Champions Honored At Speedway Banquet

By Mike Adaskaveg

Merced Sun-Star

Randy Brown raced less outside of California this year to score his second consecutive championship in the premier International Motor Contest Association (IMCA) Modified Division at Merced Speedway. The champions of the speedway’s five divisions were honored this past Saturday night at Half Dome Hall.

“We decided to spend more family time this past year,” said Brown. “It’s more about the kids and their activities now.”

Brown, from Chowchilla, had to leave the IMCA Oregon tour after racing on a Friday – driving back to Merced – so he would not miss a feature event. All season long, Atwater’s Mike Villanueva was also in contention for the title, so Brown could not afford to miss a race.

“I never knew who would win the championship until the end – I was neck and neck with Mike (Villanueva),” Brown said. He thanked his wife, Sabrina, crewmembers Tommy Barela and Josh Strickland, as well as advisor Bruce “Bubba” Nelson.

Even though the Browns will be focusing on their children’s racing careers this coming season, don’t count them out for third championship at the speedway.

“We’ll make one more run at it,” said Brown. “Three in a row would be a great accomplishment.”

It was announced that Copperopolis driver Jeremy Hoff would be joining the Brown team, driving in the SportMod division next year.

(120217) Merced Speedway  - Merced Speedway 2017 Champions were honored at Half Dome Hall. From left to right are Jeff Bristow (Valley Sportsman Division), Chris Corder (Mini-Stock Division), Randy Brown (IMCA Modified Division), Kodie Dean (Hobby Stock Division) and Fred Ryland (IMCA SportMod Division. (Mike Adaskaveg Photo)

Merced Speedway 2017 Champions were honored at Half Dome Hall. From left to right are Jeff Bristow (Valley Sportsman Division), Chris Corder (Mini-Stock Division), Randy Brown (IMCA Modified Division), Kodie Dean (Hobby Stock Division) and Fred Ryland (IMCA SportMod Division.)

 

RYLAND DRIVEN TO RACE THE BEST

Brentwood’s Fred Ryland made the trek to Merced every race weekend to win the IMCA SportMod championship.

“I wanted to race against the best drivers in California – the ones that race at Merced Speedway,” Ryland said. “I wanted to have one win over Rick Diaz – and I accomplished that.”

Ryland also won the biggest SportMod event of the year – the John D. Fore, Jr. Memorial. It was the first Merced Speedway championship for the six-time track champ. Ryland ranked 5th in the nation in 2015. He hopes to travel for a national ranking again in the coming year.

“I’ll be traveling a lot, but will make it to Merced as much as possible,” added Ryland. “I love racing here.”

DEAN TRIUMPHS IN HOBBY STOCK DIVISION

Kodie Dean of Chowchilla went into the final double-point race of the season with a four-point cushion over friendly foe Garrett Corn of Catheys Valley, and came out as a champion. The two battled to the finish.

“I was kind of nervous that night,” admitted Dean, who was in his fourth season as a hobby stock driver. “I never went into the season thinking I would be a champion.”

Dean’s first three seasons were plagued by mechanical problems. Persistence paid off as his learning curve transformed him into the division’s top driver.

“It was a lot of work, and Garrett (Corn) helped me along the way,” Dean said. “I learned that car maintenance is the most important thing needed to be a top contender.”

CORDER TOPS MINI STOCKS AGAIN

Modesto’s Chris Corder regained his title as champion of the Mini-Stock division. After three straight championships, Corder finished second in the class last year, losing by a mere point to Merced’s Darren Miguel. Miguel moved up a division, but Corder’s sister, Jennifer, challenged him to the end. Chris Corder won his fourth championship with a two-point lead over his sister.

“It’s nice to win, but it is more important to know that all the drivers in this division are friends. We all help each other,” Corder said. “We don’t drive into each other on purpose. We race clean.”

RESURGEANCE OF VALLEY SPORTSMAN DIVISION

Jeff Bristow of Turlock won the championship in speedway’s historic Valley Sportsman division. He is working to bring more cars to the division, which was most popular in the 1970’s.

“All of the drivers in the division grew up watching these cars when they were kids,” Bristow said. “Interest is growing. The big tires, the wings on top of the cars – those are things that make the cars fun and exciting.”

Bristow will be back for another championship this coming season.

His wife, Leona loves the cars as much as her husband does.

“We saw a Valley Sportsman car on a trailer going down the road, and said lets get one,” Leona Bristow said. “We did and we made a new family – instantly. The atmosphere in the pits was so welcoming. It is unbelievable how people who shared interest in the cars came up to help us.”

Jeff Bristow jumped to agree.

“If Dale Earnhardt, Jr. offered me his ride, I would turn it down to drive my Valley Sportsman,” he added.