By Mike Adaskaveg
Opportunity knocked twice for Merced’s Ed Parker, and he seized it to become the new promoter of Merced Speedway.
With the deal being finalized this past weekend, local racers are applauding the news that the historic racing facility at the Merced County Fairgrounds is back under local management.
Parker, an outside salesman for P&F Metals a general engineering firm specializing in the feed milling industry, will now hold the title of Merced Speedway Promoter. He was quick to appoint respected former track manager Doug Williams of Merced as race director.
“The racing community has known Ed (Parker) for a long time and Doug Williams for even longer,” said local racer Raulie Rodriguez, who will was building a hobby stock car with his dad, Raul, when reached this week. “There is a local connection to the community now, with an accessible home town management – which has always been important.”
The track had been under the ownership of Oval Motorsports, Inc. of Antioch for the past five seasons. Parker had his first opportunity to own the track when previous owner Chuck Griffin put it up for sale – but Oval Motorsports bought it before Parker had the time to secure financing.
“I had to back away from the first opportunity, and I regretted it ever since,” Parker said. “Luckily, opportunity didn’t knock once.”
This time, his offer was accepted. Now Parker, his wife Patricia and son Cody are excited to be owners of Merced Speedway. Including the community of Merced is a top priority for the Parkers.
“We’re going to involve the community in the programs at the speedway – there will be nights for the high schools sports teams, FFA, and little league,” Parker explained. “There will be family activities – bands, car shows, and even a bounce house. Going to Merced Speedway will be a family experience rather than just going to the races.”
Tracing his racing history back to his dad, Moses Parker, being a racer and production manager for Hooker Headers in the early 70’s, Parker moved to Merced in 1992. He immediately made friends at the speedway. Current modified stock car drivers Paul and Ramie Stone raced with Parker in the California Little Truck series.
Parker campaigned a pavement stock car and secured mutli-champion Tim Ragsdale to be his driver. They returned to the dirt track at Merced in 2006, winning the track street stock championship in 2007
Son Cody Parker was born in 2000, and immediately took to racing.
“Cody started to race go karts which took us in another direction for f couple of years,” explained Parker. “I was focused on Cody, but we were still fans in the stands at Merced Speedway.”
When Cody Parker became 14, he began racing at Merced Speedway in the Hobby Stock division. Last season, he won two features.
Being a driver, racecar owner and also a fan, Parker sees room for much improvement at Merced Speedway.
First, he is revamping the concession stands. There will be new food items – like Philly cheese steak sandwiches along with the tried and true racing foods – hot dogs and hamburgers – that will have improved quality.
On the track, Merced’s Tim Ragsdale will be in charge of surface preparation. Williams will run the pit area and race program. He has scheduled the long-standing annual events honoring the Legends of Merced and driver Ted Stofle, as well as the Merced Fair races. The races for the track’s premier modified and Sport Mod divisions will be sanctioned by the International Motor Contest Association (IMCA), which has a long and successful history in Valley racing.
“My long term vision is to bring Merced Speedway back to its heyday – when there were big fields of cars and the grandstands were packed,” Parker added.”
IMCA 2013 track champion Bill Egleston sees a bright future for the 1/3 mile dirt track.
“This is good for Merced in general,” Egleston said. “Ed cares about Merced. His heart is in owning the racetrack. Within a year car counts will increase. Having someone from Merced owning the track and someone from Merced as race director is a big step in the right direction for the success of Merced Speedway.”
Merced Speedway begins its season with practice on March 19 and 26. The IMCA racing season will begin on April 2.