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MAY 6: TED STOFLE CLASSIC!…PLUS : WEST COAST IMCA SPORT MOD TOUR

 

 

(043016 Merced, CA) Merced Speedway 2016 Ted Stofle Classic - Melissa Stofle Sousa, daughter of Ted Stofle, will drive his winning stock car as a pace car Saturday night at Merced Speedway. She sits in the restored car and holds Ted Stofle's granddaughter, Ashley, 2, at last year's Stofle Classic. Saturday, April 30, 2016. Staff photo by Mike Adaskaveg.

Melissa Stofle Sousa, daughter of Ted Stofle, will drive his winning stock car as a pace car Saturday night at Merced Speedway. She sits in the restored car and holds Ted Stofle’s granddaughter, Ashley, 2, at last year’s Stofle Classic. Saturday, April 30, 2016.

By Mike Adaskaveg

Merced Sun-Star

It was 37 years ago this year that local stock car racer Ted Stofle lost his life in a hunting accident. Stofle was a gifted racer, and his loss touched the community so much that his memorial race continues to be one of the biggest events at Merced Speedway.

This Saturday night, the tribute to Stofle will feature a 30-lap feature for the IMCA Modified Division, a 30 Lap feature for the IMCA SportMod division and a 29 lap feature for the Hobby Stock Division – all adding up to 89 laps. The number 89 was on the ’65 Chevelle that Stofle raced to a remarkable record before his death.

Stofle accomplished the impossible when there were 50 to 60 stock cars in the pits, all vying for a starting position in the 24-car main event. In 342 starts, he had 302 top five finishes and 110 wins.

“Ted Stofle was one of the greatest drivers I have seen in my lifetime,” says Merced’s Chris Shannon, a champion with many feature wins himself. “I grew up watching him – he was Merced’s hero in the world of stock car racing. Everyone knew he was going to be someone in the world of big league NASCAR racing.”

ted and doug_Lores

Ted Stofle, left, and Doug Williams, right – Back in the Day!

Chris Shannon’s dad, Jerry, sponsored Stofle. Tom White, who is on the current Shannon Pump race team, began his racing career working with Stofle. As a teenager, he was mounting and un-mounting dirt and pavement tires because Stofle could afford only one set of rims.

“We were just poor boys from Merced, and we beat the big guys from all over California,” White recalls. “Consistency and perseverance is what made our team so successful.”

Stofle raced four nights a week, on both pavement and dirt tracks. San Jose Speedway pavement was Wednesday night, Watsonville dirt on Friday, Merced dirt on Saturday and Madera pavement on Sunday.

“We built a ‘55 Chevy chassis with the ’65 Chevelle body on it, raced it twice in 1976 and parked it,” White recalls. “Two years later we brought it out again to race on the dirt tracks. It was just a basic car. It was heavy duty.”

Stofle, who always started in the back of the pack, waited for the field to spread out, then made his move.

“We just kept the car simple, Ted took care of the rest,” continues White. “He would pick off the competition one at a time until he took the lead and ran away.”

In 1980, Stofle had back-to-back wins at both Watsonville and Merced Speedways for 10 weeks in a row. No one has since challenged the record.

Present Merced Speedway Race Director Doug Williams was best friends with Stofle as a teenager. He introduced Stofle to racing. Williams was hit hard by Stofle’s tragic passing.

“We got as much local support as we could for the first Ted Stofle Classic in 1981,” Williams explains. “We got the purse up to $10,000 and that was unheard of in those days.”

A who’s who of California race drivers has won the Stofle Classic – Jim Pettit, Ray Morgan, Doug McCowan, Rene Crumb and Chris Shannon.

“It is and always has been a prestigious race to win,” adds Williams.

FIRST IMCA SPORTMOD TOUR RACE ADDS TO STOFLE SPECTACULAR

(041517 Merced, CA) Merced Speedway - IMCA SportMod driver Jeremy Hoff of Copperopolis will be a regular competitor at Merced Speedway this year as he makes a run for the track championship. . Saturday, April 15, 2017. Staff photo by Mike Adaskaveg.

IMCA SportMod driver Jeremy Hoff of Copperopolis will be a regular competitor at Merced Speedway this year as he makes a run for the track championship. .

 

 

 

 

 

 

The first race on the West Coast IMCA SportMod tour will enhance the Stofle Classic. The series brings the best SportMod division drivers together at several of the State’s IMCA sanctioned speedways.

All four of the series races have been rained out this season, making Merced Speedway’s event the opening night of the tour. More than 50 drivers have signed up for the tour, and most are expected at the speedway on Saturday night.

Jeremy Hoff tows his car an hour and 15 minutes to Merced Speedway from Copperopolis. He plans to be a weekly competitor at the speedway, and makes no secret of the fact he is looking for a championship in the SportMod division.

“The top drivers in the state are in the series, which makes a top finish quite an accomplishment,” Hoff explains. “We came close to winning on Easter Eve’s regular show, when there were 36 cars trying to make the feature.”

Hoff was introduced to IMCA SportMod racing by his dad, Scott. Now, his dad has stepped aside from driving so Jeremy could use his car as a spare car in his quest for the championship. In the meantime, Jeremy Hoff is building a new car in a Modesto shop.

Hoff stepped back to the economical SportMod division after racing in the top class, IMCA Modified.

“We’re trying to have fun racing, and the seriousness of the Modified division took the fun out of it,” Hoff explains. “This year, the goal is to have good solid runs and make the show.”

 

TOP EIGHT HOBBY STOCKERS PRE-QUALFIED

 

The top eight drivers in the Hobby Stock division have been pre-qualified for the Stofle Classic. They will race in two four-car events to determine their starting positions

Garret Corn, Kodie Dean, Shannon Nelson, Michael Shearer, Austin Van Hoff, Mike Stockton, Robbie Loquaci and Donnie Shearer have made the show.

 

SATURDAY NIGHT AT MERCED SPEEDWAY

 

On the Track: The Ted Stofle Classic. The IMCA Modified, SportMod, Hobby Stock divisions will each has qualifying races and a feature event on the quarter-mile clay oval. Melissa Stofle-Sousa, daughter of Ted Stofle, will drive his historic car as a pace car.

 

Gates Open: (One Hour Earlier than Normal) Pit Area – Noon, Grandstand 4 p.m.

 

Racing: (One Hour Earlier than Normal) Starts at 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 less than six years old are free.

 

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