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July 7: Ken Schrader Visits Merced Speedway – To Compete in IMCA Modified; Darrell Hughes at the top in Modified Point Standings

By Mike Adaskaveg

Merced Sun Star

NASCAR superstar Ken Schrader will race in the IMCA Modified division Saturday night at Merced Speedway, accepting the invitation offered to him by Ed Parker, the track’s late owner and promoter. Parker became friends with Schrader when meeting him at convention in Indianapolis two years ago.

NASCAR Driver Ken  Schrader

“Ed knew I had a private appearance on Sunday and said why not race with us on Saturday night,” Schrader said from Colorado earlier this week. “I visited Merced last year, and Ed took plenty of time to give me a tour of the city and teach me about its history.”

Schrader’s love for racing takes him to all corners of the nation, racing on pavement and dirt tracks. He just competed at Alaska Raceway Park, a paved oval outside of Anchorage. After the Colorado stop, he heads to Merced to race on a quarter mile clay track.

“Racing on pavement, then dirt, is like driving on the interstate and on to the back roads,” Schrader says. “The change in driving surfaces is like the difference between driving on pavement and snow. It’s not hard to do. You just do it. You learn to drive on both and learn to be good on both.”

Schrader, 63, began his storied career on local Missouri tracks as a teenager in 1971, went on to win the Talladega 500 in 1988 and compete in 763 NASCAR Cup, 116 NASCAR Xfinity, and 105 NASCAR Camping World series events.

“I never quite quit racing my modified on the small tracks – I’ve done it throughput my NASCAR career,” Schrader said. “I’ve raced on all kinds of small dirt tracks. I’ve been to Merced Speedway, I’ve studied the track, and I have knowledge on how to prepare my car to race there.”

Schrader will see tough competition from the local drivers.

“I’m looking forward to racing with the Merced drivers,” Schrader says. “It is going to be fun – that is why I keep racing.”

Ken Schrader , right, has raced on short tracks like Merced Speedway throughout his career. Here, he talks with a crewman beside his modified. Photo by Mike Adaskaveg.            

HUGHES MAY BE THE DRIVER TO BEAT

With his first big win of the season being last Saturday night’s Tim Post Memorial, Manteca’s Darrell Hughes is on top of the point standings in the IMCA modified division.

Hughes welcomes a challenge from Schrader.

“I’ve always been a fan of Schrader, but I’m not star struck,” says Hughes. “He’s just a normal, down to earth guy, doing what he loves to do –  just like the rest of us racers.”

The battle between experience and familiarity will take place on the quarter-mile. Hughes sees it as a level playing field.

“He’s coming to a place where we race every week,” says Hughes. “He has no advantage. I know I won’t race any differently. His being here is good for racing. We are all on the track to win, and we enjoy racing with different drivers.”

Hughes has settled in at Merced Speedway after spending a few seasons traveling. He and his wife Jamie have two daughters – Carson, 12, and Bailey, 10.

“The Tim Post Memorial was the first time the whole family was there in the stands to watch me win,” Hughes says. “It was a special win for our family. It has always been one of the races I wanted to win.”

Hughes, his dad Darrell, Sr. and friend Mike Enos comprise the winning team. Hughes, a refrigeration mechanic at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratories, will try to make every race at the speedway this season if his work schedule allows.

“We were not chasing points at all this season, but now we are on top of the standings halfway through the year,” he says. “We are in the hunt for the championship.”

Hughes loves the IMCA Modified division. Like Schrader, he races at Merced Speedway because of the work of its late owner.

“I was impressed after Ed took over the track and improvements began,” Hughes says. “I promised him I would continue to support the track as he continued to make it a great place for drivers to race and for fans to watch racing.”

After winning last weekend’s Tim Post Memorial, Darrel Hughes (28H) of Manteca is on top of the standings in the Merced Speedway IMCA Modified Division. Here he races with Ryan Porter (14). (Photo by Mike Adaskaveg )

Saturday night at Merced Speedway

The IMCA Modified division, with Ken Schrader competing, will headline a show with the Mini-Late Model, Micro 600cc Sprint and Mini Stock divisions each having qualifying heat races and a main 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 is within the Merced County Fairgrounds, 900 Martin Luther King Jr. Way in Merced.