BOB HATT #9
Racing Pioneer - St.Catharines, Ontario
Back in 1952 when Merrittville Speedway
opened as a 1/4 mile clay oval, many young individuals
thought about trying their hand at racing. Long before
there was a highway 406 connecting St.Catharines to Welland,
there was only the twisting and turning Merrittville Highway
leading right to the farm country of Thorold Township.
On Saturday Nights from May until
September it was common to see race car upon race car, being
flat towed by these racers, with their families from
St.Catharines, Welland, Hamilton and Niagara Falls to try
their skill on the new oval.
One such individual was Bob Hatt who with
mechanic Jimmy Simpson and wife Thelma, was one such
competitor, who would flat tow their #9 stock car behind
their Studebaker family car. In fact, it wasn’t uncommon to
have Thelma driver the Studebaker and Bob ride in the race
car only to start it up while climbing the hills and
curves of Merrittville Highway, helping the underpowered
family sedan to get to the race track and back.
Bob’s early race cars were built at
Rectangle Auto Wreckers on Cushman Road in St.Catharines.
As the cars and classes evolved, so did Bob’s race cars.
The Hatts were consistent racers in the mid 1950’s, then
moved to the new jalopy division driving the J-9 coupe.
The now familiar brown and gold race cars
won their share of races, but then my 1963 when the late
model division replaced the jalopies, Bob Hatt had much
success in a 1957 Chevrolet and later a 1965 Chevrolet where
he competed until the late 1960’s.
By early 1970’s the 6 cylinder unlimited
sportsman, became another division on Merrittville’s now
d-shaped 3/8 mile oval. At this point Bob Hatt had teamed
up with John Crosby, building and racing as many as four
cars out of the Vineland Texaco garage. #9, #09, #90 and
#19. John Crosby and Bob Hatt formed “C&H Racing” and by
1974 built a modified and raced the familiar #9 car at area
ovals. During the same period a young Pete Bicknell also
raced his #42 gremlin style modified with
sponsorship from Vineland Texaco and John Crosby.
By the late 1970’s Bob’s #9 modified was
a consistent and top finisher at area ovals, and in
fact, Bob won the last dirt track race held at Stoney
Creek’s Speedway Park, according to his family members. Bob
Hatt had an influence on many competitors including his
nephews Jim and Tim Hatt. From the late 70’s into the 80’s
the Hatt family competed in the modified division at
Merrittville Speedway where they expireenced both triumph
Today, Bob Hatt and family operate a
trucking company while now 81 years old and married to
Thelma for over 60 year, while no longer flat towing stock
cars behind the family sedan, Bob still has a love for the
sport. Bob has supported many racers from Brian Halliwell,
in the old prostock division, to Dennis Giancolla in the
modifieds for 2010.
Today Bob Hatt along with family and
friends assembled a replica vintage stock car, from spare
parts painted the familiar red-brown with #9 on its doors.
While Bob likes to avoid the limelight and hang out with his
buddies in the pits, tonight it’s our pleasure on behalf of
Merrittville Speedway’s Alumni Reunion Committee, to induct
you on to our “Wall of Fame” sponsored by L.St.Amand
Enterprises, CAA Niagara, Auto FX and Lucas Oil.
Sincerely Rick Kavanagh, “Chairman”
Merrittville Speedway Alumni Reunion Committee