"Fathers and Sons
The Beat goes On!"
Merrittville Speedway has always stressed the fact that auto racing is a family sport, this has always been the case. While during the 1950's many of the family members were race drivers who were brothers competing against each other as no females were allowed in the pits.
Some of the early sibling rivalries consisted of Ralph and Dan Taylor, Jim and Peter Hurtubese, and Ted and Lloyd Holt. As racing at the area oval progressed into the 1960's we saw the emergence of both sportsman and late model drivers, such as Don and Harold Turner, Don and Glenn Shirton, Nick and Joe Lalcevick, and Denny, Don and Larry Deagle. These drivers competed either head to head, in the same division, or some competed in all divisions such as the Deagle brothers who started out with the jalopies moving up to sportsmen, late model, and just for fun, the mini stocks.
By the 1970's, we saw the emergence of true family teams. As the sons grew up, they moved from the grandstands to the pits to assume their roles as first, crew men and then drivers. In this article, I would like to touch on Father and Son combinations who have roots going back to the early years of racing at Merrittville Speedway. Brian and Ray Stevens: While a lot has been written about this family, it is worthy to note the long spanning career of the Stevens Family racing team. Ray started out as a car owner in 1952 for race driver Bruce Swartz in the #12 Ford coupe.
These fellows raced from Merrittville to Ancaster to Aylmer and occasionally to Tilsonburg, getting their feet wet in the racing game. During 1953, Ray started driving the old #127 Ford coupe, which was re-lettered as #44 sponsored by Central Auto Electric. At this time, Bruce raced a 1933 short wheel based Ford coupe #127, only to have it crashed after the race was over at Stamford Park, having been hit by a speeding racer. Ray wrote off the old 127 coupe at Ancaster and thus was introduced to the sport of stock car racing. During 1954 and into 1955 Ray and Bruce continued to race, but on the fateful June night in 1955 Ray's career as a driver was cut short by a racing accident, when his 1933 Ford, sponsored by Abe Dick Masonry, tried to avoid a spinning Bill Bula causing the Stevens racer to roll.
At the time of the accident Ray was a top competitor in the stock car division and president of the NDSCRA drivers' association. While Ray's driving career was cut short, his long career as a car owner was just starting. Top drivers such as Jimmy Jenkins, Tom Cook, Ted Renshaw, Lloyd Holt, Stan Friesen, Hugh Tripp, Mike Granton and Davey Moore, all took their time.
However, the lasting partnership of father and son was yet to come. While son Brian was spending his time during the mid-sixties watching from the grandstands and helping me sell popcorn in the concession, so we could close by the end of intermission, in order to watch the feature and our heroes. A few years later during the late model division, Brian got behind the wheel of the #14 Chevelle. He spend a year or so in this division breaking into the game of dirt tracking and eventually moving up to the modifieds.
Brian and Ray formed a team with a variation of success, but in 1982 success found them as their blue #44 modified won Merrittville's Parts Championship. During the 1980's the "Flyin Brian" Stevens fan club and racing team continued to show success and in 1988 Brian and Ray celebrated their 100th career win behind the wheel of the #444 orange Bicknell modified.
Both father and son had a lot to be proud of, the "racing gods" were kind to them, however it wouldn't have been possible without the help of sponsors such as Groff Tire, York Electric Plating and Cosgrove Engines. The Stevens family would again taste victory many more times and ten years after his first points championship, he would win his second in 1992 on the Merrittville oval. From 1952 to 1992, the Stevens family racing team has established a racing tradition at Merrittville Speedway that goes back to its roots, and continues today.
Another father and son combination was again established during the 1980's as a young Jim Begolo took the wheel of father Jeno's modified thus continuing a tradition of stock car racing at Merrittville Speedway. While father Jeno has established some nine parts championships, young Jim has come close but not quite. At Merrittville, Jeno was always a front runner, and he started his career during the #123 A & A Auto Ford coupe.
Jeno won many heats and features at area tracks, but his first points championship at Merrittville Speedway would come in 1958 at the wheel of his #16 Ford coupe sponsored by Nemeth Motors while Junior High would be top points man in the jalopy division. Also during 1958 Jeno would be top points champion, and the first one at the newly opened Ransomville Speedway. During 1959 Jeno won the points championship on the dirt at Lancaster Speedway. At this point, Jeno had a highly modified race car built and this is where the "Bunny" first appeared on the side of this car. It was a light weight twin carbeurated overhead valve engined coupe, known as a "bug".
When Jeno returned to racing during 1964 at Merrittville, the nickname "Bug" was attached to Jeno's name forever. Jeno was always the innovator and his gleaming black and red coupes would continue to achieve much success attaining the Merrittville Points Championship in 1968. This time the family racers were sponsored by Begolo's Body Service in Thorold South.
A young Jim Begolo assumed the cockpit of the Begolo's Body Service #16 being named Dirt Rookie of the year in 1983 while Jeno assumed the role of mentor and crew chief. During 1987 Jim was named FOAR Score Driver of the year having improved his performance greatly by winning 9 features. The #16 show car engineered "Bugs" had achieved much success but none more fitting than during the 40th Anniversary Reunion night in 1991.
With many of the former track owners, car owners and race drivers in attendance, crew chief Jeno "Bug" Begolo was inducted on to the "Wall of Fame", one of the first to be honoured along with Ivan Little and Bill Willard Sr. A 30 year old Jim Begolo would win his first feature of the season and dedicated the victory to his crew chief father Jeno.
The Beechwood Golf sponsored #16 led the pack of 26 modified and was not seriously challenged until the 48 lap of 50, by Ron Snoker who would go on to win the 1991 points championship and second with Pete Bicknell third and Davey Moore finishing fourth. As the headline read it was truly, "a big night for the Begolos at Merrittville." My final father and son team started in 1975 with Harvey Hainer Jr. competing in the late model division getting his start on Merrittvilles oval. Harvey Jr. was creating a driving career while his father Harvey Sr. continued his career as car owner, engine builder and top modified mechanic.
It was Harvey Hainer Sr. who wrenched on the sportsmen cars of Lloyd Holt that lead to much of Holt's success. It was also Harvey Hainer Sr. who guided Mike Zajac to become the first three time track champion at Merrittville in his white then blue coupe #8 during 1971, 1973 and 1974. The Hainer family was a quiet close knot unit that used stock car racing as a hobby. It was Davey Moore later to become Harvey Hainer Jr.'s brother in law, who got his start working as a crewman with Harvey Sr. and Jr. on Mike Zajac's racers, who got his start warming up Zajac's coupe before the races. While Harvey Jr. and Davey Moore would at times appear to be team mates, they would often be competitive rivals on area ovals.
While Moore under various car owners would achieve many points championships at Merrittville, 1975-1979, it would be young Harvey in the family #2H modified that would win the Rookie of the Year title at Merrittville in 1976.
The Hainer family would see the 2H modified attain the Merrittville Points Championship in 1981, and again at Humberstone in 1986. During 1987 Harvey Hainer represented Ransomville Speedway at Syracuse as a "Preferred Starter".
The Hainer family continued to race successfully, coupled with sponsors such as St. Catharines Tire, and the Automotive Part Mart. Today, Hainer Racing is a very close knit family racing team who continue to treat racing as a hobby.
We hope that 1997 is a kind racing year for this father and son team, as "the beat goes on!"
Sincerely, Rick Kavanagh