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B.J. Willard Scores 1st Career DIRTcar Sportsman Series Win At Merrittville

B.J. Willard

B.J. Willard - Alex Bruce Photo

Thorold, ONTSeptember 12, 2009 – By Dave Roberts, DIRTcar Racing Northeast Series Correspondent

BJ Willard of St. Catharines, Ontario comes from a historic racing family in the Southern Ontario region. They have been around short track auto racing since the time when Merrittville Speedway opened it doors in 1952. His dad Bill Jr was a top winner as well as his aunt Tammy, the only female driver to ever win a Merrittville Speedway Modified feature. His grandfather Alan was a top flight racer himself in the early days of the track.

BJ made the family proud Saturday night (September 12th) when he captured his first-ever Mr. DIRTcar Sportsman Championship Series race at the energetic one-third mile.

Willard took the lead on lap four and survived through several caution periods to win by a wide margin in the 50-lap feature. He was especially strong a few laps after a restart. He knew that he was going to be at the top of his game.

“We haven’t won here since 2007,” said Willard, as he waited through the post technical process. “We timed well and we won our heat race. I knew that we were going to be strong when the feature started.”

Willard started third and took the lead for good on lap four. In plain simple terminology, no one else had anything for the third-generation driver.

“This is a real confidence builder. When it comes to running the (Mr. DIRTcar) tour, it’s been very tough. We haven’t been able to time well and we just couldn’t seem to finish well. Tonight, we were fast and I knew that it was going to be tough to beat us.”

Front row starters Jim Johnstone and Cody McPherson ran side by side for the first three laps. The first of six caution flags flew on lap three. When the restart occured, Willard took very little time in grabbing the lead. After that, it seemed all academic.

Early top-five challengers were Ryan Susice and Greg Panunte, who later fell back to seventh and eighth, respectively. Chad Chevalier ran second for much of the race and battled both Susice and Chris Raabe of Napanee, Ontario. On lap 34, Raabe, the defending Mr. DIRTcar Sportsman Champion, started his effort to get by Chevalier but wasn’t able to succeed as it became the best battle on the racing surface.

On lap 47, Raabe finally got by Chevalier for second but didn’t have anything for Willard, settling for runner-up position at the end.

“I’ll take it,” smiled Raabe afterwards. “I usually struggle at this place so finishing second at Merrittville is almost like winning.”

The 2009 Can-Am and Thunder Alley Speedway champion was 63 points behind Greg Panunte coming into Merrittville Speedway but isn’t looking at points right now.

“You don’t really know what’s going on with points right now because you’re going to be able to drop two races. It’s tough to figure that stuff out right now.”

Brad Rouse of St. Catharines, Ontario was third followed by Chevalier in fourth and Tyler McPherson, also of St. Catharines, in fifth. Sixth was Brandon Easey of St. Catharines followed by Panunte and Susice, of Ransomville, N.Y. Rounding out the top-10 were Rob Knapp and Dan Wiesner of Geneva, N.Y.

Heat race winners were Willard, Susice and Easey.

Mr. DIRTcar Sportsman Series action closes out its Niagara Frontier portion of the 2009 schedule as teams travel to Humberstone Speedway on Sunday, Sept. 13 with the 50-lap feature winner collecting $1,000.

MERRITTVILLE NOTES: The 28 cars that signed in to race at Merrittville Speedway was the lowest number of the 2009 season for the Mr DIRTcar Sportsman Championship Series…The series continues the following night at Humberstone (ONT) Speedway then moves east with double features scheduled this Friday, Sept. 18, at Canandaigua (NY) Speedway and then on to Genesee Speedway in Batavia, NY on Saturday…Greg Panunte came into the night as the series points leader holding a five-point edge over Jipp Ortiz. He leaves Merrittville in the same position. Two drivers put on quite a show of their own. Merrittville Speedway regular Brad Rouse was the fastest driver on the track by the end of the 50-lap feature, taking a third from his 21st starting position. Rob Knapp, also a Merrittville regular, finished ninth after starting 25th.

Mr. DIRTcar Sportsman Championship Series Race #8 – Merrittville Speedway, Sept. 12, 2009 Event Summary
1 3 77JR BJ Willard Jr/St. Catharines, ONT($1,000)
2 10 01 Chris Raabe/Napanee, ONT
3 21 MR18 Brad Rouse/St. Catharines, ONT
4 7 12 Chad Chevalier/Port Colborne, ONT
5 11 777 Tyler McPherson/St Catharines, ONT
6 6 06 Brandon Easey/St. Catharines, ONT
7 4 99 Greg Panunte/Port Colborne, ONT
8 8 K38 Ryan Susice/Ransomville, New York
9 25 2K Rob Knapp/Niagara Falls, New York
10 15 66 Dan Weisner/Geneva, New York
11 2 7 Cody McPherson/St. Catharines, ONT
12 13 C99 Nick Cupolo/Thorold, ONT
13 17 56 Steve Schumacher/Lockport, New York
14 16 26H Luke Carleton/Port Colborne, ONT
15 12 0 Jipp Ortiz/Ransomville, New York
16 14 95 Len Dignard/Sherkston, ONT
17 22 24X Brandon Sweet/Watertown, New York
18 24 13s Derek Smith/Ransomville, New York
19 26 92 Adam Turner/Picton, ONT
20 28 5s Kevin Sharpe/Port Colborne, ONT
21 19 19w Justin Wright/Piffard, New York
22 9 53 Darrell Farraway/Hamilton, ONT
23 18 111 Robbie Rounce/Caledonia, New York
24 1 21JJ Jim Johnstone/Niagara On The Lake, ONT
25 20 140 Mark Dixon/Durham, ONT
26 27 69 James Mercer/Grimsby, ONT
27 5 54 Mark Chiddy/Colden, New York
28 23 1 Paul Ashton/Fort Erie, ONT
LAP LEADERS: Cody McPherson (1-3) BJ Willard (4-50).
CAUTIONS: 6 (laps 3, 7, 12, 27, 37, 42).
HEAT WINNERS: Willard, Susice, Easey
XTREME LUBRICANTS FAST TIME AWARD: Greg Panunte, 16.428 lap speed/82.177mph
NEXT EVENT: Humberstone Speedway, Port Colborne, Ontario-Sunday September 13, 2009
HEATS: (8 laps, 3 to the re-draw)
#1-Ryan Susice, Greg Panunte, Darrell Farraway, Chris Raabe, Nick Cupolo, Luke Carelton, Justin Wright, Brandon Sweet, Rob Knapp.
#2-BJ Willard, Mark Chiddy, Cody McPherson, Tyler McPherson, Len Dignard, Steve Schumacher, Mark Dixon, Paul Ashton, Adam Turner, Kevin Sharpe.
#3-Brandon Easey, Chad Chevalier, Jim Johnstone, Jipp Ortiz, Dan Weisner, Robbie Rounce, Brad Rouse, Derek Smith.

1. 16.428 82.177 99-Greg Panunte/Port Colborne, ONT
2. 16.529 81.675 06-Brandon Easey/St. Catharines, PNT
3. 16.530 81.670 38-Ryan Susice/Ransomville, New York
4. 16.542 81.610 0-Jipp Ortiz/Ransomville, New York
5. 16.560 81.522 12-Chad Chevalier/Port Colborne, ONT
6. 16.567 81.487 21JJ-Jim Johnstone/Niagara-o-t–Lake, ONT
7. 16.621 81.193 2K-Rob Knapp/Niagara Falls, ONT
8. 16.641 81.094 77JR-BJ Willard/St. Catharines, ONT
9. 16.659 81.037 13s-Derek Smith/Ransomville, New York
10. 16.676 80.995 53-Darrell Farraway/Hamilton, ONT
11. 16.686 80.906 54-Mark Chiddy/Colden, New York
12. 16.728 80.703 7-Cody McPherson/St. Catharines, ONT
13. 16.750 80.559 95-Len Dignard/Sherkston, ONT
14. 16.754 80.578 66-Dan Weisner/Geneva, NY
15. 16.763 80.535 92-Adam Turner/Picton, ONT
16. 16.771 80.472 111-Robbie Rounce/Caledonia, ONT
17. 16.784 80.434 777-Tyler McPherson/St. Catharines, ONT
18. 16.795 80.381 MR18-Brad Rouse/St. Catharines, ONT
19. 16.816 80.305 01-Chris Raabe/Napanee, ONT
20. 16.931 79.735 19w-Justin Wright/Piffard, New York
21. 17.005 79.338 26H-Luke Carleton/Port Colborne, ONT
22. 17.016 79.337 5S-Kevin Sharpe/Port Colborne, ONT
23. 17.061 79.128 24X-Brandon Sweet/Watertown, New York
24. 17.016 78.920 56-Steve Schumacher/Lockport, New York
25. 17.210 78.443 140-Mark Dixon/Durham, ONT
26. 17.263 78.202 1s-Paul Ashton/Fort Erie, ONT
27. 17.301 78.120 C99-Nick Cupolo/Thorold, ONT

Mr. DIRTcar Sportsman Series race chasers get little time to rest as up next is the third straight day of activity at Humberstone Speedway on Sept. 13, with valuable points awarded towards the overall Hoosier Tire-VP Racing Fuels Mr. DIRTcar Sportsman Championship along with a guaranteed starting position for the Super DIRT Week main event in October.

2009 Mr. DIRTcar Sportsman Championship Series Schedule
*All events subject to change.
Sun-Apr 5 75 Black Rock Speedway Sammy Reakes IV
Fri-Apr 17 30 Can-Am Motorsports Park Chris Raabe
Thr-Jul 2 25 Rolling Wheels Raceway Park rain-cancelled
Fri-Jul 3 30 Brewerton Speedway Tim Sears Jr.
Sun-Jul 5 50 Cornwall Motor Speedway Chris Raabe
Sat-Jul 18 30 Cayuga County Fair Speedway Justin Wright
Mon-Sep 7 25 Rolling Wheels Raceway Park Jipp Ortiz
Fri-Sep 11 50 Ransomville Speedway Don Spatorico
Sat-Sep 12 50 Merrittville Speedway BJ Willard
Sun-Sep 13 50 Humberstone Speedway Pt.Colborne,ONT
Fri-Sep 18 33 Canandaigua Speedway Canandaigua,NY(2)
Sat-Sep 19 30 Genesee Speedway Batavia,NY
Sat-Sep 26 25 Rolling Wheels Raceway Park Elbridge,NY
Fri-Oct 2 30 Fulton Speedway Fulton,NY
Wed-Oct 7 30 Can-Am Motorsports Park LaFargeville,NY
Fri-Oct 9 30 Rolling Wheels Raceway Park Elbridge,NY
Sat-Oct 10 30 New York State Fairgrounds Syracuse,NY
Sat-Oct 17 30 Brockville Ontario Speedway Brockville,ONT
Sat-Oct 24 50 Black Rock Speedway Dundee,NY
@Driver’s (2) worst finishes dropped through September; last (6) events count.

DIRTcar Racing Northeast main office is located in Weedsport, New York on the Cayuga County Fairgrounds, home of DIRTcar All-Star Weekend in July. DIRTcar Northeast’s crown jewel event —Super DIRT Week at the New York State Fairgrounds in Syracuse— runs October 7-11, 2009 featuring Hoosier Tire-VP Racing Fuels Mr. DIRTcar Championship Series events for Big-Block Modified, 358-Modified, Sportsman and Pro Stock divisions. Ticket and schedule information is available by contacting the Weedsport office (315/834-6606) during the day or logging into anytime.

The Big-Block Super DIRTcar Series is brought to fans across the Northeast by several sponsors and partners, including series sponsors Hoosier Racing Tire and VP Racing Fuels Promotional partners include Dig Safely New York and the University of Northwestern Ohio and the contingency sponsors are Bars Leaks, Bert Transmission, Bicknell Racing Products, Bilstein Shocks, Brodix Cylinder Heads, Ferris Industries, Integra Shocks, Intercomp, KSE Racing Products, Motorsports Safety Systems, Penske Shocks,, Racing Electronics, Rislone Oil Stabilizer and Wrisco Industries

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