By Mike Adaskaveg
Special to the Merced Sun-Star
Merced Speedway’s season opener Saturday evening will begin a season-long tribute to John Fore, Jr. The beloved up and coming racer in the International Motor Contest Association (IMCA) SportMod division lost his life last month in a work-related accident at his Merced truck and tractor repair business, John’s Mobile Repair.
Fore, Jr. was well known to farmers and racers for his dedication to his profession. When equipment broke down, he would respond to dusty area farm fields in the heat of the afternoon sun or under a chilly canopy of stars – knowing how important it was to the Valley’s economy to keep agricultural production on time.
“Just about the whole farming and racing communities filled the Chowchilla Fairgrounds Event Center for his service,” said Merced Speedway Race Director Doug Williams. “It was incredible to see how many lives he touched.”
Williams added the “John Fore, Jr. 9D SportMod Nationals” event to the Speedway’s schedule on October 15. He’s hoping to build it into one of the biggest annual racing events for that class of cars.
Fore, Jr. was a long time crewman for racing partner Bob Smith of Merced. When he took over as full-time driver for the car he owned with Smith, Fore, Jr. became an immediate fan favorite. Drivers saw him as a fearsome competitor and good friend.
“His size was intimidating, but once you got to know him you realized he was just a big, kind hearted guy who did anything he could to help people,” said Merced Speedway 2014 IMCA SportMod Champ Rick Diaz. “He was an awesome person and he sure will be missed.”
Diaz changed the number of his SportMod to Fore, Jr.’s number – 9D. He adorned his new car with giant pictures depicting Fore, Jr.’s life. The car will be on display at the main entrance of the Speedway on Saturday afternoon.
“Above and beyond, he worked hard for his family,” Diaz added.
Fore, Jr.’s wife Lisa, daughter Meghan and son Hayden will be at the Speedway on Saturday night. The track has scheduled a traditional driver’s “send off”. Lisa Fore will read a prepared remembrance, and then the cars will line up, completely filling the track, as Diaz’s tribute car takes a lap with the checkered flag flying from the window.
The tribute won’t end there. Track owner Ed Parker will pass out “9D” stickers in remembrance of Fore, Jr. Diaz will sell T-shirts he had made in remembrance of Fore, Jr.. All proceeds will go to the Fore family.
Particularly touched by Fore, Jr.’s passing, Diaz has vowed to race every race with the No. 9D car, and make a run at the track championship.
“He and I spent a lot of time together, working on our cars in preparation for race night. We traveled to other tracks on three day weekends,” Diaz said.
Diaz and crew chief Chuck Crews put hard work into preparing the tribute car for Saturday night.
“We worked on the car 24 hours straight last weekend,” Diaz said. “It is what John would have done for us.”
Merced Speedway announced its 26-week 2016 schedule this week. Special events will include the Ted Stofle Classic on April 30; Wednesday Fair Racers on June 8; The Tim Post Memorial on July 2; Salute to the Legends of Merced Speedway on August 13; The Matt and Glass Fight Against Cancer race on Sept. 24; and the John Fore, Jr. 9D SportMod Nationals on October 15.
New events this year will include: AMA Flat Track motorcycle races, USAC HPD Midgets, and Junior Box Stock Go Karts. The complete schedule is available for download on the racemerced.com website.
Weekly racing begins Saturday night with IMCA Modifieds, SportMods, Hobby Stocks and Mini-Stocks on the schedule. The grandstand will open at 5 p.m. with racing beginning at 7 p.m.
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.
Merced Speedway is located within the Merced County Fairgrounds, 900 Martin Luther King, Jr. Way in Merced.