Sept. 9: Drivers Come from the North and The South to Race at Memorial of a Great Racer: John Fore 9D SportMod Nationals Saturday Night Expected to Draw Huge Field!

(040216 Merced, CA) Rick Diaz, who won the 2016 Merced Speedway SportMod Championship, dedicated that season to the memory of friend John Fore, Jr. who drove SportMod No. 9D.

By Mike Adaskaveg

Merced  Sun Star

Call it the legend of the 9D.

In the tight knit Merced stock car racing community, numbers and letters are displayed as symbols of a beloved driver. Those numbers and letters are sacred when tied to a respected racer who has passed away.

Driving on Rt. 99 or stuck in traffic in downtown Merced or on the dusty farm roads that cross the Valley, you are likely spot a sticker of a winged “9D” on the back window of a vehicle. For racers, the “9D” instantly sparks memories of smiling giant of a man – one who touched the lives of more people than he ever realized.

A year and a half ago, John Fore, Jr. was killed at work. He didn’t die on a racetrack – racing is safer than most of life’s events. He died working to support his family and to have a little extra money to share a racecar with friend and fellow Merced businessman Bob Smith.

Saturday night, Merced Speedway will remember the man who drove the black number 9D SportMod with the second annual John Fore, Jr. 9D SportMod Nationals.

The “9D” – a play on “90” – was an IMCA SportMod meticulously cared for and well prepared in anticipation of the 2016 season. Fore never got to race that season. Smith just couldn’t race the car after Fore died.

“John and I loved being at the race track,” says Smith. “When the new SportMod class started growing six years ago, we figured we could finally own a car. We partnered up, sharing the cost, and taking turns as driver of the car.”

Everyone knew Fore at the racetrack.

“John was the most happy go lucky guy,” Smith remembers. “He was just a fun person to be with. He really enjoyed racing and was such a positive, happy guy.”

SportMod champion Rick Diaz grew up with Fore’s daughter as a friend. Diaz’s present crewmembers have ties to Fore. Joe Gonella was on the Fore and Smith pit crew. Mark Morton and Chuck Crews were Fore’s longtime friends.

“Once you became friends with John, you were always his friend,” Diaz explains. “He was there for you when you needed him.”

“As long as I race, there will be a winged “9D” on my car.” Diaz adds. “ I will never, ever, forget him.”


Lisa Fore, who was together with her late husband for 24 years, will be in attendance Saturday night when John is honored.

“It has been overwhelming how the racing community has embraced us and how much effort they are putting into keeping John’s memory alive,” Lisa Fore says. “It is incredibly heart warming.”

The Fores have a daughter, Meghan, who attends Fresno State, and a son Hayden, who is 14.

“Racers have been selling t-shirts and giving the proceeds to us,” Lisa Fore adds. “Several people in the racing community have been very generous to us. John’s death took the wind out of our sails. He was the rock of the family, and he was passionate about the people he loved. We will always love him.”

(051813 Merced, CA)Merced Speedway Action - The 9D races in 2013, when Bob Smith and John Fore, Jr. shared driving of the car they partnered in. Here, the 9D takes on Matt Sotomayor (63) going out of the second turn of the Merced Speedway. Staff photo by Mike Adaskaveg.

The 9D races in 2013, when Bob Smith and John Fore, Jr. shared driving of the car they partnered in. Here, the 9D takes on Matt Sotomayor (63) going out of the second turn of the Merced Speedway.


Merced Speedway owner Ed Parker purchased the 9D SportMod, and will display it at speedway’s main entrance on Saturday night.

The program, which pays a big purse to the SportMod and Hobby Stock divisions, is expected to draw a large field of cars. Drivers from Southern and Northern California have indicated they will be at the speedway.

Local metal artist Mat Schlesinger has created special trophies with a winbged “9D” made from stainless steel. The first, second, and third place drivers in each division will receive the trophies, glimmering with the special meaning of the “9D”.

This Saturday At Merced Speedway:

            The John Fore Jr. 9D Sport Mod Nationals will have a complete program of qualifying races and feature events for the SportMod and Hobby Stock divisions.


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


Racing: Starts at 7 p.m. ending 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.