By Mike Adaskaveg
Special to the Sun-Star
“The planets have aligned,” smiled International Motor Contest Association (IMCA) SportMod driver Alex Odishoo of Merced. “Local management is back at the speedway, and drivers and fans will come first and foremost.”
Local racing enthusiast Ed Parker purchased the Speedway early this year, and brought back legendary driver Doug Williams as race director.
“I love Merced Speedway – there is nothing like sitting in the stands and seeing the snow-capped Sierra Mountains in the distance – while you are watching races,” Parker said in Saturday’s introductory pit meeting.
Williams, too, expressed his love for the Speedway.
“I’ve been coming here since I was a child back in 1960, and I haven’t stopped,” he told the crowd of racers.
“Oakie” Al Cummings, a fixture at the track for five decades, was so excited about the changes, he told of his anticipated return to driving.
“I’m making my comeback in a car that first raced here 50 or so years ago – an AMC Concord – when was the last time you saw one of those?” he quipped.
Merced’s Joy Alger said she would be returning to the “Mini-Stock” division to dedicate her season to her racer granddad, Robert Alger, who passed away two days before this past Christmas.
“It is a family Speedway – my grandpa, dad, and uncle all raced here,” explained Alger. “We’re loving it that Doug (Williams) is back.”
The Tucker family of Delhi reaffirmed that generations of racers call the track their Saturday night home during the season. Gary Tucker, his wife and “boss” Cindie, son Nick, and grandson Tyler are foreseeing a great season.
“We’re planning on being here every week,” Gary Tucker said. “We’re going to race the whole season.”
Darren Thomas of Atwater has two sons, Tanner and Chase, filling the seats of his racecars. Thomas found the racecar he drove back in 1999 sitting in a barn in Aromas , and resurrected it as a SportMod for the 2016 season.
“With two sons wanting to race, I doubt I’ll get to drive this season,” he laughed. “I’m happy for Ed Parker taking over the speedway. He will do good things for the sport. Doug Williams is a great representative for the sport. I watched him race since I was a kid.”
Winton’s Paul Stone, who travels the country racing in the IMCA’s top division, was also in the pits.
“I plan on being here and supporting my hometown track as much as I can – between trips,” he said.
For young Destiny Carter, the untimely loss of her mom, Dawn, showed how close the racing family at the speedway is.
Carter, was greeted in the pits with the biggest present she ever received. Chris Corder of Modesto, a regular in the Mini-Stock division, built a racecar for the 16 year old.
“She’s a really good kid – her grades are good in school, too – so I decided to give her something to look forward to,” Corder explained. “She just has to keep doing well in school.”
Last season, the City’s race fans packed the grandstand when a fundraiser was held for Carter.
“The people here have helped me in more ways then I ever could expect,” said Carter, who was choked up as she placed her number and name on her new car.”
The close knit racing community bolstered Carter’s confidence to drive a racecar like the ones she cheered for since she was a small child sitting in the grandstands with her mom.
“Racing is all about community, and Ed and Doug get that,” added driver Dwayne Short of Merced. “Having local management is a move in the right direction.”
This Saturday At Merced Speedway
Pit gates will open at noon, with racecars on the track from 3 p.m. until dusk. The pit entry fee is $20 for car and driver for the test and tune session.
Fans can watch from the grandstands for free, or enter the pit area for a close-up view of their drivers and cars for a $20 admission fee.