By Mike Adaskaveg
Jerry Tubbs was a senior at Atwater High School on Sept. 11, 2001. Like many Americans, his life was changed forever on that day.
More than 15 years later, Tubbs drives a Camaro hobby stock car at Merced Speedway. His car is a tribute to lives lost from that fateful day forward, and his artwork reflecting the history of his life as an American.
On Saturday night, his army-green racecar with military insignias is cheered for the moment he leaves his home in Winton and heads down Rt. 99 to the Speedway..
“People pass and wave, others give the thumbs up out of their windows,” says Tubbs. “I salute them back.”
September 11 made a lasting impression on Tubbs. He immediately started talking to recruiters. When he was ready to serve, he decided upon the Army National Guard. A truck driver by trade, he was assigned to the 1072nd Transportation Company of the California National Guard in Fresno.
The 1072nd was soon sent to Afghanistan, assigned to the Northeast corner of the country to move a base.
“The U.S. soldiers were welcomed by the Afghans,” Tubbs explained. “They even helped our convoy when we had to change routes.”
Tubbs was injured when his truck hit a crater, and assigned to the kitchen where he checked credentials of Afghan workers who helped on the base. The locals even held a bazaar for the servicemen every week.
“For the most part they are cool people – they even took the time to be fluent in English” Tubbs said. “They are set in their ways, too, and Western society shouldn’t push its own agenda on them.”
The MOAB missile being dropped a week ago brought out many opinions.
“It was a warning shot to the world,” Tubbs feels. “We have a new president. We won’t roll over. We won’t back down. Understand –we need to get rid of Isis, the Taliban, and terrorists – not get rid of the whole Middle East.”
TRAGEDIES, REMEMBRANCES AND HONOR
The first name scrawled on the trunk lid of Tubbs’ hobby stock is for Army Spec. Benjamin C. Pleitez, who died July 27, 2012.
“We were half way through our tour when we lost him,” Tubbs explained.
Pleitez was one of 2,346 soldiers who fought and died since the beginning of Operation Enduring Freedom.
Tubbs continued with a list of military members he personally knew who had been killed or passed away – including his grandfather, John Merritt, of Atwater. A soldier, a Merced Speedway racer, and a truck driver who went on to be a Captain in the Atwater Fire Department, Merritt died in 1998.
“I have followed in my grandfather’s footsteps,” Tubbs said. “I am pro military. I honor the fallen and honor the members still serving our country.”
The list of soldiers he served with is also on the car, along with other symbols of American Freedom.
“The National Guard is a great institution in our country,” he said. “The morale is high. We have each other and our families – the experience is a positive one. Sometimes a soldier may be hurt and others can’t see it. Just having someone thank a guardsman – or anyone in the military – for their service to our country – does go a long way.”
BCRA MIDGETS ADDED TO SATURDAY NIGHT PROGRAM
The Bay Cities Racing Association (BCRA) Midget Racers will be at Merced Speedway for the first time in many years. There will be a full field of the four-cylinder open-wheeled cars competing for a spot in the 24-car feature.
Bakersfield’s Shannon McQueen, 2011 BCRA champion and 2012 USAC Western States Midget Champion, will race in Merced for the first time.
“I’m excited to be going to a new track,” McQueen said. “I’ve been racing Midgets since 2004 and Merced hasn’t been on our schedule. We will make new fans that were never exposed to our type of racing. It should be a fantastic show.”
The midget car has 400 horsepower to propel 1050 lbs. on a 65” wheelbase.
“The power to weight ratio is one of the highest in oval racing,” McQueen explained. “That makes a midget one of the hardest cars to drive. The cars are ‘twitchy’ – meaning they react very quickly to the slightest steering wheel movement and acceleration and deceleration.”
The fast little cars are raced on tracks from 1/5th of a mile to ½ mile. McQueen held the half-mile record at Calistoga Speedway from 2009-2014.
“When we get to Merced Speedway, drivers will be looking for the right gear ratio – the ones who figure that out will be the fastest,” she said. “It is an advantage to know a lot of different tracks . If a driver raced on a track similar to Merced Speedway, the similarities could be a starting point for car set-up.”
SATURDAY NIGHT AT MERCED SPEEDWAY
On the Track: The BCRA Midget Division makes its only appearance of the season. The program will also include the Hobby Stock, IMCA SportMod and Valley Sportsman divisions. Each class of cars will have a complete program of qualifying races and a feature event.
Gates Open: Pit Area – 1 p.m., Grandstand 5 p.m.
Racing: Starts 7 p.m. will end approximately 10 p.m.
Admission: Adults $12.00; Children 6-12 yrs. old $5.00; Family Four Pack of tickets is $30. Children fewer than six are free.
Location: Merced Speedway is within the Merced County Fairgrounds 900 Martin Luther King Jr. Drive, Merced, Calif.