Merrill Downey the racecar driver was often found behind the wheel of the #44 machine on the race tracks throughout the Ohio Valley. A hard nosed weekly racing competitor, a true master mechanic and an always devoted in full family man, Downey will be honored this Saturday at the second running of the Merrill Downey Memorial at Lawrenceburg Speedway.
Anyone spending a short time with Bobby Gompf of Lawrenceburg Speedway’s renowned safety team will note the deep respect and honor that Merrill Downey the man garnered from everyone in the racing community. A short time after his passing on June 17, 2012 Gompf along with Lawrenceburg Speedway promoter Dave Rudisell and staff created a special Merrill Downey Memorial race during the 2012 racing season with an eye toward expanding the event in the future. After staging the regulation length Modified Special Event with significant bonus money in 2012, the future of the envisioned expansion of the event is now.
July 6, 2013 will feature what is a long standing tradition at the Lawrenceburg Speedway known as “The Blast from the Past.” It is in effect an ode to all that racing is, was and always will be, a festival of classes celebrating speed in many of its forms. “The Blast” is now the home of the Merrill Downey Memorial as well. The multiple-class setting serves well as the home for the race in that Downey did in fact race in a variety of classes during his racing career as does his son Brandon who has proudly carried on the family racing tradition. Brandon has long been a member of the Tri-State Drag Racing community which was engendered by and with the guiding hands of his father.
The fledgling event has immediately rocketed to the top anyone’s list of respected dates on the racing calendar for Dirt Modifieds. Last year’s event garnered the instant cooperation from local tracks that some events never achieve. Many local speedways went “Modified Dark” in 2012 to allow their weekly competitors an opportunity to run the event. That tradition has continued and in fact has expanded right along with the event in total; the list of cooperating tracks has grown right with the purse whose winner’s share has ballooned to $4,444.44. The competing drivers will also have a chance to walk away with a variety of bonus monies that are on the line as well. One large piece of the extra money pie comes to life in the form of lap leader bonuses. The leader of any lap will take home an extra $44.00 donated by local supporters of the sport in honor of a truly special man, born on November 3, 1956 in Osgood, Indiana.
Honoring a man with such strong local ties and offering a huge purse with considerable bonus packages looks to draw the top level drivers from every direction. Many former Late Model drivers, winners of prestigious events throughout all classes, card carrying members of the best Dirt Modified touring series and every quality “Outlaw” driver who hits the major events on the calendar every year are slated to attend this weekend. That diversity sparks pride in Bobby Gompf who has spent the last several months of off nights making the rounds to area tracks getting the word out on the event and has achieved tremendous interest from the racing community as a whole. The format for the evening provides racers and fans action hand over fist in all divisions while providing Modified drivers multiple opportunities to lock in a spot in what promises to be a star studded field running forty four laps for the big money.
Qualifying will be conducted in groups of five cars on the track at a time featuring Lawrenceburg Speedway’s electronic scoring system giving each combatant two laps to turn in the best time they’ve got in the car on that evening. Heats will feature a six car invert and transfer the top three finishers to the A-Main automatically. The format insists that drivers who want to race for the big prize at the end of the night had better plan on charging through preliminary competition, which was exactly the manner in which Merrill Downey raced and neither he nor Gompf would have it any other way. Those that do not earn a top three finish will be provided more opportunity to race into the Feature, but with the expected level of talent towing in it is well advised that drivers get while the getting is good. Those venturing out to the Dearborn County Fairgrounds on this night are promised a card that without a doubt rises to the “Must See” status. The Sprint Cars are a weekly thrill filled dirt slinging staple and the Late Models put on racing clinic and featured a race long battle for the lead culminating in a three wide grudge match to the line off of Turn Four for the victory. Add to this mix the door to door fierce battle that the Pure Stocks are well-known for and it’s a night for the entire family to enjoy without question.
No discussion of Mr. Downey is worth the paper it’s written on if it doesn’t include his unbridled dedication to his family. Just under the tender age of twenty three he found his angel and married Pam Bolt Downey of Osgood, Indiana on September 15, 1979. The couple lovingly raised Brandon and Tiffany with immense pride and joy. The time he spent with his family was held closest by this loving and loyal husband, father, son, step-son and grandfather. Never one to ply his talents on just one thing at a time Downey was a stellar member of the REMC of Osgood, Indiana family for thirty four years while also maintaining membership in the Osgood, Indiana volunteer fire department. His spiritual family at Osgood First Baptist Church will forever hold Merrill and the Downey family in their collective heart now and forever.
Merrill Downey was a shining example of what the racing family truly is in that he’d run hard, root and gouge on the track, trading paint when necessary then come right over to the competitor’s pit to swing wrenches, hammers and anything else needed to ensure that any racer could continue to compete at the highest level possible. Lawrenceburg Speedway is proud and honored to stage this truly remarkable event in honor of a man who did so much on and off the track during his 55 years on earth. Many thanks to the entire crew at Lawrenceburg Speedway, the many lap sponsors, Bobby Gompf and his crew and the entire Downey family for making this wonderful event a reality. It will certainly be an incredibly special night at the races.