By Mike Adaskaveg
Bill Egleston has decided to “go for it” – he wants another Merced Speedway champiohship.
The 2013 International Motor Contest Association (IMCA) modified class champion began 2016 with a goal to be a top competitor in the organization. Four races into the new racing season, he’s scored a win, two seconds and a seventh at the Merced County Fairgrounds oval.
Egleston and the IMCA modified division headlines this Saturday night’s program at the ¼ mile clay oval. He’s been preparing all week for the race. The IMCA All Star tour is in town for the special event.
A championship would fit into Egleston’s plans perfectly. His journey this year will take him to the IMCA Supernationals, a September event that draws 300 of the best drivers to the mecca for “modified” racing – Boone, Iowa.
“A championship means a lot to a driver,” Egleston explains. “It has special significance when you can take it (a 2016 track championship) to the IMCA Supernationals. “
Egleston has stepped up his game since winning the 2013 track championship. He’s experienced new and distant tracks, picked the brains of his competitors, and raced against the best drivers in the division.
“It has made me more confident,” Egleston says of his adventures. “Now, I can race on the bottom of the track and the top of the track equally as well. Racing at different tracks has been a great learning experience.”
He’s stepped up the maintenance program for his car as well.
“Maintenance has to be second to none. We can’t afford to have a DNF (Did Not Finish),” Egleston says. “That’s another benefit of traveling. When you have to drive a truck all day to get to a racetrack, you want everything to be perfect with the race car. Traveling taught us to accomplish better pre-race preparation.”
Egleston has one modified stock car. He can’t afford to crash and he needs to finish in front of the pack when the checkered flag falls.
His crew includes Jeff Harbaugh and Matt Wood. Harbaugh prepares tires for each race. The tires used on dirt track have the be “ground” with disc sander, “grooved” with a hot iron and “siped” to put tiny slices in the surface – all for better traction.
Wood handles “set-up”, adjusting the car’s chassis for track conditions before the race. Egleston maintains the car’s engine.
An Atwater almond farmer and trucking company owner, Egleston joined the racing scene late – after turning 30 more than a decade ago,
“”I hadn’t attended Merced Speedway since I was a child,” he says. “Then I went to the races and said to myself ‘I want to try that.’ I bought a hobby stock and became addicted to racing after taking my first ride around the track.”
Egleston has been a staunch supporter of the track ever since.
“I’ve made most of the races r since that first day I raced,” he adds.
He wouldn’t have been able to accomplish his climb to success without his wife, Maria.
“We’re are preparing to travel to another race track when Merced Speedway is closed for Memorial Day,” he smiles. “Maria was concerned that I had bought enough tires and had all the parts I needed. How many guys have a wife who tells them to spend money on their car? I’m the luckiest guy in the world.”
THIS WEEK AT MERCED SPEEDWAY
The IMCA Modifieds headline the show this weekend. The special event is part of the IMCA All Star tour. A full program of Hobby Stock and Vintage Valley Sportsman races are also on the card. A large field of cars is expected since Merced Speedway will be dark the following week for Memorial Day.
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.