By Mike Adaskaveg
Home is where the competition lives.
That’s why Brentwood driver Fred Ryland travels two hours to race at Merced Speedway even though there are racetracks closer to where he lives.
Ryland will be at his home away from home Saturday night when the International Motor Contest Association (IMCA) Modified and SportMod divisions headline the program, which includes the Valley Sportsman and Mini-Stock Divisions.
Transplanted Ohio as, Ryland and his wife, Patti, haul their SportMods to Merced every weekend. Fred Ryland is on the track every week – Patti Ryland joins him with her SportMod whenever her schedule allows.
“The racers are great at Merced, and so is the competition,” Fred Ryland says. “There are more top notch SportMods at Merced than any other track in California.”
Ryland seeks competition – he doesn’t want an easy win.
“As a driver, I want to race where there are more drivers,” he explained. “If you run away with win, it doesn’t help you grow as a driver. You need to race with drivers who can beat you or at least run side by side with you.”
Ryland even relishes getting beaten after a clean side-by-side battle for the checkered flag just as much as he enjoys a win.
“Merced Speedway regulars Rick Diaz, Josh Hensley, Nick Spainhoward, and Levi Kiefer – are just a few of the rivers whom I raced side by side with and whom I have respect for,” Ryland added. “When you are beaten fair and square by another driver, you have to look in the mirror – and go back home and think about how you can improve your car or your driving.”
Short History, Long List of Cars and Races
After moving to the Golden State 15 years ago, the Rylands discovered racing in Chico. It was there that Fred bought Patti a ride in a two-person sprint car.
“She loved it so much she wanted to drive a mini-stock,” Fred Ryland says. “I went out and bought a hobby stock for myself and she was not happy.”
Fred got to race his hobby stock, but not until he promised to built Patti a mini-stock. In 2008, Fred built a new hobby stock from the ground up for Patti. As Patti found success in the hobby stock division, Fred continued successfully moved up to other divisions.
Fred Ryland’s hobby stock is still alive today. When he decided to race in the Super Stock division, he sold his hobby stock to Merced driver Ryan Hart, who drove it to championships on pavement and dirt – and even drove it this season at Merced Speedway.
“Race cars keep changing hands and keep on being raced – that is how a division grows,” explained Ryland of Merced Speedway’s success in building a large IMCA SportMod division.
The next car that Ryland fielded was a 2015 Harris brand. At the end of the season a year ago, Ryland sold it to up and coming SportMod driver Chris Falkenberg of Turlock.
Passing the Torch
“If you are a racer, you want to share what you have with the next generation. You truly want racing to continue in the years to come,” Ryland said.
Ryland often helps drivers young and old who are seeking advice.
He and his wife have gone to the fence after receiving a plaque for finishing in the top three – and calling for a young fan to take home a special souvenir of that night’s racing.
“I always thank the fans. Then I look for that kid with awe in his or her eyes, and give that kid my trophy,” Ryland explained.
Last race, a seven-year-old girl came up to the Rylands for an autograph. She was particularly fascinated with “the Joker” logo on Ryland’s car. He took the piece of aluminum off his car and gave it to the girl.
“She wanted to actually touch a race car. We gave her a tour of the cars and the trailer,” he said. “When I took the panel off and handed it to her, she was so excited she cried and kept thanking us. Someday, she may be racing alongside me.”
This Week at Merced Speedway
After a two-week break for the IMCA Supernationals in Iowa, the final leg of the Merced Speedway season begins with Saturday Night’s Gary Brown Youth Appreciation Memorial Race. Brown passed away last month.
All children 12 and under will attend for free thanks to the Brown family. The program will feature the IMCA Modifieds, IMCA SportMod, Mini-Stock and Valley Sportsman divisions in complete programs of qualifying races and feature events.
“Gary Brown was well known and well liked in the pits and grandstands of Merced and Madera Speedways,” Merced Speedway promoter Ed Parker said. Brown was a longtime crewmember for Madera promoter Kenny Shepherd of Merced, who was previously a NASCAR late model driver.
“Gary (Brown) was a super great guy – everyone in the Merced area seemed to know him and he knew everybody,” added Parker.
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
Children 12 and under FREE
Students 13-17 with ID $10.00