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JUNE 16 and 17: Merced’s FIRST Dwarf Car National Event !!!!

(061017) Merced Speedway - Crew Chief Joe Gonzales, left, and driver Michael "Spanky" Grenert, pictured at Placerville Speedway last week, are ready to race in the Dwarf Car Nationals at Merced Speedway. (Mike Adaskaveg Photo)

Crew Chief Joe Gonzales, left, and driver Michael “Spanky” Grenert, pictured at Placerville Speedway last week, are ready to race in the Dwarf Car Nationals at Merced Speedway.

By Mike Adaskaveg

Merced Sun-Star

For Merced’s Joe Gonzales, this weekend’s Dwarf Car Nationals at Merced Speedway is a dream come true.

Gonzales is the crew chief for Fairfield’s Michael “Spanky” Grenert, a standout Dwarf Car driver and fabricator of the tiny cars powered by 1000cc motorcycle engines.

Gonzales’ love for the speedway began as a pre-teen, delivering the Sun-Star to the neighborhood the late Ted Stofle called home.

“I saw a race car in a garage – I asked what it was,” Gonzales recalls. “From that day on I was a fan.”

When Gonzales’ wife, Diane, was stationed at Travis Air Force base in Fairfield, he was torn away from his hometown track. By happenstance, it wasn’t long before Gonzales found racing again – Senior Master Sergeant Michael Grenert was a racer.

“We were fathers of cub scouts during a Pinewood Derby when the conversation turned to oval racing,” he says of meeting Grenert. “I was immediately fascinated from what he told me about Dwarf Cars.”

(061017) Merced Speedway - Mercedian Joe Gonzales checks in on driver Michael "Spanky Grenert" prior to his entering competition at Placerville Speedway last weekend. Gonzales is crew chief for the car. (Mike Adaskaveg Photo)

Mercedian Joe Gonzales checks in on driver Michael “Spanky Grenert” prior to his entering competition at Placerville Speedway last weekend. Gonzales is crew chief for the car.

Gonsales now travels the circuit, as Grenert races his Dwarf Car throughout the West at major events and weekly shows. Now, the biggest show is in his back yard.

“There has never been a Dwarf Car National at Merced Speedway,” Gonzales says. “For Mercedians, there will be a lot of excitement. Drivers are coming from all of the Western states.”

The two-day event opens on Friday night, with qualifying and feature events with 25 cars starting. More than 100 Dwarf Cars are expected. Gonsales and Grenert will arrive on Thursday night so they could get a good parking spot in the pits.

(061017) Merced Speedway - Dwarf Car driver Michael "Spanky" Grenert races at Placerville Speedway last weekend in preparation for the Dwarf Car Nationals at Merced Speedway Friday and Saturday night this week. (Mike Adaskaveg Photo)

Dwarf Car driver Michael “Spanky” Grenert races at Placerville Speedway last weekend in preparation for the Dwarf Car Nationals at Merced Speedway Friday and Saturday night this week.

DRIVERS ANTICIPATE TOUGH COMPETITION

“Not only will the top drivers from California be in Merced, but we’re talking the top drivers from 10 states,” explains Grenert. “Merced is the perfect location to get to if you are hauling in to California from far away. “

Because of the distances involved, the Western States Dwarf Car Association has given the drivers two nights of racing. Three divisions of Dwarf Car drivers – professional, veteran and sportsman will be racing in heats and features.

On Friday night, the top 10 drivers in each division will be locked into the Saturday night main events.

“For the rest of the drivers, it is a whole new program on Saturday night, when heats will determine the rest of the starting fields for the three main events,” adds Grenert.”The small quarter mile oval is perfect for Dwarf Car racing. Drivers will need finesse, skill, and patience to be successful at Merced Speedway. They will have to keep their right foot in check.”

Vets and Pros will race for $1,000 to win, with last place receiving $175.

San Jose’s Shawn Jones agrees that Merced Speedway’s size is right for competitive Dwarf Car racing. He won at the fairgrounds oval two seasons ago, when the Dwarf cars were featured during the Merced County Fair.

“For most of the drivers, it will be their first time racing at Merced Speedway,” Jones explains. “It will be hard for them to prepare for the track. Friday night will be their learning night.”

Jones was busy preparing his tires and double-checking every nut and bolt on his car for the big event. Meanwhile, Six-time champion Ryan Winter of Galt was putting a new engine in his car for this weekend’s National.

“The key to winning – prep work and driver skill,” says Winter. “I never go to a race track thinking I can’t win.”

(061017) Merced Speedway - Dwarf Cars will invade Merced Speedway for the first-ever Dwarf Car Nationals Friday and Saturday night at Merced Speedway. Michael "Spanky" Grenert (12) competes last weekend at Placerville Speedway in the car Merced's Joe Gonzales is crew chief of. (MikeAdaskavegPhoto)

Merced Speedway – Dwarf Cars will invade Merced Speedway for the first-ever Dwarf Car Nationals Friday and Saturday night at Merced Speedway. Michael “Spanky” Grenert (12) competes last weekend at Placerville Speedway in the car Merced’s Joe Gonzales is crew chief of.

When You Go:

Grandstand Opens: 5 p.m. both Friday and Saturday.

Racing: Three divisions of cars will have heat races on Friday night to qualify the top ten cars in each division. Heat races on Saturday night will determine the remainder of the starting lineup.

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.