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June 24: Western Championship California Flat Track Races – Fun and Thrills for All

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Last Year’s competition at Merced Speedway, with riders casting shadows in an artistic photo by Mark Brooks, Sonora Sports Photography.

By Mike Adaskaveg

Merced Sun-Star

For Atwater’s Matt Wood, there’s nothing more exciting than motorcycles racing on a dirt track.

“It is almost a contact sport – motorcycle riders will be racing inches away from each other,” explains Wood, whose friends call him “Woody”.

It will be the second year in a row that California Flat Track Association presents its Western Championship event at the quarter mile fairgrounds oval.

“The riders have a steel toe on their left foot,” explains Wood. “They lay the bikes so low when they are in the corners, that they have to drag their left leg. The bikes have no front brake – just a rear brake, and they are stripped down to to lighten them for speed.”

Wood, a tattoo artist, usually races in the Hooligan division, where 750cc and greater engine size Harley Davidson Sportsters dominate the field.

“It’s a ‘run what you brung’ class – street bikes being raced on dirt just for fun,” he says. “Bikers often get bad publicity – but this is a fun event that shows motorcycle riding is for families – kids, grand mothers, and people from all walks of life. It is both positive and very cool.”

There were 160 bikes and their riders at the race last year. Senior citizens on classic bikes, five year olds on small motorcycles, and everyone on every bike in between havew a chance to race on the oval. Amateur divisions race in the afternoon, with the professional program beginning at 7 p.m.

Merced’s Barhoppers Motorcycle Club sponsors the program and raises funds throughout the year in anticipation of the Merced Western Championships.

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Mark Brooks of Sonora Sports Photography shot the streaking riders coming out of turn four in last year’s event.

“The club has been here since 1962,” explains Wood. “Raising additional money for the purse paid to riders results in more riders coming to Merced. It is one of the biggest motorcycle races in California this year.”

DAY LONG SCHEDULE FOR ALL EVENTS

`           The pit gates will open at noon. Spectators will have to buy a pit pass to experience the amateur classes racing.

Youth class ages begin with Peewees, who are age 4-6, and racing electric or gas powered bikes. Three Pee Wee divisions allow riders to graduate up to the 65cc-two stroke/110cc four-stroke engine classes. Amateur, expert and Heads- Up divisions are for ages up to 11 years old.

Amateur youth riders from age 7-15 race in the 85cc two-stroke/150cc four-stroke divisions.

Beginners in the Amateur division are 12 years old and older. The Veteran Amateur division is for riders 35 years old and older. There are also “Vintage” and “Hooligan” classes for amateurs. Heads-Up classes are for Amateurs and Experts.

The professional program will begin at 7 p.m. The non-stop racing action is scheduled to be completed by 9:30 p.m. Spectators can enter the grandstands at 6:30 p.m. to watch Expert and Professional riders race in several classes.

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Action for all riders of all ages starts in the afternoon, followed by a professional program at 7 pm. Photo by Mark Brooks Sonora Sports Photography.

Admission: Adults $12.00; Children 6-12 yrs. old $5.00; Family Four Pack of tickets is $30. Children fewer than six are free.

REGULAR RACING PROGRAM RETURNS TO THE SPEEDWAY JULY 1

After a month of special events, Merced Speedway’s regular race program of IMCA Modifieds, IMCA SportMods and Hobby Stocks will resume with the Annual Tim Post Memorial on Saturday, July 1.

Merced Speedway promoter Ed Parker has announced that there will be free admission for the races and a gigantic fireworks display scheduled for 9:15 p.m. The grandstand will open at 5 p.m.

“The fireworks show is for the Merced community, that has supported Ed and the track,” said race director Doug Williams. “It will be a fun night out for local families.”

The Tim Post Memorial will see the Hobby Stock division qualify for starting positions by time trial. The event honors Tim Post, grandson of former track owner Chuck Griffin. Post died tragically in a car accident.

The IMCA modified division will start by drawing positions for the heat races and re-drawing positions for the features. The IMCA SportMod division will have its normal format of qualifying heats and a feature event.

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The colors of Flat Track Motorcycle racing. Photo by Mark Brooks Sonora Sports Photography