Thomas and Corn: Young Up and Coming Drivers

(Merced, CA) Chase Thomas at speed in the Merced Speedway IMCA SportMod division.  Staff photo by Mike Adaskaveg.

First Time Winner: Chase Thomas at speed in the Merced Speedway IMCA SportMod division. 

By Mike Adaskaveg

Merced Sun Star

Young drivers Chase Thomas and Garrett Corn will never forget the sweet taste of their first stock car feature victories at Merced Speedway.

Thomas, a senior at Buhach Colony High School, topped a field of experienced drivers in the International Motor Contest Association (IMCA) SportMod feature event last Saturday night. Corn, a 19-year-old construction worker from Catheys Valley, drove to his first win two weeks earlier in the Hobby Stock Division.

No Doubting Thomas

(Merced, CA)Merced Speedway -  Chase Thomas is interviewed in victory lane.   Staff photo by Mike Adaskaveg.

Chase Thomas is interviewed by Ed Parker in victory lane after finishing second two weeks ago. He won last weekend.

            With a third, then a second-place finish preceding his win, Thomas has become a top contender, catching the attention of his rivals.

To win, he had to get through 12 seconds of last-lap stress.

“When I saw the white flag, I was both scared and excited. The last lap was intense,” admitted Thomas. “I just kept telling myself ‘don’t mess up!’”

That stress was relieved once the checkered flag flew.

“Seeing that checkered flag waving in front of me was such a great feeling,” he said. “When I crossed the finish line, I just yelled ‘YES!’

Thomas beamed with pride when champ Rick Diaz gave him the ‘thumbs up’ sign. Diaz had finished ahead of Thomas every week this season.

“Rick even got of his car quicker than I could – just to run up and shake my hand. How cool is that?” Thomas said. “I’d been running with him for the longest time in each feature event this year – then he always seems to get away from me. But, not this week.”

Thomas’s Show Promise

            Chase Thomas isn’t the only son that dad Darren Thomas has racing at Merced Speedway. Tanner Thomas, 15, led his brother in the championship points tally up until July. Darren Thomas gave up his “ride” so he could be crew chief for his two sons.

But, Darren Thomas got behind the wheel of son Chase’s car in Watsonville two weeks ago for the Cecil Classic.

“He got his one race in,” joked Chase. “Seriously, he would rather watch Tanner and I race. He gets really excited.”

Darren Thomas has helped his boys understand the intricacies of setting up the suspension of the SportMods. He’s there during a race to change a tire or make a quick repair on either car if need be”

“Us three do it all when it comes to taking care of the cars,” Chase Thomas explains. “My dad’s great with numbers. He keeps track of the chassis settings and the shock absorbers.”

A brotherly rivalry makes racing a little more fun for the Thomas’s.

“We talk smack about each other – we’re brothers,” Chas Thomas admits. “When we race each other – we race clean. We don’t hit each other’s cars.”

 

Chase Thomas first drove the speedway last season, when track preparation different from this season. The surface is dry and slick, meaning a new set of driving skills are necessary for success.

“I have to drive into the turns slower because the track is so slick,” Chase Thomas explained. “I’m really working hard to make the car faster and it’s paying off. We change chassis settings after the heat race – and we have been right on target with our settings.”

(070216 Merced, CA) Merced Speedway - .  Saturday,  July 02, 2016.  Staff photo by Mike Adaskaveg.

Garrett Corn at speed in the new Hobby Stock he bought from Marshall Weaver and drove to victory lane.

Corn Comes Home

            Corn traveled the state racing in outlaw karts since he was three years old. His dad, Nathan, raced stock cars. It wasn’t until this season that Garrett Corn sat behind the wheel of a stock car.

“My dad urged me to try driving a hobby stock,” Garrett Corn said. “I told him they look slow – compared to the adult karts I had driven since I was three. He said I would be surprised if I just tried driving a hobby stock.”

Corn did, driving for Turlock’s Gary Hildebrand at the start of the season.

“Suddenly, I was second in points and I was having a lot of fun – dad was right,” Garrett Corn said.

It was time for Corn to get serious. He bought the hobby stock driven last season by Merced veteran driver Marshall Weaver.

Three races later, he was victory lane.

“The hobby stock is a little bit slower than a kart,” explained Corn. “My reaction time to incidents on the track is quick – because of karting. It seems like I have all the time in the world to make a move with the hobby stock.”

Corn found the highly competitive hobby stock class has its challenges.

“”I’ve never raced any car with fenders on it before this season,” he said. “There’s actual beating and banging, pushing and shoving between the cars on the track. You’d never see that in kart racing – the cars would flip from contact.”

For Corn, the Rookie of the Year trophy is within grasp.

“I’m trying to win by keeping my nose clean,” he said. “I get rubbed on more than I rub others. It’s all part of racing.”

(Merced, CA) Merced Speedway - .Garrett Corn (C29) races inside to pass Kristie Shearer (73) in the Merced Speedway Hobby Stock feature event.   Staff photo by Mike Adaskaveg.

Hobby Stock Hot Hoes – Garrett Corn (C29) races inside to pass Kristie Shearer (73) in the hobby stock division. (All Photos courtesy of Mike Adaskaveg) 

This Week at Merced Speedway 

            The IMCA Modified and SportMod divisions will headline a complete program that includes the Hobby Stock and Vintage Valley Sportsman divisions. Junior Box Stock Karts will also race on the small infield track.

The Speedway will be dark for the following two weeks in observance of Labor Day on Sept. 3 and the IMCA Supernationals in Boone, Iowa on Sept.10.

 

Racing begins at 7 p.m.  Grandstand Opens at 5 p.m.

Program will be approximately 3 hours or less.

Adults  $12.00

Seniors 65 and older $10.00

Students with an ID – 13 to 17 –  $10.00

Children 6 to 2 $5.00

Kids 5 and under FREE

Family Pack 2 adults and 2 children  $30.00

 

 

August 20: Bubba’s World – Wins in Two Divisions Would Make Racing More Fun

(070216) Merced Speedway - Rookie Bruce "Bubba" Nelson (4) races fellow Mercedian Karl Rose (5) in the IMCA Modified division at Merced Speedway. (Mike Adaskaveg Photo)

Modified rookie Bruce “Bubba” Nelson (4) races fellow Mercedian Karl Rose (5) in the IMCA Modified division at Merced Speedway.

By Mike Adaskaveg

Merced Sun-Star

When Bruce “Bubba” Nelson won the Merced Speedway Hobby Stock feature event last Saturday night, he jumped onto the door of his car and raised his arms with hands in the air, bowing to the grandstand like he won the biggest race of his career.

(081316) Merced Speedway - Bruce "Bubba" Nelson bows to the crowd after winning his third Hobby Stock division feature event while driving his wife's car. (Mike Adaskaveg Photo)

Bruce “Bubba” Nelson bows to the crowd after winning his third Hobby Stock division feature event while driving his wife’s car.

Nelson usually doesn’t race in the Hobby Stock division.

He wasn’t driving “his” car, either. He borrowed the hobby stock his wife, Shannon, usually drives – because she decided to attend a Fresno Grizzlies game with some friends.

“It’s all fun and games for me,” Nelson said. “There is nothing more exciting than winning a stock car race. I’d rather race than watch. I took her car out for a test drive and won.”

Nelson, 30, is a late bloomer – starting his speedway career 10 years ago. He moved up from the Hobby Stock division to the International Motor Contest Association (IMCA) SportMod division and this year became a rookie in the track’s top division – IMCA Modified.

Interestingly, the man known simply as “Bubba” has won three of the four times he ventured out in his wife’s car this season.

“He made sure everything in the car is in good working order for me,” Shannon Nelson laughed in agreement with her husband. “Now the car is ready for me this weekend.”

The couple has two sons, Bentley and Bryce, who are their biggest fans.

“Bubba” Nelson’s hard-charging on-track attitude, coupled with his colorful post-race antics, has earned him legions of fans. He’ll do a back flip from the top of his car or jump up on it’s roof – all seeming to go hand in hand with his unforgettable name.

Few people call “Bubba” by his real name, Bruce – because that’s his father’s name. When he was a toddler, his family began calling him “Bubba” – a name that would later fit perfectly for his driving career.

As a rookie in the IMCA Modified division, “Bubba” Nelson has run well with the top drivers. After a third place finish on the quarter mile at Merced, he ventured to Ocean Speedway in Watsonville for the Cecil Memorial race two weeks ago. He took third place to winner Bobby Hogge IV of Salinas while challenging second place Alex Stanford of Chowchilla.

“I’ve won races in several divisions,” “Bubba” Nelson said. “The biggest accomplishment for me would be if I could win, as a rookie, in my IMCA Modified.”

Nelson’s rival last year in the SportMod division was Chowchilla’s Rick Diaz, who stayed in that division as Nelson moved on.

“I won quite a few INMCA SportMod races, but I only lost to Rick Diaz and I wouldn’t want to lose to anyone else,” he said. “This year there is a longer list of drivers I’ve lost to – and they are some of the most respected drivers around – Paul and Ramie Stone, Randy Brown, Mike Villanueva – just to name a few.”

Nevertheless, Nelson is fourth in points.

“I’ve done the math – the three drivers in front of me would have to not qualify for the remainder of the season and I would have to win every feature in order to win the championship,” he laughs. “That probably isn’t going to happen.”

The Nelsons are part of the race team that is owned by Michael Shearer and his mother, Margie Mejia. Five hobby stocks and the modifieds driven by “Bubba” Nelson and Villanueva comprise the team.

“Bubba” Nelson works as a welder by day, making hospital doors at Merced’s Safety First. After work, he heads to Shearer’s Atwater garage to work on the cars.

When Saturday night comes, Bubba and Shannon Nelson will each be driving their respective cars in the divisions they usually race in.

“It is hard to drive two different cars in two divisions on one night,” “Bubba” Nelson explained. “It is better to concentrate on one car, rather than drive two without success.”

Last year, “Bubba” Nelson went to the IMCA Supernationals in Boone, Iowa, competing with 300 cars for a spot in the main event.

“I didn’t make it to the big show, but I raced a lot and learned a lot,” he said. “My motto has always been ‘have fun first and the wins will come’. That’s exactly what I’m doing.”

(070216) Merced Speedway - (Merced, CA)

Bubba Nelson in his IMCA Modified. (All Photos Courtesy Mike Adaskaveg)

Saturday Night At Merced Speedway

 

            A full program of IMCA Modified and SportMod racing will highlight the program Saturday night at Merced Speedway. Also featured are the Hobby Stock and Mini-Stock divisions. There will be qualification races and a feature event for each division of cars. Merced Speedway is located in the Merced County Fairgrounds, 900 Martin Luther King, Jr. Way.

 

Racing begins at 7 p.m.  Grandstand Opens at 5 p.m.

Program will be approximately 3 hours or less.

Adults  $12.00

Seniors 65 and older $10.00

Students with an ID – 13 to 17 –  $10.00

Children 6 to 2 $5.00

Kids 5 and under FREE

Family Pack 2 adults and 2 children  $30.00

 

 

Photo Highlights: Sportsman Legends of Merced Night Honoring Jerry Holzer

(081316 Oakley, CA) 305 Parts - . Saturday, August 13, 2016. Staff photo by Mike Adaskaveg.

The Sportsman Legends Group Photo – (Left to right)  Back Row: Mike Friesen  Mickey Shaw, Duane Noe, Dennis Moomjean, Rod Poor, Jerry Cecil, Chuck Griffin, and Jerry Holzer. Next Row: Gary Rocha, Irv Eldridge, Eldon Minor (longsleve white shirt) and Jack Houston. Third Row: Paul Gomez, Gordon Rogers. Charlie Huff,  and Tom Friesen. Up front are race director Doug Williams and Promoter Ed Parker.

(081316 Oakley, CA) 305 Parts - . Saturday, August 13, 2016. Staff photo by Mike Adaskaveg.

Mike Friesen, the Winner of the Jerry Holzer Sportsman Legends of Merced Speedway, was presented with this cup.

(081316 Oakley, CA) 305 Parts - . Saturday, August 13, 2016. Staff photo by Mike Adaskaveg.

Mark Odgers, who led more than half of the Valley Sportsman feature event, was passed by Mike Friesen, who went on to take the cup.

(081316 Oakley, CA) 305 Parts - . Saturday, August 13, 2016. Staff photo by Mike Adaskaveg.

Before Odgers took the wheel for the feature, it was honoree Jerry Holzer who took the ‘Missle” around the track.

(081316 Oakley, CA) 305 Parts - . Saturday, August 13, 2016. Staff photo by Mike Adaskaveg.

(081316 Oakley, CA) 305 Parts - . Saturday, August 13, 2016. Staff photo by Mike Adaskaveg.

Victory lane for Valley Sportsman winner Mike Friesen, flanked by race sponsor Larry Brammer and Jerry Holzer.

(081316 Oakley, CA) 305 Parts - . Saturday, August 13, 2016. Staff photo by Mike Adaskaveg.

Bubba Nelson almost did a back flip after winning the Hobby Stock Main

(081316 Oakley, CA) 305 Parts - . Saturday, August 13, 2016. Staff photo by Mike Adaskaveg.

Lucy Falkenberg, Left, celebrated second with Mini-Stock winner Chris Corder.

(081316 Oakley, CA) 305 Parts - . Saturday, August 13, 2016. Staff photo by Mike Adaskaveg.

Rick Diaz (714) continued on his mission to win the IMCA SportMod championship in honor of  friend John Fore, Jr. Here he passes Patti Ryland (7) in route to his sixth victory of the season. 

(081316 Oakley, CA) 305 Parts - . Saturday, August 13, 2016. Staff photo by Mike Adaskaveg.

Diaz celebrates with Baby Ellie and race team director and wife Farren, right. At left are crew members Joe Gonella and Mark Morton, along with super fan Wyatt Franklin.

(081316 Oakley, CA) 305 Parts - . Saturday, August 13, 2016. Staff photo by Mike Adaskaveg.

A surprise visit from Legendary flagman Eldon Minor, who was behind the wheel of the classic E and H Garage wrecker from back in the 60’s. Fearless Minor waved the flags from on the track – a practice no longer allowed! All photos courtesy Mike Adaskaveg