By Mike Adaskaveg
Merced Speedway opens Saturday night with the first of several big events planned for 2017 season.
More than 100 cars are expected as West Coast SportMod Tour joins the IMCA Modified, Hobby Stock and Mini-Stock Divisions for the first event of the year. The event is sponsored by D and L Pumps. Because of the anticipated turnout, the Merced County Fairgrounds oval will open at 4 p.m., with racing starting one hour earlier than normal at 6 p.m.
Local drivers practiced on the ¼ mile track for the past two weekends. The International Motor Contest Association (IMCA) sanctioned track regularly features SportMods, but the tour race is a new event that will see drivers from six California tracks competing against each other. Merced Speedway will host the tour twice this season.
“Yes, the SportMods can be the main attraction – this race will prove it,” says Merced Speedway’s 2016 SportMod champ Rick Diaz of Chowchilla. The IMCA SportMod division is often seen as the secondary division to the IMCA Modified class. “You’ll see at least 50 SportMod cars here – I want that at my home track. The SportMod feature will be the night’s big event.”
Local racers welcome competition from other tracks.
“I can’t wait for Saturday night,” adds SportMod driver Fred Ryland of Brentwood, who has made Merced Speedway his home track. “If you do well in a West Coast SportMod Tour race, the bragging rights will go a long way.”
BEGINNING OF AN EXCITING SEASON
Coming off a very successful season, sophomore promoter Ed Parker of Merced has broadened the 2017 schedule to include a variety of events and car classes that haven’t been seen at the quarter-mile cay track in recent history.
In addition to the West Coast SportMod tour, there will be visits from the IMCA All Star Modifieds. Open-wheeled Race Saver Winged Sprint Cars and Bay Cities Racing Association (BCRA) Midget Lites will each have events at the track.
Merced Speedway will host for the first time the Dwarf Car Nationals, a two-day event for the motorcycle engine powered cars. A new regular class powered by motorcycle engines, the Mini-Late Models, will offer young and new drivers a way to economically break into oval racing.
Memorial events this season will include the Ted Stofle Classic on May 6, The Timmy Post Memorial on July 1, The Matt and Glass Cancer Fund Raider on Sept. 23and the John Fore, Jr. Sport Mod Nationals on October 7.
Last year’s inaugural Golden Valley FFA Tractor Pull was so successful that the FFA will make it an annual event beginning on October 21. Also back on the schedule for the second year is the American Motorcycle Association (AMA) Flat Track Motorcycle Races on June 24.
FAN EXPERIENCE IMPROVEMENTS
In addition to cleaning and painting the concession stands, race fans and drivers alike will be able to see real-time scoring during racing events by using their cell phones or tablets.
Parker invested in “My Laps”, a system that will electronically show the lap times of the cars and their positions in real time throughout the night.
SATURDAY OPENING NIGHT AT MERCED SPEEDWAY
On the Track: Four Divisions of cars, with total car count of more than 100 entries. IMCA SportMods, IMCA Modifieds, Hobby Stocks and Mini Stocks will each race in qualifying “heat” races and a feature event.
Gates Open: Pit Area – NOON, Grandstand 4 p.m.
Racing: Starts 6 p.m. will end approximately 10 p.m.
Admission: Adults $12.00; Children 6-12 yrs. old $5.00; Family Four Pack of tickets is $30. Children under six are free.
Location: Merced Speedway is within the Merced County Fairgrounds 900 Martin Luther King Jr. Drive, Merced, Calif.