Freehold, NJ --- Aaron Merriman finished sixth in wins among all harness racing drivers in North America last season, so he is no stranger to the top 10 list. He just might not be as familiar yet with his current spot – No. 1.
Merriman, who drives regularly at both Northfield Park in Ohio and The Meadows in western Pennsylvania, entered Monday with 187 wins and held a 22-victory lead over second-place Dave Palone. Merriman has been the leading driver at Northfield each of the past three seasons. He leads the standings again this year and is eighth at The Meadows.
Northfield Park photo
Aaron Merriman currently leads all drivers in North America with 188 wins in 2009.
Northfield Park photo
Merriman started in the sport with his father Lanny, who has nearly 1,200 lifetime wins as a driver and more than 500 victories as a trainer. Merriman got his first win in 1998 and had his first million-dollar season in 2004. He won 558 races in 2006, good for ninth place in North America, and set career highs with 612 victories and $3.1 million in earnings in 2008. Entering Monday, he was three wins from 3,500 for his career.
As one of the new kids on the block at The Meadows, it can be more difficult for Merriman to get top assignments, particularly with the likes of Palone, Tony Hall, Mike Wilder and Brett Miller already established in the driving colony.
“It doesn’t really bother me, I just like driving,” Merriman said. “Everyone wants to have power, but sometimes it’s not the case. It just doesn’t work out that way. There are a lot of other guys in this business with talent.”
Driving at The Meadows, which is a five-eighths-mile oval, may have helped Merriman become a better driver at Northfield, which is a half-mile oval, by exposing him to a different type of racing.
“It’s not typical for five-eighths-mile racing,” Merriman said. “Horse just cannot live on the outside at The Meadows like they can other places. It’s kind of helped me at Northfield because it’s got me to be a bit more patient.”
Merriman has no plans to change his routine at the moment. In the future, though, he will need to have shoulder surgery as the result of an accident suffered last year and could be sidelined for up to six months.
“I’m happy with what I have,” Merriman said. “I’ve got a 6-year-old son (Kristopher) that I really base my life around. I want to stay here for now because he goes to kindergarten in Ohio and it’s a very nice area. As long as I can keep up the doubleheaders and make a living, and I’m not gone too much, it’s good.”
He also might keep an eye on the driver standings as the year progresses.
“If it gets toward the end of the year and I’ve got a chance to be the top dash guy, it’s something I might shoot for,” he said. “But I’ve got a lot on my plate.”