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Sept. 25: Battle for the Championship In IMCA Modifieds Resumes Saturday Night

Brothers Ramie, left, and Troy Stone talk racing strategy in the pits at Merced Speedway. Ramie Stone is in third place in the IMCA Modified point standings and is a long shot for the championship.

 

By Mike Adaskaveg

Merced Sun-Star

Veteran driver Ramie Stone of Winton doesn’t like giving up home turf.

A six-time Merced Speedway track champ, Stone finds himself in third place with two point races left to decide 2018 IMCA Modiified Division Champion. He’s following relative newcomers and “out-of-towners” Darrell Hughes of Manteca and Brian Pearce of Oakley in a three-way battle for the coveted title.

“With two races left, I’ve only got a hope and a prayer,” says Stone, who is 38 points away from first place Hughes and only 11 points behind second place Pearce. “I’ll be looking for that an ace in the hole.”

Stone won’t give up until the end. It’s in the DNA of his racing family. He, his brother Troy and cousin Paul have a long list of wins and top finishes at the quarter-mile fairgrounds track since the late 1990s.

“Darrell (Hughes) has got to really mess up for me to even have a chance at the championship,” admits Stone. “I’ve raced him hard and clean all year long. His game plan is right on the money.”

Sx time Merced Speedway champion Ramie Stone is at speed in his green and purple IMCA Modified.

Stone won’t expect anything less of Hughes for the final two races. Yet, hee won’t let up the pressure on Hughes.

“Not only is he the point leader, but he is the driver to beat,” Stone says of Hughes. “I’ve tried different things on my car every week. I feel I am getting faster and faster. The weather at night is cooler – the track is different on cool nights because of the moisture it holds. I could become the guy to beat.”

Stone sees himself with a slight handicap because of his age. His competitors see that as years of experience.

“I’m the older guy – I’m 52 – but I’ve got the best technology I have had in my entire career,” he says. “I race to win. If I finish second and I know I tried my best to win, I’m happy that I gave it my all.”

PEARCE WILL BE IN THE RUNNING TO THE END

Oakley’s Brian Pearce has raced to second place in the IMCA Modified point standings with two weeks left in the regular season at Merced Speedway. He is 29 points behind leader Darrell Hughes.

He could of raced at another Northern California speedway this weekend, but Brian Pearce will be at Merced because of two reasons – a commitment he made to the late Ed Parker and the chance that he could beat best friend and rival, Hughes, for the title.

“If I have a chance to win the championship, Darrell would have to struggle and my team would have to be real good,” Pearce says. “I also may have a challenge for second place.”

That is because Stone is coming on strong for second.

“Both Darrell and Ramie have been top notch all year – Darrell is so consistent and Ramie has the experience none of us have – he’s right there in the mix,” Pearce explains. “I am going to try a few new things with my car – to see if I could be faster –  and battle all the way to the finish for the track championship.”

Pearce’s weekly on-track scenario is nerve-wracking.

“Every week I’m looking for the blue car (Hughes) or the green car (Stone) while I’m racing in the feature,” he says. “If one of them is in front of me, I’m trying to keep pace with them and hopefully be able to make a pass. If either of them are in back of me, I’m trying to figure if they are gaining on me – and I try to make my car as wide as possible (hard to pass in the turns) without making contact.”

HUGHES TAKES IT IN STRIDE

IMCA Modified championship point leader and three time feature winner Darrel Hughes (28) passes Mariposa’s Ricky Thatcher (61) and Chowchilla’s Jeff Streeter at Merced Speedway. Saturday, August 18, 2018.

Three feature winner Hughes has a  secret weapon – his dad, Bill, who is the 2002 Chowchilla Speedway modified championship. Bill Hughes gave up his driving career to help his son campaign their IMCA modified

Father and son work together at home and in the pits, preparing the car for the changing track conditions every night. It was NASCAR racing on pavement that first attracted the younger Hughes.

“I raced for points at Stockton 99 in 2006 and it wound up costing me the championship,” Darrell Hughes says. He switched to IMCA dirt modified stock cars in in 2009. “Now, I race to win. It just happened that I’m the championship points leader this year – so I’m going for it.”

Now that he has that point lead, Hughes is giving up a plan to race in Arkansas next week – so he could be at Merced Speedway to protect his lead.

“Think about the thousands of drivers that have raced in the IMCA. There is only a small percentage of those drivers that are listed in the IMCA records as track champions. It is a special list – a real cool deal if your name is on it.”

SATURDAY NIGHT AT MERCED SPEEDWAY

The IMCA Modified, IMCA SportMod, Hobby Stock, Mini-Stock and Mini-Late Model divisions will each have a complete program of qualifying races and a feature event on Saturday night.

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

The racing program begins at 7 p.m. and usually concludes at 10 p.m.

The pit gate opens at 2 p.m. and the grandstand gate opens at 5 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.