By Mike Adaskaveg
When Bruce “Bubba” Nelson won the Merced Speedway Hobby Stock feature event last Saturday night, he jumped onto the door of his car and raised his arms with hands in the air, bowing to the grandstand like he won the biggest race of his career.
Nelson usually doesn’t race in the Hobby Stock division.
He wasn’t driving “his” car, either. He borrowed the hobby stock his wife, Shannon, usually drives – because she decided to attend a Fresno Grizzlies game with some friends.
“It’s all fun and games for me,” Nelson said. “There is nothing more exciting than winning a stock car race. I’d rather race than watch. I took her car out for a test drive and won.”
Nelson, 30, is a late bloomer – starting his speedway career 10 years ago. He moved up from the Hobby Stock division to the International Motor Contest Association (IMCA) SportMod division and this year became a rookie in the track’s top division – IMCA Modified.
Interestingly, the man known simply as “Bubba” has won three of the four times he ventured out in his wife’s car this season.
“He made sure everything in the car is in good working order for me,” Shannon Nelson laughed in agreement with her husband. “Now the car is ready for me this weekend.”
The couple has two sons, Bentley and Bryce, who are their biggest fans.
“Bubba” Nelson’s hard-charging on-track attitude, coupled with his colorful post-race antics, has earned him legions of fans. He’ll do a back flip from the top of his car or jump up on it’s roof – all seeming to go hand in hand with his unforgettable name.
Few people call “Bubba” by his real name, Bruce – because that’s his father’s name. When he was a toddler, his family began calling him “Bubba” – a name that would later fit perfectly for his driving career.
As a rookie in the IMCA Modified division, “Bubba” Nelson has run well with the top drivers. After a third place finish on the quarter mile at Merced, he ventured to Ocean Speedway in Watsonville for the Cecil Memorial race two weeks ago. He took third place to winner Bobby Hogge IV of Salinas while challenging second place Alex Stanford of Chowchilla.
“I’ve won races in several divisions,” “Bubba” Nelson said. “The biggest accomplishment for me would be if I could win, as a rookie, in my IMCA Modified.”
Nelson’s rival last year in the SportMod division was Chowchilla’s Rick Diaz, who stayed in that division as Nelson moved on.
“I won quite a few INMCA SportMod races, but I only lost to Rick Diaz and I wouldn’t want to lose to anyone else,” he said. “This year there is a longer list of drivers I’ve lost to – and they are some of the most respected drivers around – Paul and Ramie Stone, Randy Brown, Mike Villanueva – just to name a few.”
Nevertheless, Nelson is fourth in points.
“I’ve done the math – the three drivers in front of me would have to not qualify for the remainder of the season and I would have to win every feature in order to win the championship,” he laughs. “That probably isn’t going to happen.”
The Nelsons are part of the race team that is owned by Michael Shearer and his mother, Margie Mejia. Five hobby stocks and the modifieds driven by “Bubba” Nelson and Villanueva comprise the team.
“Bubba” Nelson works as a welder by day, making hospital doors at Merced’s Safety First. After work, he heads to Shearer’s Atwater garage to work on the cars.
When Saturday night comes, Bubba and Shannon Nelson will each be driving their respective cars in the divisions they usually race in.
“It is hard to drive two different cars in two divisions on one night,” “Bubba” Nelson explained. “It is better to concentrate on one car, rather than drive two without success.”
Last year, “Bubba” Nelson went to the IMCA Supernationals in Boone, Iowa, competing with 300 cars for a spot in the main event.
“I didn’t make it to the big show, but I raced a lot and learned a lot,” he said. “My motto has always been ‘have fun first and the wins will come’. That’s exactly what I’m doing.”
Saturday Night At Merced Speedway
A full program of IMCA Modified and SportMod racing will highlight the program Saturday night at Merced Speedway. Also featured are the Hobby Stock and Mini-Stock divisions. There will be qualification races and a feature event for each division of cars. Merced Speedway is located in the Merced County Fairgrounds, 900 Martin Luther King, Jr. Way.
Racing begins at 7 p.m. Grandstand Opens at 5 p.m.
Program will be approximately 3 hours or less.
Seniors 65 and older $10.00
Students with an ID – 13 to 17 – $10.00
Children 6 to 2 $5.00
Kids 5 and under FREE
Family Pack 2 adults and 2 children $30.00