By Mike Adaskaveg
Chowchilla racer Jeff Streeter found victory lane at Merced Speedway last Saturday night, ending a drought that seemed as long as the one affecting his crop dusting business. He dueled with Winton’s Paul Stone and emerged victorious in the International Motor Contest Association (IMCA) modified stock car main event.
“It was exciting to win again – there’s no better feeling to win at my home track,” Streeter said. “It was also a thrill to experience the last two laps from the driver’s seat.”
Streeter’s car seemed to slow down after he led Stone through the early circuits of the 20-lap feature. Stone passed him on the outside near the race’s midway point.. Then, a lapped car driven by Jerry Corn of Oakhurst, closed off Stone’s lane with two laps to go.
“I stuck to the inside of the track,” Streeter explained. “I saw the slow car moving higher on the track, and getting into Paul (Stone’s) lane. I knew I would soon have an opportunity to pass them.”
Streeter charged into the lead with one lap to go.
“I hung on as I hit a small bump and moved up a groove,” he explained. “Stone was right there – alongside me. He’s a great driver and I knew we wouldn’t wreck. He put the pressure on right to the checkered flag.”
Stone thought he had the race won prior to encountering Corn.
“I came back to get along side Jeff (Streeter) on the white flag lap, but it was too late – I couldn’t get by him in just one lap. The track was great – there were two fast lanes and either car could pass on the inside or outside.”
Streeter won two features at Merced Speedway in 2013. That year and in previous years, he had traveled as far as Iowa to race in IMCA modified stock car competition.
“The drought nearly killed my business,” Streeter lamented. Some Valley farmers cut back on vegetable acreage and others switched to crops such as almonds and pistachios – resulting in less aerial spraying.
“I had to cut back on my racing and concentrate on keeping the business going,” he explained.
Streeter, 36, has been racing for 20 years. This season, he is hoping to race at Merced Speedway on most weekends, and head to the IMCA Supernationals in September.
The science of setting up a new car has Streeter and his crew busy all week long in preparation for Saturday night racing. His new car has five races on it.
“I totally missed the set-up (of the chassis) the first week of the season, and we faded halfway through the feature,” he explained. “This week we were a little off – but I have a base set-up for the track now.”
Saturday night will be a rematch between Stone and Streeter. Streeter will have a slight disadvantage due to the IMCA’s handicapping rules.
“I’ll be starting further back in the pack,” he added. “The challenge is to make the car work and stay out of trouble.”
HOBBY STOCKS ADDED TO SATURDAY’S PROGRAM
A lot will be on the line for Hobby Stock drivers Saturday night at Merced Speedway. Their division was added to the program to make up for a rainout two weeks ago. The top 10 finishers in this week’s main event will be qualified for the April 30 Ted Stofle Classic.
Saturday’s program will be the largest of the young season, with all five of the speedway’s divisions on the card. The IMCA Modified, IMCA SportMod, Valley Sportsman and Mini-Stock divisions will compliment the Hobby Stock division.
Admission is $12 for adults, $10 for Senior Citizens 65 and older, $10 for students with a valid student identification card, $5 for children 6-12 and $30 for a family four-pack of two adult and two child tickets. Children 5 and younger are admitted free.
The grandstand opens at 5 p.m., with racing beginning at 7 p.m. Merced Speedway is located within the Merced County Fairgrounds, 900 Martin Luther King, Jr. Way in Merced.