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MAY 13: Friendly Foes – Corn and Dean in Hobby Stocks

(050617 Oakley, CA) Merced Speedway - Kodie Dean, left, and Garrett Corn, right, discuss the upcoming night's races while in the pits at Merced Speedway. The friendly foes park next to each other and work on each others cars. Saturday, May 06, 2017. Staff photo by Mike Adaskaveg.

-Kodie Dean, left, and Garrett Corn, right, discuss the upcoming night’s races while in the pits at Merced Speedway. The friendly foes park next to each other and work on each others cars.

By Mike Adaskaveg

Special to the Sun Star

For two young local Hobby Stock drivers, it didn’t matter who won the final 29-lap segment of the Ted Stofle Classic at Merced Speedway last week.

It only mattered that one of them finished first and the other finished second. Garrett Corn, 20, of Catheys Valley, won the event with Kodie Dean, 21, of Chowchilla closing in on him at the fall of the checkered flag.

Dean jumped out of his car and gave Corn a bear hug in front of the grandstand.

“Three more laps and Kodie would have passed me,” said Corn. “His car was consistent lap after lap, my car’s (handling) started to go away near the end of the race.”

The two became friendly foes last season because of circumstance. Bad luck was their common bond – Corn lost three engines and a rear end. Dean blew up so many engines he got the nickname “Blow ‘Em Up” Dean.

“Kodie took the half hour drive to help me fix my car one night,” Corn explained. “Then I did the same for him. We kept saying that this season we’d like to finish first and second – in any order.”

Corn and Dean are the only drivers who have won this season in the highly competitive Hobby Stock division at the speedway. The park next to eachother in the pits so they can continue work together.

“There are no secrets between us,” Dean added. “It’s cool that we work on each other’s cars to race against each other – we know all about both cars. So, it comes down to driving skills when we get on the track.”

(050617 Merced Speedway - Merced, CA . Saturday, May 06, 2017. ©2014 Mike Adaskaveg.

Garrett Corn wheels his Hobby Stock at Merced Speedway during the Ted Stofle Classic.

 

CORN FAMILY WELL KNOWN AT SPEEDWAY

The Corn family began racing at the fairground track decades ago, when Garrett’s great-grandfather Paul and his brother Raymond waged battle with a field of drivers – mostly farmers looking for bragging rights by winning at the dirt track.

Grandfather Richie and father Nathan sparked Garrett Corn’s interest in racing. Three generations of Corns are at the track on Saturday night.

“My dad (Nathan) keeps me calm. He helps me not worry,” Garrett Corn said. “He is a really, really good driving coach.”

Luck changed for Garrett over the winter. He bought a Monte Carlo hobby stock from competitor Michael Shearer. Well-known Merced driver and champion Marshall Weaver built it in 2007. Garrett, a construction worker, saved money to buy the car and the parts it needed.

“We stripped the car down to a bare frame and rebuilt it,” Garrett explained. “My dad (Nathan) had kept a book on how he set up his car back in ’04. I sued the same spring rates and shock absorbers he did back then.”

Corn’s crew includes Dwayne Smith of Atwater, Jacob Zamarillo from Sacramento, uncle Rocky Corn and, Shannon Pump’s Tom White, Chris and D.J. Shannon.

(050617 Merced Speedway - Kodie Dean (7) works his way up to second by passing Robbie Loquaci (70) During the Hobby Stock Division feature race during the Stofle Classic. Merced, CA . Saturday, May 06, 2017. ©2014 Mike Adaskaveg.

Kodie Dean (7) works his way up to second by passing Robbie Loquaci (70) During the Hobby Stock Division feature race during the Stofle Classic.

DEAN SAVES TO BUY HIS “NEW” CAR

Dean’s old, beaten Camaro wasn’t performing as well as he wished, so he saved money from his job at Alview-Dairyland Union School District to buy a new car.

“The real reason Kodie is such a good driver this year is because he never drove a good piece of equipment until he bought his new car. Driving the bad cars he had, as well as he did, taught him a lot,” Corn said. “He’s shining as a driver now. He has stepped up his game 120 per cent.”

Dean purchased Brentwood driver Patti Ryland’s Oldsmobile, also a 10-year-old racecar.

“I raced against the car that I bought,” Dean said. “I brought it to Garrett’s to put it on his scales so we could set it up to be fast at Merced Speedway. We are turning laps on the quarter mile in just over 16 seconds – which is what the street stocks were doing for times a few years ago. Now, the hobby stocks are that fast.”

Kodie’s father, Tim, helps him get the car ready on weeknights for Saturday night racing. His crew includes Nathan Corn, Dwayne Short and, coincidentally, Garrett Corn’s girlfriend’s parents, Carrie and Glen Schaller.

 

(050617 Merced Speedway - Garret Corn, right, is congratulated by second place finisher Kodie Dean after winning the Hobby Stock Division feature in last week's Stofle Classic. Merced, CA . Saturday, May 06, 2017. ©2014 Mike Adaskaveg.

(0 Garret Corn, right, is congratulated by second place finisher Kodie Dean after winning the Hobby Stock Division feature in last week’s Stofle Classic.

MAINTAINTING PERFORMANCE EXCELLENCE

“I wouldn’t give Kodie an inch of racing room on the track. I’d make him work for the pass, and he’d do the same for me,” explained Corn. “That’s what we do – push each other to strive for excellence.”

Both drivers are learning from racing mistakes, each showing improved skills week after week.

“If we ever crash into each other – it would be purely accidental,” Dean admitted. “I would run right over to help him fix his car, and he would do that for me.”

Their focus is on driving skills.

“Consistency is the key to winning a race,” Dean explained. “You could go out and turn one lap at 14 seconds, but you won’t beat the guy who is turning consistent 16 second laps all race.”

Dean drove a consistent line in the Stofle Classic feature. He slowly caught up to Corn.

“I tried to hit my marks on the track every lap. Maybe I was a tenth of a second faster than Garrett – but he had the lead. “We always talked about finishing first and second. Now, we have to talk about doing it again this week”

STOFLE CLASSIC WINNERS:

(050617 Merced Speedway - Merced, CA . Saturday, May 06, 2017. ©2014 Mike Adaskaveg.

Stofle Classic winners Garrett Corn, Rick Diaz, and Paul Stone join the Stofle family in victory lane.

 

THIS SATURDAY NIGHT AT MERCED SPEEDWAY

On the Track:

 

The Hobby Stock division will headline the three weekly classes –including mini-stocks and mini-late models racing in the five-division show on Saturday night. All divisions have a complete program of qualifying races and a feature event.

Bay Cities Racing Association (BCRA) Midget Lites, winged sprint cars powered by 1,000 to 1,200 cubic centimeter motorcycle engines, will be the special attraction. The cars turn 12-second laps at Merced Speedway.

Australian Kayla Green will compete in the full field of cars driven by Californians.

“I attended a practice session at Merced Speedway this year,” Green said. “The track reminded me of the tracks in Australia – there are no fences close to the track in the turns. I really like the track – the car is suited well for the quarter mile oval.”

Race fans in Australia are following Green.

“Everyone here is making it fun for me. It was easy to adjust because everyone is so helpful in America,” she added. “People back in Australia are wishing they could be here.”

Also on the card is the Western US Midget Series sanctioned by the United States Auto Club. The midget cars are powered by 175 horsepower Ford Focus or Honda engines.

Twins Annie and Toni Breidinger, from the San Francisco Bay area, are standout drivers in the division.

Gates Open: Pit Area – 1 p.m., Grandstand 5 p.m.

Racing: Starts 7 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 fewer than six are free.

Location: Merced Speedway is within the Merced County Fairgrounds 900 Martin Luther King Jr. Drive, Merced, Calif.