August 19: Tim Cecil and Family at D and L Pump Night


(070117 Dixon, CA) Dixon Speedway - . Saturday, July 01, 2017. Staff photo by Mike Adaskaveg.

Tim Cecil (1) and Ricky Thatcher (88) battle it out on the backstretch during an IMCA Modified heat race.

By Mike Adaskaveg

Special to the Sun-Star

When Atwater’s Tim Cecil fastens the belts to hold himself into the driver’s seat of his IMCA Modified Saturday night at Merced Speedway, he is reminded of the strange fate that brought him to this point in his life.

Cecil hasn’t run in front of the pack. He’s driving far from the limelight, battling in the middle of the field for a finish that will be his personal best.

Saturday night’s program at the Speedway will be two weeks after the 20th annual memorial race for his dad, Mike Cecil, who passed away when Tim was nine years old. Tim Cecil qualified for the feature honoring his dad and finished 13th after starting 23rd.

“I was pretty young when my dad was diagnosed with cancer,” Cecil explains. “I remember spending time with him as he worked on his car. I was playing with Hot Wheels and Matchbox cars alongside him in the garage.”

Mike Cecil won back-to-back championships in 1995 and 96. He also won an un-named 100-lap race that would become his memorial the following year.

“Dad was working on a go-kart for me when he got sick,” Cecil recalls. “I thought I would never race it. However, his friends – David Lewis and Travis Sudgen – stepped up and put it together. It was red and had the number “1” just like my dad’s car.”

Tim Cecil drove that go-kart on the parade lap of the first Cecil Memorial race two decades ago.

Grand father Jerry Cecil stood proudly as he saw Tim Cecil pace the field.

“My grandfather got my dad involved in racing and both of them got me involved in racing,” Tim Cecil says. “There weren’t many dry eyes at the track that night.”

Jerry Cecil, now 76, occasionally drives his Valley Sportsman car at Merced Speedway.

When Tim Cecil was 16, he got behind the wheel of his dad’s car, and drove it until he was 19. At that point, the 11-year-old car was out-classed by newer models and Cecil went in another direction. He moved to Sacramento and went to college.


Tim Cecil surveys the damage after a last-lap crash during the July 1 IMCA Modified Tour feature event.


A chance meeting at Starbucks in Merced put Cecil back on the path to racing. He met a young woman named Nicole Nance, a Freshman at Fresno State, who became Nicole Cecil five years later.

“We were talking at Starbucks and she mentioned her dad had raced at Merced Speedway since the 1980’s. I remembered my dad racing with Derek Nance,” Cecil says. “I didn’t know Derek on a personal level and I certainly didn’t know he had children.“

Soon after, Cecil was racing a go-kart at Atwater Speedway. He earned the track championship four years ago.

“I wanted to get back into stock car racing – so the following season I bought an IMCA SportMod,” he explains. “My father-in-law had taken a break as Nicole went to college. He also wanted to get back to the track.”

Cecil traded his SportMod for an IMCA Modified car last year, and Nance joined him as they worked together to race in the Speedway’s premier division.

“We are both back doing what we love,” Cecil adds.

(070117 Dixon, CA) Dixon Speedway - . Saturday, July 01, 2017. Staff photo by Mike Adaskaveg.

Derek Nance and his son-in-law Tim Cecil are on the same team – their IMCA modified stock cars have matching paint schemes.


Cecil finished seventh in his third night out in the modified division. He’s won a few heat races. That may not sound like a major accomplishment, but it is for him.

“I’m still in a learning curve,” he says. “The Modified car is different than the SportMod, The pace of the Modified division is a lot faster than the SportMod division. I would like to be in the top 10 every week – that would mean we had a good season.”

Cecil is driving in as many IMCA Modified events he can this season.

“You learn more in the long run if you are racing against faster drivers,” Cecil says. “I’m real attentive to what is unfolding on the track in front of me.”

He doesn’t mind coming from the back or middle of the pack. It gives him a unique viewpoint.

“A driver can learn a lot by being in the back of the pack,” Cecil continues. “I can see where drivers are setting their cars as they turn. I can follow the line they are driving. I can try to adjust my car to get through the center of the turn like a specific car.”

Learning to go faster and minimizing misfortune on the track are Cecil’s goals.

“I can see other driver’s weaknesses, and I can plan an attack to pass them,” he adds.


For the Cecil family, Saturday night’s event has special plenty of family connections. Derek Nance’s company, D and L Pumps, will sponsor the race.

The Cecil’s have two children – Jaxon, 2 and Macie 7 weeks. Jaxon just celebrated his birthday when the race was canceled because of the Detwiler fire.

Cecil’s older sister, Leanne Bresslauer, will be there with four-month old Aubrey and 11-year-old Michael, who was named for his grandfather, Mike Cecil. Younger sister Michelle and driver Harley Turner gave birth to a baby girl, Eleanor, the day of the Memorial race on August 5.

(070117 Dixon, CA) Dixon Speedway - . Saturday, July 01, 2017. Staff photo by Mike Adaskaveg.

Family member Harley Turner (83) spins in front of Derek Nance during IMCA Modified stock car competition.



On the Track: The IMCA Modified, SportMod, Hobby Stock and Mini-Stock divisions will each have a complete program of qualifying races and a feature event on the quarter-mile clay oval.


Gates Open: Pit Area – 2 p.m., Grandstand 5 p.m.


Racing: Starts 7 p.m. will end approximately 10:00 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.