July 15: Tim Ragsdale Prepares for IMCA SportMod Action! Sandy Brammer-Batchelor To Sign In Full Field!

By Mike Adaskaveg

Special to the Sun-Star

(070117) Merced Speedway - Merced's Sandy Brammer-Batchelor greets drivers and pit crew members with a smile as she signs them in at the back gate of Merced Speedway. Her daughter, Rae Lyn, who is Brammer-Batchelor's assistant, looks on in the background. (Mike Adaskaveg Photo)

Merced’s Sandy Brammer-Batchelor greets drivers and pit crew members with a smile as she signs them in at the back gate of Merced Speedway. Her daughter, Rae Lyn, who is Brammer-Batchelor’s assistant, looks on in the background.

 

(070117 Dixon, CA) Dixon Speedway - . Saturday, July 01, 2017. Staff photo by Mike Adaskaveg.

Tim Ragsdale, top right, drives car No.82m on the clay track he prepares at Merced Speedway. He’s in fast company with winning drivers Fred Ryland (7) and Shane DeVolder (44) in the front row coming out of turn four as seen from the grandstands. Joe Salvi and Gavin Espino move in from behind. 

(060717) Merced Speedway - Merced's Tim Ragsdale calls Merced Speedway his "first love" . All week long, Ragsdale prepares the clay surface of the track for Saturday night racing. He trades the water truck, background for his IMCA SportMod, foreground come race night. (Mike Adaskaveg Photo)

Tim Ragsdale – his car, left, and his water truck, center.

Sandy Brammer-Batchelor points to a line on a piece of paper and tells people “print your name here and sign here”. She does that job over and over again, and does it with a smile.

Tim Ragsdale drives a road grader or water truck in in circles over and over again every day, meticulously preparing clay so that it has the right consistency for smoothness on Saturday night.

Brammer-Batchelor and Ragsdale are two Mercedians who are dedicated to repetitious, but necessary jobs to make the three-hour show a success on Saturday night at Merced Speedway.

“It’s my dream job,” says Batchelor. “My parents brought me to the track when I was five weeks old and I never stopped coming here. My family has been in Merced forever, and the track is an important part of this community.”

For Brammer-Batchelor, the job of signing people in to the racetrack’s pit area is a social event. She sees the faces of people she’s seen as babies, now with grandchildren. Drivers and crewmembers chide her just for the fun of it.

“I know how to talk to them – if they give me attitude, I give it right back to them,” she explains. “They know I love them, though.”

Sandy’s dad, Larry Brammer was a pit crewmember than worked on the track’s safety crew and eventually became the “flag man”. Visiting drivers and crews spent a few hours after the races socializing at the Brammer house on U Street.

“Merced was on top of the world in the ‘60s and ‘70s”, Brammer Batchelor says. “Oh my, the speedway was famous. Now, we’re heading back in that direction.”

 

RAGSDALE’S FIRST LOVE

 

“My wife calls Merced Speedway my ‘girlfriend’,” says heavy equipment mechanic Tim Ragsdale, who heads to the track after work.

Ragsdale scrapes the pit area and prepares the track surface for racing – a job that he works at every day.

“The speedway is my first true love – since I was 15,” he laughs. “It’s been my passion for 35 years now.”

Earlier in the year, Ragsdale spent a week in knee-deep water, pumping the winter’s precipitation out of the infield of the quarter mile bowl that is the speedway.

He raced in the track’s Late Model Stock Car division in the 1980’s, when he met now-track owner Ed Parker. A friendship developed and eventually, Parker asked Ragsdale to drive his car.

When Parker bought the speedway two years ago, he brought Ragsdale, as he did Brammer Batchelor, on board to help him.

Tim wanted to learn how to prepare the track surface, so he asked his boss, Dennis Rolfe, to give him some pointers on operating the grader. In addition to Rolfe’s help Tim has been spending time researching track prep procedures, equipment and chemicals that other tracks around the country are using.

A water truck is as important as a grader in dirt track preparation, and operating both could be tedious for one driver. Ragsdale trained his son, Richie, 21, to operate the water truck. Richie helps out during the week and then is always there on Saturday’s to help with the track preparations.

Ragsdale’s love of the track isn’t just on the surface. He’s back racing in the International Motor Contest Association (IMCA) SportMod division. His younger sons, Chad 16, and Teddy 14, are work as his pit crew and on the number 28 car of Cody Parker. Another member of Tim’s pit crew is Doug Wolfe. Doug and Tim have been racing together for about 25 years. Doug is a key member in making sure Ragsdale’s car is ready for the track.

“I went through a dry spell – I had to come back to driving,” Ragsdale explains. “It always seems that when you have money to race, you have no time; when you have time you have no money.”

(070117) Merced Speedway - Tim Ragsdale, center, shares his passion for Merced Speedway with sons Richie, left, Chad and Teddy, at right, who help him maintain his IMCA SportMod race car. Ragsdale grades and waters the track all week in preparation for Saturday night. Richie also drives the water truck on race night. (Mike Adaskaveg Photo)

Tim Ragsdale, center, shares his passion for Merced Speedway with sons Richie, left, Chad and Teddy, at right, who help him maintain his IMCA SportMod race car. Ragsdale grades and waters the track all week in preparation for Saturday night. Richie also drives the water truck on race night. (All Photos by Mike Adaskaveg )

 

SPORTMODS HEADLINE SATURDAY NIGHT PROGRAM

The IMCA SportMod division in which Tim Ragsdale is racing will be featured in Saturday night’s program.

On the Track: . The IMCA SportMod, Hobby Stock, Valley Sportsman and the all-new Mini-Late Model divisions will each have qualifying races and a feature event on the quarter-mile clay oval.

Gates Open: Pit Area – 2 p.m., Grandstand 5 p.m.

Racing: Starts 7 p.m. will end approximately 10 p.m.

Admission: Adults $12.00; Children 6-12 yrs. old $5.00; Family Four Pack of tickets is $30. Children fewer than six are free.

Location: Merced Speedway is within the Merced County Fairgrounds 900 Martin Luther King Jr. Drive, Merced, Calif.

Wild IMCA SportMod Action sees Jeremy Hoff (5) Nosing ahead of Patti Ryland (7) and Mark Odgers. Paul Espino (33) takes the outside.