By Mike Adaskaveg
Merced Speedway’s 2016 season will come to a close in a big way Saturday evening, as the track hosts the first John Fore, Jr. 9D SportMod Nationals. Offering hefty winnings, the event is expected to draw SportMod and Hobby Stock drivers from across the state.
The race is in the memory of Fore, Jr., of Chowchilla, killed tragically earlier this year while working at his Merced business.
“John (Fore, Jr.) would want to be part of this,” said close friend and business associate Bob Smith of Merced. “He would always get so excited to go racing.”
Smith, who raced at the Speedway since 1991, helped Fore, Jr. get behind the wheel five years ago. The two men shared a SportMod car, driving it on alternate weekends.
“Merced area businesses came forward and donated money to make the purse structure large for this race,” Smith explained. Fore, a welder, and Smith, a mechanical technician, would trade work back and forth as they repaired equipment. “He (Fore, Jr.) would be the first to donate to a race like this.”
Fore, Jr., Smith, and their families went camping together in the mountains and at the beach. They enjoyed driving quads on Pismo beach.
“This event will mean so much to his family and friends – John (Fore, Jr.) was well liked in his hometown of Chowchilla and in Merced,” Smith said.
Chowchilla’s Rick Diaz dedicated the season to friend and competitor Fore, Jr. Diaz won the 2016 IMCA SportMod track championship two weeks ago.
“There is nothing I want to do more than win this race,” Diaz said. “Our crew is focused on Saturday.”
Diaz’s crew was also helping Fore, Jr. with his new car at the time of his death.
“Chowchilla is still a small town – everyone helps one another,” Diaz explained. “All guys on my crew called John (Fore, Jr.) a close friend.”
Since it is an unsanctioned event, scheduled after the IMCA season, the race will be open to both Modified and SportMod drivers. The IMCA, which sanctions these classes through September, does not allow Modified Division drivers to step down to the SportMod Division during the sanctioned season.
“I’m getting a car ready for the weekend,” said Winton’s Paul Stone, a Modified Division driver. “This race means a lot. It is a community event.”
Drivers from north and south will be at Merced Speedway on Saturday.
“John Fore, Jr. always had a smile on his face,” said Bakersfield driver Nick Spainhoward. “He never had a bad night at the track. He was always happy.”
Spainhoward said at least a half-dozen of his fellow Bakersfield drivers would make the trek to Merced.
“Out of all the track we race at over the years, Merced Speedway ranks up there near top – it is the most fun to race at Merced – and it’s because of local drivers like John Fore, Jr.”
Spainhoward, like many drivers, is hoping the race is just the beginning of a fall tradition.
“John Fore, Jr. deserves to have a race in his memory, and I am glad to be a part of it,” Spainhoward added.
With 40 Sportmods and 30 Hobby Stocks expected, the event will offer nine lap heat races (Fore’s car was No. 9) and “B” Main events to qualify for the feature events in each class.
“This is definitely the first of many annual events for John,” Diaz said. “He touched many peoples lives and we want this tribute to him to be the biggest SportMod race for years to come.”
John Fore, Jr. 9D Sport Mod Nationals
Races Begin: 6 p.m.
Grandstand Opens: 4 p.m.
Pit Area Opens: 1 p.m.
Seniors 65 and older $10.00
Students with an ID – 13 to 17 – $10.00
Children 6 to 12 $5.00
Kids 5 and under FREE
Family Pack 2 adults and 2 children $30.00