2018 Champions Honored – Two High School Seniors Take Top Honors; UP NEXT: Two-Day Fore Nationals – Season Finale

2018 IMCA Modified Champion Darrell Hughes and family in victory lane. 

2018 IMCA SportMod Champion Jeremy Hoff.

By Mike Adaskaveg

Special to the Sun-Star

Two high school seniors won the biggest championships in their young auto racing careers last Saturday night at Merced Speedway.

Timmy Crewes, 18, a senior at Chowchilla Union High School, grabbed the speedway’s Mini-Late Model Division title, and Allen Neal, 17, a senior at Pacheco High School in Los Banos was crowned champion of the Mini-Stock Division.

In the final night of weekly racing at the quarter-mile Merced County Fairgrounds oval, Darrell Hughes of Manteca became champion in the IMCA Modified Division, Jeremy Hoff of Copperopolis took the championship in the IMCA SportMod Division, and Kodie Dean of Chowchilla won the Hobby Stock Division championship.

The speedway is dark this week in preparation for next week’s John Fore Dirt Nationals, a Friday-Saturday night event honoring the Merced businessman and race driver killed in a workplace accident last season. Cars from across the state and from Nevada are expected at the event.


Allen Neal went bass fishing after accomplishing his goal – winning Saturday night’s Mini-Stock feature. He needed the win, and he needed leader Lee Ragsdale to finish back in the pack in order to win the championship.

“I went out and did what I set out to do,” says Neal. “ I went out to win the race. It was the best I could do. The rest was fate.”

Ragsdale was set back after a racing incident that resulted in hitting an infield tire.

“No championship felt like this one,” says Neal, a former go-kart and micro sprint champ. “It was my first season in a full size car. I bobbled between first and second all season long. I had to really fight to win this championship.”

After graduating high school, Neal plans on entering an apprentice program to become a pipe welder. As for racing, he’s looking to move up to the Hobby Stock division.

“I got a ride in a Hobby Stock Saturday night – the car wasn’t ready to race,” says Neal, who pulled off the track after the start of the feature. “The car sat for a while before I raced it. It will need some love. I’ll have plenty to work on in preparation for next season.”

(092218 Oakley, CA) 305 Parts – . Saturday, September 22, 2018. Staff photo by Mike Adaskaveg.


Crewes, a senior who hopes to go to Merced Junior College, won six of 13 feature events in his division. He will also work toward a career as a welder after high school.

He worked with his dad, Chuck, on his motorcycle engine powered Mini-Late Model, a small replica of a full size stock car that is capable of attaining speeds greater than the IMCA SportMods that race at the speedway. Mark Morton and Logan Clay comprise his crew.

“I raced karts, but this is my first championship at a real speedway – it means a lot to me,” Crewes says. “My dad taught me how to do maintenance on a race car when I was little. He gave up his racing career so that I could race. The championship made him proud.”

Crewes wants to progress up to the Hobby Stock or Sport Mod division.

“I’m eventually  going to work my way up to the IMCA Modified Division,” Crewes says. “I have been wanting to drive a modified for years. The competition, the power and the speed are what attracts me to the division.”



The Modified, SportMod, Hobby Stock and Mini Stock Divisions will be featured in the two day John Fore Dirt Nationals.

A large purse on both nights will attract drivers to Merced from dirt tracks across California, Nevada, and Arizona.

Friday night’s program will have double heat races with inverted starts, awarding passing points to get into a 12 car qualifying event for each division. The top six cars in the qualifier will be automatically lined up for the first six starting positions  in Saturday night’s feature events.

The final qualifying races for for the remaining positions in the four John Fore Dirt Nationals main events will precede the features on Saturday night, October 6.

Allen Neal and his sister Shelby after winning the Mini-Stock feature and the 2018 Championship. 

Kodie Dean scored his second hobby stock championship in a row. 

Friends and foes – Brian Pearce, left, finished second to Darrell Hughes, who won the 2018 IMCA Modified Championship