Third generation driver of the 77Jr
If you are fairly new to Merrittville Speedway … you may have heard Sportsman driver BJ Willard thank his dad Bill in Victory Lane or perhaps relate how his experience helped him get there. If you are a longtime fan you have to know Bill Willard to be a former driver and part of a family that has been involved in most of our 60 year history.
Beginning in the 1950’s the family got its start in the local racing scene when Bill Willard Senior quickly became an accomplished car owner for drivers including Don Taylor, Bev MacTavish, Stan Friesen, George Winger and Terry Edwards while at the same time providing towing service through Willard & Son Towing. Fast forward to the 1970’s and the cars Bill Sr. and his son Al would own and maintain would be those driven by the family’s third generation … Bill Willard and later his sister Tammy. Like so many multi-generational families that have played a part in our history it was only a matter of time before Bill Willard got involved himself. Growing up on Louth Street in St. Catharines alongside his grandparents and Aunt Betty next door to the family business he too would develop a passion for the sport of Stock Car Racing.
After getting his start in the former Bomber Division, Bill would soon take the family’s 77Jr to the Sportsman Division – first with a 6 Cylinder before a V8 when the division changed to that engine variation. Eventually the 77Jr would be joined by a 77Jrette driven by his sister Tammy as the two would become perhaps the only brother and sister to compete against each other in the same division. From the start, Willard-owned cars carried certain numbers and before long the 77’s were joined by the 777 of their brother-in-law Guy McPherson in the Sportsman Division. McPherson married Lori Willard – second daughter of Al and Laura and grand-daughter of Bill Sr. and Anne. With three cars in action in the Sportsman Division in the 90’s … the family sure had lots to cheer for sure!
Through his career Bill and Tammy would
also compete in the Modified Division but the Sportsman
Division would be where both would find their most success.
In 1993, Bill would earn the Sportsman Division Points
Championship repeating in 1995. 3 years later Tammy would
as well. Throughout his career Bill has seen quite an
evolvement in racing equipment as his first open wheel racer
was a 1933 Ford Coupe. From there it became the
Gremlin-bodied cars through to the chassis and body styles
of today with it’s GM Crate Engine that all competitors
including his son BJ campaigns. Bill would race until 2005
and fittingly the last race he won was the Sterling Silvr
Event hosted by former racer Ken Walsh that honors his
Grandfather Bill Sr.
Shortly thereafter … Bill would put his son BJ behind the wheel . An even further show of how far things have come was when BJ won his first Sportsman Feature. Dad Bill was away on Holidays receiving a call from BJ on his sister Alicia’s cell phone from Victory Lane. Back in the day news like that or any kind would not be passed on near that quick. Alicia enjoyed her own racing success on two occasions Tuesday Nights growing up with her brother as both would race Go Karts. She made a successful return a few years ago – winning the Senior Flat Head Division Points Championship as Alicia Braun after marrying Bobcat of Hamilton 358 Modified Driver Travis Braun. With the arrival of Bill’s Grandson Carter Braun … is a 5th generation driver in the family possible?
Today Bill is still involved in CAA Niagara while serving as Crew Chief for his son BJ. The fourth generation of the 77 currently sits atop the Sportsman Points Race. Leading the charge to overtake him – his cousin Cody McPherson – son of Guy and Lori. Similar to the third generation drivers … up until recently it was three cars in the same division as BJ and Cody had their cousin and brother Tyler McPherson chasing them down as well. When his sister Tammy won her first Sportsman Feature he was able to watch it after breaking earlier in the event. When she was inducted into the Wall of Fame a few years ago he got to watch that too as one of a circle of family of friends that were the only ones to know of what was to come.
Tonight Bill - it’s once again your turn to be in the spotlight on the CAA Stage as your family and friends are here to enjoy your reaction upon induction into the L. St. Amand Enterprises Wall of Fame … joining Tammy, your dad Al and your grandfather Bill Sr.!
Congratulations on behalf of the Merrittville Speedway Reunion Committee.