Sports

Busy night at Merrittville

By Bill Sawchuk, St. Catharines Standard

Brent Begolo of Thorold speeds around the track at Merrittville Speedway in Thorold. — Bernd Franke/Postmedia News

Brent Begolo of Thorold speeds around the track at Merrittville Speedway in Thorold. — Bernd Franke/Postmedia News

A busy night of racing ended up with Erick Rudolph of Ransomville, N.Y., and Cody McPherson of St. Catharines in victory lane Saturday night at Merrittville Speedway.

Rudolph, who usually runs in Canandaigua, N.Y., on Saturday nights, made the trip to Merrittville for the double modified feature.

He won the Bobcat of Hamilton main 358 Modified feature, which didn’t end until about 11 p.m., after starting the 35-lap race in 12th spot.

“We were having a little bit of a problem with our big block cars, so we decided to come here and run double features,” Rudolph said.

“The car came alive at the end. It was easy with the way the car worked. It took me a while to figure out what the car wanted. Once I found a line where the car was happy, I just stuck it in there and did my job.”

Four hours early, Greg Panunte of Port Colborne won the first modified feature of the night. That was a makeup race from May 13.

McPherson took advantage of late-race restart to win the main Sportsman 25-lap feature.

“It was really loose the first 10 laps or so; then I just started cranking the front brake into it,” McPherson said. “It got better and better. I was catching up, but I don’t think I would have had enough time. I could see both of them starting to wash up. Sharpy (was starting to get loose. I was really good in Turn 3 and Turn 4.”

Chris Storm of Thorold — using duct tape on the door for his No. X — won the first Sportsman feature of the night in makeup race for the May 1 race that was rained out.

Brent Begolo of Thorold was fifth in the main Sportsman feature and third in the makeup race.

He also finished fourth the Open-Wheel Lite feature.

“It was really slippery right through the middle. There was no real grip up top. The bottom seemed to be the place to be. We stayed down there and kept digging. You just have to hope the guy up in front of you messes up and you can pounce.

“I was really frustrated. Me and the No. 18 (Brad Rouse) were really close at one point, but there were other guys in the mix, holding the three of us up. We just couldn’t break away or get through them.

“The car is in one piece, and we were top five in all three races with both cars — so I will take it.”

Begolo is a familiar name around the track.

Brent is a third-generation driver, following in the footsteps, or tire tracks, of his grandfather Jeno and father Jim, who are both on the Merrittville Wall of Fame.

“I don’t think about my last name unless someone brings it up,” Brent, 28, of Thorold, said. “If no one is bringing it up, it’s not on my mind. It’s just my name.

“I know there is a lot of history with the family. But we just go and do our own thing like we always do and hope for the best. This has been my life. I don’t really know any different.”

Brent, who works a hydraulics technician at Seaway Power Fluids, is in his 10th year of racing at Merrittville. He is also driving a car in the Open Wheel Lites.

Merrittville Speedway has been a part of his life for as long as he can remember.

“If my dad was there, I was there,” he said. “The thing that stands out was when I was really young. I wasn’t allowed to go to the pits. I hated that.

“My grandfather and my dad were over there with the cars, but I had a babysitter, or I was with my mom or my grandmother.

“My dad and my grandfather were busy; they didn’t need to be looking after me. I think they started sneaking me in when I was about 10 years old.”

Before his Sportsman ride, Begolo spent five years running in the Hoosier Stocks, the eight-cylinder class at Merrittville.

The Sportsman car is owned by his father. The Mod Lites car is owned by Josh Sliter of Port Colborne. Sliter is the defending points champion but is spending more time this season competing in Sprint Cars.

“We are up there in the standings,” Begolo said. “Both crews are really working hard on both cars. We have had a good start to the year, and hopefully, we can keep it going.

“The cars drive differently. It’s busy going from car to car to car to car. I have to flip a switch in my head and remind myself that each car is different.”

During the week, Begolo keeps the Sportsman car in Allanberg at his father’s house, and the Open Wheel Lite car stays in Port Colborne at Sliter’s shop.

“There is the typical checklist you have to do on the cars,” Begolo said. “If there are any damages, the work week is longer. Most of the time it is general maintenance one night a week and then half a day Saturday when you go to the track. We have a great crew on both cars. They get it done.”

Jim Lampman of Caister Centre won the 20-lap Hoosier Stock feature. Chris Watson of Niagara Falls won the One Wheel Lites, and Kyle Rothwell of Welland won the Four-Cylinder Race.

 

 

Factbox

MERRITVILLE SPEEDWAY RESULTS

Top five feature finishes at Merritville Speedway Saturday, June 17. Bobcat of Hamilton sponsored the features:

358 Modified: 1. Erick Rudolph, Ransomville; 2. Gary Lindberg, Ridgeway; 3. Mat Williamson, St. Catharines; 4. Mike Bowman, St. Catharines; 5. Ryan Susice, Ransomville, N.Y

Sportsman: 1. Cody McPherson, St. Catharines; 2. Luke Carleton, Port Colborne; 3. Brad Rouse, St. Catharines; 4. Justin Sharp, St. Catharines; 5. Brent Begolo, Thorold.

Hoosier Stock: 1. Jim Lampman, Caister Centre; 2. Dave Bailey, Hagersville; 3. Rob Murray, St. Catharines; 4. Billy Bleich Jr., Port Robinson; 5. James Thompson, St. Catharines.

Open Wheel Lites: 1. Chris Watson, Niagara Falls; 2. Jeffrey May, Mount Hope; 3. Steve Beckett, Fonthill; 4. Brent Begolo, Thorold; 5. Tyler Winger, Fort Erie.

Four-Cylincer: 1. Kyle Rothwell, Welland; 2. Alex Riley, Thorold; 3. Jay Moulton, St. Catharines; 4. Cole Hardy, Welland; 5. Tony Kelly, Niagara Falls.

Novice Sportsman: 1. Brand Gruhl, St. Catharines; 2. Dave Mamo, Ridgeway; 3. Gregg Rauscher, Thorold; 4. Paul Cunningham, Niagara Falls; 5. Scott Sonnenberg, Bethel.

358 Modified (makeup race from May 13): 1. Greg Panunte, Port Colborne; 2. Scott Wood, Thorold; 3. Mike Bowman, St. Catharines; 4. Erick Rudolph, Ransomville, N.Y.; 5. Tyler Willard, St. Catharines.

Sportsman (makeup race from May 1): 1. Chris Storm, Thorold; 2. Cody McPherson, St. Catharines; 3. Brent Begolo, Thorold; 4. Jay Mallory, St. Catharines; 5. James M. Friesen, St. Catharines.