July 21: Third Fastshafts Qualifier for IMCA Modifieds; Mini Stocks from Lemoore Invade!

Tim Cecil will race in the IMCA modified division, which is sponsored by  D and L Pumps, where he and his father in law Derek Nance are employed.  Mike Adaskaveg Photo

By Mike Adaskaveg

Merced Sun-Star

Invaders from the south will challenge the mini stock drivers of Merced Speedway Saturday night and a $1,000 to win race in the IMCA modified division will put the winner into a balloting pool for inclusion in a national All-Star event.

The “Fastshafts All Star Invitational” will see three drivers from each of the five national regions of the IMCA modified division elected by fans – but first they have to win a designated feature event to get on the ballot. Another 13 feature winning drivers will advance from an at-large pool by getting the most votes by August 2. The race will take place in Iowa at the IMCA’s Supernatonals event in September.

Merced Speedway regulars Darrell Hughes and Paul Stone are already on the ballot after winning qualifying races earlier this year. The speedway was given three All-Star qualifying events for the season.

“If you want to race at the Supernationals, Saturday night’s race will be the last chance to get your name on the ballot,” says driver Derek Nance. He and son in law Tim Cecil, who operate D and L Pump Service in Merced, will sponsor the event. “Drivers feel that it is an accomplishment just to get their name on the ballot. Winning the vote opens the door to race in Boone, Iowa – the center of the IMCA modified racing world.”

(051918) Merced Speedway – Lee Ragsdale (27) the second place driver in the season’s championship points points at Merced Speedway passes Scott Roehrenbaeck on the backstretch. Mike Adaskaveg Photo        


Mini-Stocks are growing in popularity up and down the Valley. A new group of traveling racers – the Central Valley Mini Stock Association  – is branching out from tiny 1/8-mile Lemoore Raceway. The drivers will be testing their skills on the “big” quarter-mile Merced Speedway oval on Saturday night.

“I’m going to love it that they are coming here,” says Lee Ragsdale of Winton, who sits in second place in the mini-stock division point tally. “I traveled to Lemoore once to race with them. They race hard and clean. I’m hoping I have a little home field advantage on Saturday.

Merced Speedway’s mini-stock division is the low-cost gateway class for drivers to begin a racing career or to just have the thrill of racing with minimal expense. The class is comprised of four cylinder cars off the street, with little modification except for a roll bar cage and some safety equipment.

Eighth grader Devin Belton, left, gets advice from his big brother, Jason Belton, Jr. as he prepares to drive his pick-up truck in the Mini-Stock division at Merced Speedway. Mike Adaskaveg Photo

For Winton eighth grader Devin “Ghost Rider”  Belton, a small pick-up truck allows his first foray into the racing world that his great grandfather Will Bankston, grandfather Jim Hartman and father Jason Belton, Sr. were part of over the past five decades. Devin’s brother, Jason Belton, Jr. also races in the division.

At student at Merced River School, Devin is already working on AA Degree in Welding through the CTE program that is available for area students at Merced Junior College.

Devin Belton behind the wheel of his truck.

“I’m working towards a career in welding and I want to eventually start building race cars,” Belton said in the pit area of Merced Speedway. “I want to get the feel of a racecar so when I’m building them I will know what a driver needs for a car to perform well.”

Belton is mid-pack – 12th in points half way through his rookie year in the highly competitive mini stock division.

Ragsdale is also a rookie.

“I’m no relation to Merced Speedway champion Tim Ragsdale, though I told everyone he was my uncle when I was a kid,” Ragsdale says. “My racing career began by driving tractors on farm roads and canal banks.”

Ragsdale’s car has the smallest engine in the field. It is a ’91 Toyota Celica with a 1.6-liter engine and a single cam that came right off the street.

“I’m second in points through consistent driving,” he says. “My car is so stock that it will still pass the smog test.”

Invader Dan Myrick of Coalinga is excited to be racing in Merced.

“We’re a start-up league – brand new drivers with brand new race cars made from old street cars,” says Myrick. “We live by the philosophy of NASCAR founder Bill France, who built his racing empire by taking a common driver in a common car and having them race.”

– Devin Belton, far left, gets a few words of advice from his mom, Pisha, in the Merced Speedway pit area as the cars in the Mini-Stock division are lined up for a qualifying race. Mike Adaskaveg Photo


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

The pit gate opens at 2 p.m. and the grandstand gate opens at 5 p.m. Racing begins 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 will take a two-week summer break after Saturday’s program. The break allows for drivers to attend the memorial race for Merced  racer Mike Cecil at Ocean Speedway in Watsonville.

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