May 20: IMCA Mod Driver Jarod Fast on Being Fast

 

(050617 Merced Speedway - Merced, CA . Saturday, May 06, 2017. ©2014 Mike Adaskaveg.

Jarod Fast of is happy when he’s at Merced Speedway – even if it is while he is cleaning mud from his car after helping pack the track.

By Mike Adaskaveg

Merced Sun-Star

 

You can’t be slow when your name is Fast

 

Jarod Fast was destined to be fast from the moment he was born into Chowchilla’s Fast Family.

 

Fast to become a Hobby Stock track champion in 2009 at Chowchilla Speedway, Fast has since moved up to the International Motor Contest Association (IMCA)’s premier Modified Division at Merced Speedway. The IMCA Modifieds and SportMods headline this Saturday night’s show at the speedway.

 

Yes, Jarod Fast is learning to be fast again.

 

“As a kid growing up, I never played sports – I worked on cars,” Fast explains. “My dad, Dwayne, is a racer. I inherited his name and his desire to go fast.”

 

Not liking people calling him “Slow” as a joke, Fast channeled his energy to local dirt ovals. He’s been racing at Merced Speedway since 1997.

 

“I don’t have a win in the modified, and it has been a struggle – but we are getting there,” says Fast. “I’m trying to be fast again.”

 

Fast is at the track for every race. He and his crew – his dad, brother in law Keith Smith, and Jimmy Wood – toil over the car in search of progress. Racing is their hobby, their sport, and their enjoyment.

 

“Sure, it is frustrating for us – we have an older car, we’re trying to make it faster – but we are having fun,” Fast explains. “This (modified) is definitely more challenging than driving a Hobby Stock.”

 

Fast and his crew worked hard in the pits during the last scheduled IMCA event at Merced Speedway. They finished ninth in the 18 car main event, racing with fast company.

 

“We definitely hit on something – we are going in the right direction – we are getting faster,” Fast says. “I need to make the car work the best it can on the track before I can race hard and be side by side with other cars.”

 

Fast pits along side the faster cars of Troy and Ramey Stone.

 

“I’m picking their brains, and making small changes – not bigger changes,” Fast continues. “I’ve learned to take small steps.”

 

Fast’s car is a “low-budget” car. He changes older worn tires used in “hot laps” and heat races and puts his best tires on for the feature event.

 

“Everything on the car has been previously used,” Fast laughs. “The tires are the newest things on the car.”

 

The Fast crew is racing on a budget. They spend about $500 a month to race three times in Merced Speedway’s top division.

 

“It’s our sport – $500 is a reasonable amount to spend each month for having this much fun,” Fast affirms. “My goal is to run my line and be as fast as we can – not driving all over the place on the track and certainly not wrecking the car.”

 

During the week, fast is a school bus mechanic for the Chowchilla Union High School. After work, Fast and crew prepares their car for the weekend’s race in a converted carport.

 

“We keep racing in the modified division because it is a challenge,” Fast says. “We give 100 percent effort each time out – if we don’t improve, it’s not for lack of trying.”

 

For Fast, this year is a learning year.

 

“We’re learning as much as we can, and we are looking forward to next year,” says Fast. “We wouldn’t be doing this if we weren’t having fun.”

(041517 Merced, CA) Jarod Fast, making his old car go faster, at Merced Speedway in the IMCA Modified All Star Tour. Saturday, April 15, 2017. Staff photo by Mike Adaskaveg.

Jarod Fast, making his old car go faster, at Merced Speedway in the recent IMCA Modified All Star Tour.

 

This Week at Merced Speedway

 

On the Track: IMCA Modified, IMCA SportMod, Valley Sportsman, Mini-Stock and Mini-Late Model divisions, each having heat races and a feature event.

 

Schedule: Grandstand opens at 5 p.m., Pits open at 2 p.m. Racing begins 7 p.m. The program lasts approximately three hours.

 

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.

 

Note: This week’s program will be the last until the Merced County Fair races on Wednesday, June 7.

 

 

MAY 13: Friendly Foes – Corn and Dean in Hobby Stocks

(050617 Oakley, CA) Merced Speedway - Kodie Dean, left, and Garrett Corn, right, discuss the upcoming night's races while in the pits at Merced Speedway. The friendly foes park next to each other and work on each others cars. Saturday, May 06, 2017. Staff photo by Mike Adaskaveg.

-Kodie Dean, left, and Garrett Corn, right, discuss the upcoming night’s races while in the pits at Merced Speedway. The friendly foes park next to each other and work on each others cars.

By Mike Adaskaveg

Special to the Sun Star

For two young local Hobby Stock drivers, it didn’t matter who won the final 29-lap segment of the Ted Stofle Classic at Merced Speedway last week.

It only mattered that one of them finished first and the other finished second. Garrett Corn, 20, of Catheys Valley, won the event with Kodie Dean, 21, of Chowchilla closing in on him at the fall of the checkered flag.

Dean jumped out of his car and gave Corn a bear hug in front of the grandstand.

“Three more laps and Kodie would have passed me,” said Corn. “His car was consistent lap after lap, my car’s (handling) started to go away near the end of the race.”

The two became friendly foes last season because of circumstance. Bad luck was their common bond – Corn lost three engines and a rear end. Dean blew up so many engines he got the nickname “Blow ‘Em Up” Dean.

“Kodie took the half hour drive to help me fix my car one night,” Corn explained. “Then I did the same for him. We kept saying that this season we’d like to finish first and second – in any order.”

Corn and Dean are the only drivers who have won this season in the highly competitive Hobby Stock division at the speedway. The park next to eachother in the pits so they can continue work together.

“There are no secrets between us,” Dean added. “It’s cool that we work on each other’s cars to race against each other – we know all about both cars. So, it comes down to driving skills when we get on the track.”

(050617 Merced Speedway - Merced, CA . Saturday, May 06, 2017. ©2014 Mike Adaskaveg.

Garrett Corn wheels his Hobby Stock at Merced Speedway during the Ted Stofle Classic.

 

CORN FAMILY WELL KNOWN AT SPEEDWAY

The Corn family began racing at the fairground track decades ago, when Garrett’s great-grandfather Paul and his brother Raymond waged battle with a field of drivers – mostly farmers looking for bragging rights by winning at the dirt track.

Grandfather Richie and father Nathan sparked Garrett Corn’s interest in racing. Three generations of Corns are at the track on Saturday night.

“My dad (Nathan) keeps me calm. He helps me not worry,” Garrett Corn said. “He is a really, really good driving coach.”

Luck changed for Garrett over the winter. He bought a Monte Carlo hobby stock from competitor Michael Shearer. Well-known Merced driver and champion Marshall Weaver built it in 2007. Garrett, a construction worker, saved money to buy the car and the parts it needed.

“We stripped the car down to a bare frame and rebuilt it,” Garrett explained. “My dad (Nathan) had kept a book on how he set up his car back in ’04. I sued the same spring rates and shock absorbers he did back then.”

Corn’s crew includes Dwayne Smith of Atwater, Jacob Zamarillo from Sacramento, uncle Rocky Corn and, Shannon Pump’s Tom White, Chris and D.J. Shannon.

(050617 Merced Speedway - Kodie Dean (7) works his way up to second by passing Robbie Loquaci (70) During the Hobby Stock Division feature race during the Stofle Classic. Merced, CA . Saturday, May 06, 2017. ©2014 Mike Adaskaveg.

Kodie Dean (7) works his way up to second by passing Robbie Loquaci (70) During the Hobby Stock Division feature race during the Stofle Classic.

DEAN SAVES TO BUY HIS “NEW” CAR

Dean’s old, beaten Camaro wasn’t performing as well as he wished, so he saved money from his job at Alview-Dairyland Union School District to buy a new car.

“The real reason Kodie is such a good driver this year is because he never drove a good piece of equipment until he bought his new car. Driving the bad cars he had, as well as he did, taught him a lot,” Corn said. “He’s shining as a driver now. He has stepped up his game 120 per cent.”

Dean purchased Brentwood driver Patti Ryland’s Oldsmobile, also a 10-year-old racecar.

“I raced against the car that I bought,” Dean said. “I brought it to Garrett’s to put it on his scales so we could set it up to be fast at Merced Speedway. We are turning laps on the quarter mile in just over 16 seconds – which is what the street stocks were doing for times a few years ago. Now, the hobby stocks are that fast.”

Kodie’s father, Tim, helps him get the car ready on weeknights for Saturday night racing. His crew includes Nathan Corn, Dwayne Short and, coincidentally, Garrett Corn’s girlfriend’s parents, Carrie and Glen Schaller.

 

(050617 Merced Speedway - Garret Corn, right, is congratulated by second place finisher Kodie Dean after winning the Hobby Stock Division feature in last week's Stofle Classic. Merced, CA . Saturday, May 06, 2017. ©2014 Mike Adaskaveg.

(0 Garret Corn, right, is congratulated by second place finisher Kodie Dean after winning the Hobby Stock Division feature in last week’s Stofle Classic.

MAINTAINTING PERFORMANCE EXCELLENCE

“I wouldn’t give Kodie an inch of racing room on the track. I’d make him work for the pass, and he’d do the same for me,” explained Corn. “That’s what we do – push each other to strive for excellence.”

Both drivers are learning from racing mistakes, each showing improved skills week after week.

“If we ever crash into each other – it would be purely accidental,” Dean admitted. “I would run right over to help him fix his car, and he would do that for me.”

Their focus is on driving skills.

“Consistency is the key to winning a race,” Dean explained. “You could go out and turn one lap at 14 seconds, but you won’t beat the guy who is turning consistent 16 second laps all race.”

Dean drove a consistent line in the Stofle Classic feature. He slowly caught up to Corn.

“I tried to hit my marks on the track every lap. Maybe I was a tenth of a second faster than Garrett – but he had the lead. “We always talked about finishing first and second. Now, we have to talk about doing it again this week”

STOFLE CLASSIC WINNERS:

(050617 Merced Speedway - Merced, CA . Saturday, May 06, 2017. ©2014 Mike Adaskaveg.

Stofle Classic winners Garrett Corn, Rick Diaz, and Paul Stone join the Stofle family in victory lane.

 

THIS SATURDAY NIGHT AT MERCED SPEEDWAY

On the Track:

 

The Hobby Stock division will headline the three weekly classes –including mini-stocks and mini-late models racing in the five-division show on Saturday night. All divisions have a complete program of qualifying races and a feature event.

Bay Cities Racing Association (BCRA) Midget Lites, winged sprint cars powered by 1,000 to 1,200 cubic centimeter motorcycle engines, will be the special attraction. The cars turn 12-second laps at Merced Speedway.

Australian Kayla Green will compete in the full field of cars driven by Californians.

“I attended a practice session at Merced Speedway this year,” Green said. “The track reminded me of the tracks in Australia – there are no fences close to the track in the turns. I really like the track – the car is suited well for the quarter mile oval.”

Race fans in Australia are following Green.

“Everyone here is making it fun for me. It was easy to adjust because everyone is so helpful in America,” she added. “People back in Australia are wishing they could be here.”

Also on the card is the Western US Midget Series sanctioned by the United States Auto Club. The midget cars are powered by 175 horsepower Ford Focus or Honda engines.

Twins Annie and Toni Breidinger, from the San Francisco Bay area, are standout drivers in the division.

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.

 

 

 

 

 

April 29: Vallanuevas Ready for Action in IMCA Mods

(041517 Merced, CA) Father Knows Best - Mike Villanueva, left, talks to his son Justin, a rookie in the IMCA Modified division this year at Merced Speedway . Saturday, April 15, 2017. Staff photo by Mike Adaskaveg.

Father Knows Best – Mike Villanueva, left, talks to his son Justin, a rookie in the IMCA Modified division this year at Merced Speedway . Saturday, April 15, 2017.

By Mike Adaskaveg

Merced Sun-Star

Most people would be terrified of hitting a wall at 80 miles per hour.

Justin Villanueva did just that – and chalked it up to a learning experience.

The 19 year old Merced driver was competing in his first event for the International Motor Contest Association (IMCA) Modified division at Merced Speedway two weeks ago when a brush with the wall took him out of competition.

Saturday, the “modifieds” compete in their second event of the season, and Villanueva will be back on the track.

“Racing in a field of cars is a lot different than practicing on the track by yourself,” Justin told his dad, Mike Villanueva, who is a seasoned driver in the division.

The younger Villanueva started racing this year. Being a rookie at 19 isn’t all that uncommon. But, being a rookie in the top dirt modified class in the country is a big deal.

“He wanted to drive for quite a few years,” Mike Villanueva said. “But, I insisted that his education come first.”

Father was teaching son by immersion in the tough field of competitors. There were 48 top cars from across the state competing for a spot in the 22 car main event. Justin made it into the “B” Main event – an event where only the top two cars make it to main feature of the night.

“Before the day started, I told Justin – a crash may happen – its part of racing,” Mike Villanueva said. “You’ll make mistakes. That’s because you are trying to push the limit – that is what you do in racing.”

The elder Villanueva has worked on cars and helped other drivers for nearly 35 years. He hopped into the driver’s seat 15 years ago. His wife, Charice, got a call from her cousin, driver Marcus Aue, who was looking looking for someone to drive his car at Merced Speedway.

Mike Villanueva began his driving career that day and for the past 15 years has been a top competitor. He won numerous races and the 2007 Kings Speedway (in Hanford) Championship since then .

TEACHING A NEW DRIVER

(041517 Merced, CA) Mike Villanueva at full speed through the turns of Merced Speedway during IMCA Modified competition. Saturday, April 15, 2017. Staff photo by Mike Adaskaveg.

Mike Villanueva at full speed through the turns of Merced Speedway during IMCA Modified competition. Saturday, April 15, 2017.  

            Father and son were glued together in the pits the night of the IMCA All Star event. It was Justin’s first race night, since two rainouts canceled IMCA modified events at Merced Speedway earlier in the season.

“Pick a point on the infield or along the fence line,” explained Mike to Justin. “That will be the place to lift your foot off the gas every lap. If you can drive the car on the outside lane of the track, you can drive in a little deeper. If you are on the inside lane, you will have to ‘lift’ sooner.”

Justin, who works for Merced Irrigation District, will when his work schedule allows. After competing in his first “heat” qualifying race, he was beaming as he drove into the pits.

“Driving in the heat race was more exciting than I ever imagined,” Justin said. “And it was more fun than I expected.”

He kept up with the pack of cars and even moved up a few spots. Dad Mike went out and won his heat race, qualifying for the main event.

“You wait for the car to roll (transfer weight to the right side as it enters the turn) then get back on the throttle easy,” Mike said. He explained how he set up the car to be easy to drive for his son.

As Justin gets faster, adjustments could be made to the suspension to “tighten” or “loosen” the car to meet the conditions of the track. “Stagger” – the difference between the circumference of the left and right rear tires, is also adjusted to help the car go through the turns quicker.

“My goal this season is not to wreck – to finish every race,” Justin explained. “I need seat time. When you wreck your car that is seat time lost – laps you are not learning to drive faster.”

Both father and son have the same brand of car – BMS – and use the same parts. The uniformity will help them get through the season with the spare parts needed for either car. Mike drives a car owned by friend Mike Shearer of Atwater, and Justin drives the car owned by his dad and mom.

During the week, they wash the cars and go over every nut and bolt to make sure they are ready for Saturday night.

“I’ll lay low until I get good at driving,” Justin added. “Then I’ll make small adjustments a little bit at a time.”

His mom, Charice, will be there to nervously cheer him on.

“And I’ll be more nervous than her,” proud father Mike admits. “It’s a very different feeling when you are racing with your son.”

SATURDAY NIGHT AT MERCED SPEEDWAY

On the Track: The IMCA Modified division will headline the show. The IMCA SportMod, Mini-Stock and the all-new Mini-Late Model divisions will each have qualifying races and a feature event on the quarter-mile clay oval.

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.