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April 28: Tim Elias At Home in IMCA SportMods

(041418 Merced, CA) Merced Speedway - . Saturday, April 14, 2018. Staff photo by Mike Adaskaveg.

Tim Elias outside of K.C. Keller coming out of the fourth turn as he goes for the lead in an IMCA SportMod heat race. photo by Mike Adaskaveg.

By Mike Adaskaveg

Merced Sun-Star

Tim Elias isn’t shy about saying he’s going to make a run for the track championship in the IMCA SportMod division at Merced Speedway.

Off to a good start in achieving his goal, Elias sits at the top of the division’s point tally going into Saturday night’s program of IMCA Modifieds, SportMods, Hobby Stocks and Mini-Stocks.

“I’ve got a long way to go to the end of the season, so I am concentrating on each race at Merced Speedway one at a time,” Elias, from Chowchilla, explains. “I have to keep my head on straight – I’m 60 now and I’d like to accomplish my goal of having a championship.”

Elias is considered a late bloomer in a sport where racers begin their careers as teenagers and move up the ranks to the top divisions of IMCA Modified and SportMod. He retired from the Department of Corrections last year, where he maintained the Chowchilla facility and its equipment.

With retirement, Elias set his sights on traveling to new tracks. Longtime racing friend Paul Espino and track modified division champion Randy Brown are helping Elias achieve his goals.

Elias purchased a used SportMod from Brown, and traveled to far away places that he only had previously dreamed of racing at.

He went on the IMCA Oregon tour, and he was on Brown’s IMCA pit crew in Marshalltown (Iowa) Speedway. In September Elias and his car trekked to the mecca of dirt track racing – Boone, Iowa – where he competed with a field of hundreds of SportMods from across the country entered in the IMCA Supernationals.

“The Supernationals was a great experience – a long and hard week where I learned so much,” Elias says. “You really get better at driving when you race at different facilities.”

The driving skill learned is not all physical.

“I learned that patience is the key. I learned that you don’t have to tear yourself up to get to the lead,” Elias says. “They race differently back East. The drivers don’t take kindly to wrecking equipment.”

He sees drivers being more respectful at Merced Speedway because of the “back East” influence.

“There is a effort locally to show more respect for each other on the race track,” Elias says. “I like to win, but it is better to drive a clean race. Even if I don’t win, I am still happy if the race was clean.”

At Merced Speedway, Elias has a job at hand.

“I’m going to be focused on what I need to do to win that championship,” he says. “If I have consistent top five finishes, I might have a good shot.”

You might say Elias is trying to complete his bucket list.

“I’m looking at a few years left as a driver,” he says. “There comes a certain time in life that you just can’t do what you once did. My family has been supportive of my racing – and I’d like to spend more time with the family, too.”

Elias turns to this Saturday night’s race. Merced Speedway’s surface has changed this year, challenging drivers to stay on top of their game.

“The track management is working hard to make the surface great – every week it gets better,” Elias says. “In traveling, I raced on all different kinds of surfaces. Some tracks have clay that stays moist, others dry out. When there is a gap between shows in Merced, I’ll travel elsewhere just to keep my focus so I can do well at the next show in Merced.”

Elias is rational about his approach.

“I have the car, I have the equipment,” he says. “The rest of the winning combination is on me.”

(041418 Merced, CA) Merced Speedway - . Saturday, April 14, 2018. Staff photo by Mike Adaskaveg.

Tim Elias Photo by Mike Adaskaveg

SATURDAY NIGHT AT MERCED SPEEDWAY

The IMCA Modified, IMCA SportMod, Hobby Stock and Mini Stock divisions will each have a complete program of qualifying races and a feature event.

The speedway’s pit area will open at 2 p.m. The grandstand gates will open at 5 p.m. Cars will be on the track at 6 p.m., with racing beginning at 7 p.m.

Admission is $12 for adults, $10.00 for Military and Students with school ID, $5 for children 6-12 years old. Children under 6 years old are free. A family four-pack of ticket is $30.

Merced Speedway is located within the Merced County Fairgrounds, 900 Martin Luther King, Jr. Way in Merced.