October 5 and 6: Ed Parker’s Season Ending Big Show: The John Fore Dirt Car Nationals

Merced Speedway 2018 Tack Champ Darrell Hughes expects stiff competition at this weekends Fore Dirt Nationals. 

By Mike Adaskaveg

Special to the Sun-Star

Having a blockbuster event to end the Merced Speedway racing season was a plan put into place by the late Ed Parker, owner of the speedway. Friday and Saturday night, the last racing program that Parker had promoted – The John Fore Dirt Nationals –  will take place as scheduled.

“I’m excited to see some of the best competition in the state coming to race with us for a chance to win the John Fore Dirt Nationals,” says Darrell Hughes of Manteca, the speedway’s 2018 IMCA Modified division champion.  “The race is going to be a tough one to win. I am hoping to qualify for the show – and I will see how things go from there.”

Parker negotiated the move of the Dirt Nationals from Tulare to Merced. He combined the Third Annual John Fore, Jr. Memorial with the Dirt Nationals into a huge show for the Modified, SportMod, Mini-stock, and Hobby Stock divisions.

Ed Parker was Excited to end the season with the Dirt Nationals.

Parker, who died unexpectedly in July, was excited for this weekend’s John Fore Dirt Nationals. He was proud that Merced Speedway had returned to local and national prominence, and felt a big race that included drivers from all of the region’s dirt tracks, would be an event fans would love.

John Fore, who repaired farm equipment, died in a work-related accident. He was a SportMod driver at the Speedway.

Top drivers from Oregon to Arizona are expected to race with Merced Speedway’s regulars.

“We’ll be there for sure,” says SportMod driver Fred Ryland of Brentwood. He and his wife Patti competed with Fore in the division. “It is a great tribute to John Fore. Saturday’s race is the largest paying event of the year in California for the SportMods. Friday program also pays well. John would have been proud that Merced Speedway has this race.”

A close friend of Fore’s, Bob Smith, helped raise contributions to boost the purse for the event. Smith, who runs a truck repair business in Merced, shared a SportMod with Fore early in their racing careers.

“The race is a celebration,” says Smith. “Those who knew John knew he was a kind person. He was happy to help others, and was always excited about racing.”

The Fore family will present trophies on Saturday night.

“I appreciate how Ed and the racing community has continued to honor John,” says John Fore’s widow, Lisa, of Chowchilla. “John’s memory is still very much alive.”

The friends and family of Fore have an annual scholarship in place for an Agriculture student at Chowchilla High School.

(081818) Merced Speedway – Patti Ryland of Brentwood (7) races Jarrod Mounce (05) in the IMCA SportMod diivision. Ryland and her husband, Fred, will be competing in the John Fore Dirt Nationals Friday and Saturday night at Merced Speedway.

Friday night’s program will have a different format the weekly programs at the speedway. There will be sets of heats – the second in each set having an inverted starting order. Points will be awarded for finishing position and cars passed. The top 12 cars in each division will be in the Friday feature events. The top six cars from each Friday feature will take the top six starting positions in Saturday night’s main events. The remaining 16 cars will qualify for each Saturday night feature from heat races that night.

When You Go:

Merced Speedway is located within the Merced County Fairgrounds at 900 Martin Luther King, Jr. Way in Merced.

Friday Night:

The racing program begins at 7 p.m. and usually concludes at 10 p.m.

The pit gate opens at 2 p.m. and the grandstand gate opens at 5 p.m.

Admission is $12 for adults, $10.00 for Military and Students with school ID, $5 for children 6-12 years old. Children under 6 years old are free. A family pack of two adult and two child tickets is $30.

Sat. Night:

The racing program begins at 7 p.m. and usually concludes at 10 p.m.

Admission is $16 for adults, $14 for military and students, $10 for children 6-12. Children five and under are free. A family pack of two adult and two child tickets is $45.




2018 Champions Honored – Two High School Seniors Take Top Honors; UP NEXT: Two-Day Fore Nationals – Season Finale

2018 IMCA Modified Champion Darrell Hughes and family in victory lane. 

2018 IMCA SportMod Champion Jeremy Hoff.

By Mike Adaskaveg

Special to the Sun-Star

Two high school seniors won the biggest championships in their young auto racing careers last Saturday night at Merced Speedway.

Timmy Crewes, 18, a senior at Chowchilla Union High School, grabbed the speedway’s Mini-Late Model Division title, and Allen Neal, 17, a senior at Pacheco High School in Los Banos was crowned champion of the Mini-Stock Division.

In the final night of weekly racing at the quarter-mile Merced County Fairgrounds oval, Darrell Hughes of Manteca became champion in the IMCA Modified Division, Jeremy Hoff of Copperopolis took the championship in the IMCA SportMod Division, and Kodie Dean of Chowchilla won the Hobby Stock Division championship.

The speedway is dark this week in preparation for next week’s John Fore Dirt Nationals, a Friday-Saturday night event honoring the Merced businessman and race driver killed in a workplace accident last season. Cars from across the state and from Nevada are expected at the event.


Allen Neal went bass fishing after accomplishing his goal – winning Saturday night’s Mini-Stock feature. He needed the win, and he needed leader Lee Ragsdale to finish back in the pack in order to win the championship.

“I went out and did what I set out to do,” says Neal. “ I went out to win the race. It was the best I could do. The rest was fate.”

Ragsdale was set back after a racing incident that resulted in hitting an infield tire.

“No championship felt like this one,” says Neal, a former go-kart and micro sprint champ. “It was my first season in a full size car. I bobbled between first and second all season long. I had to really fight to win this championship.”

After graduating high school, Neal plans on entering an apprentice program to become a pipe welder. As for racing, he’s looking to move up to the Hobby Stock division.

“I got a ride in a Hobby Stock Saturday night – the car wasn’t ready to race,” says Neal, who pulled off the track after the start of the feature. “The car sat for a while before I raced it. It will need some love. I’ll have plenty to work on in preparation for next season.”

(092218 Oakley, CA) 305 Parts – . Saturday, September 22, 2018. Staff photo by Mike Adaskaveg.


Crewes, a senior who hopes to go to Merced Junior College, won six of 13 feature events in his division. He will also work toward a career as a welder after high school.

He worked with his dad, Chuck, on his motorcycle engine powered Mini-Late Model, a small replica of a full size stock car that is capable of attaining speeds greater than the IMCA SportMods that race at the speedway. Mark Morton and Logan Clay comprise his crew.

“I raced karts, but this is my first championship at a real speedway – it means a lot to me,” Crewes says. “My dad taught me how to do maintenance on a race car when I was little. He gave up his racing career so that I could race. The championship made him proud.”

Crewes wants to progress up to the Hobby Stock or Sport Mod division.

“I’m eventually  going to work my way up to the IMCA Modified Division,” Crewes says. “I have been wanting to drive a modified for years. The competition, the power and the speed are what attracts me to the division.”



The Modified, SportMod, Hobby Stock and Mini Stock Divisions will be featured in the two day John Fore Dirt Nationals.

A large purse on both nights will attract drivers to Merced from dirt tracks across California, Nevada, and Arizona.

Friday night’s program will have double heat races with inverted starts, awarding passing points to get into a 12 car qualifying event for each division. The top six cars in the qualifier will be automatically lined up for the first six starting positions  in Saturday night’s feature events.

The final qualifying races for for the remaining positions in the four John Fore Dirt Nationals main events will precede the features on Saturday night, October 6.

Allen Neal and his sister Shelby after winning the Mini-Stock feature and the 2018 Championship. 

Kodie Dean scored his second hobby stock championship in a row. 

Friends and foes – Brian Pearce, left, finished second to Darrell Hughes, who won the 2018 IMCA Modified Championship


Racers, fans, friends and family gathered at Half Dome Hall in the Merced County Fairgrounds Friday morning to celebrate the life of Merced Speedway promoter Ed Parker, taken from us at the young age of 51.

Ed Parker 1967-2018

                                                   Brother-in-law Rich Pfau speaks of Ed’s life.

          Half Dome Hall is fulled to capacity. Ed’s Brother in Law, Rich Pfau, shares personal remembrances of Ed.

                    Merced Benevolent Protective Order of Elks honors member Edward Parker with a tribute.

                       Beth Pfau, sister of Ed Parker, shares stories of growing up with her little brother.

                 Merced Speedway Race Director Bill Volz Speaks about Ed and his love for racing.

           Friends of Ed and the Speedway pass Cody Parker’s SportMod on the way into the Celebration of Ed’s Life.

A Wrap with a Portrait of Proud Father and Son adorns the hood of Cody Parker’s Sport Mod.


Photos by Mike Adaskaveg