drivers earning the higher totals starting up front. The results of the last 50 will be what counts as far as Sunoco series points and money payout is concerned. The winner of the third race will get $20,000. If any driver can win all three races he will receive a $10,000 bonus."

The July 21 reunion will bring together the drivers, car owners, management and officials who have been a part of Merrittville's half-century of operation. On Sept. 1, the season's final night of point racing, the new champions will be crowned with champions of the past joining them in a special ceremony.

Irvine also points out that September will mark the 100th anniversary of the first automobile race in Canada.

"It was a dirt stock car race run on an old horse racing track that was just about on the site where Casino Niagara is today. On Sept. 22, as we are the closest track to that historical site, we are planning a special evening for that as well."

Merrittville will continue its weekly card of DIRT 358 Modifieds, DIRT Sportsman, DIRT Pro-Stocks, Dwarf Cars and Street Stocks at 7:30 p.m. Saturdays. In keeping with an historical theme, the Midstate Vintage Cars join this Saturday's program.

Pit stops

McKean County Raceway in East Smetheport, Pa., in conjunction with Speedway 7 in Conneaut, Ohio, showcases its biggest event Saturday at 7 p.m. MCR runs a Late Model $5,000-to-win 50-lap race. Speedway 7 will run an event for the Late Models the previous evening. Points will be awarded for each race with the eight drivers who have the highest combined point total, concluding MCR's program Saturday with a 10-lap $3,000-to-win dash.

Ransomville Speedway has Johnston's Restaurant Night/Scout Night on tap this Friday at 7:15 p.m. In addition to the weekly DIRT-sanctioned divisions, Ransomville will also put on a Go-Kart racing exhibition.

The Automotive Recyclers Association of New York Pro-Stock Super DIRT Series heads to Gasport Speedway for a 6:30 p.m. date Sunday.

The Arrow Mart Mid-Season Championships for the DIRT Sportsman and DIRT Pro-Stocks headlines 6:30 p.m. competition Saturday at Genesee Speedway. Wyoming County International Speedway features a "Roll The Tire Contest" and the Casey's TQ Midget Series during its five-division card at 6 p.m. Saturday.

Holland Speedway hosts the NASCAR Weekly Racing Series at 6 p.m. Saturday. On June 30, the United Speed Alliance Racing Hooters Pro-Cup North 250 hits the high banks of Holland. Freedom Raceway highlights a 25-lap Mini-Stock race during Tidd's Towing Night at 7:30 p.m. Friday. Lancaster Motorsports Park features IHRA drag racing Friday at 7 p.m. and the Anderson Equipment Trucker's Appreciation Night stock car program at 6:30 p.m. Saturday.

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