August 20: Bubba’s World – Wins in Two Divisions Would Make Racing More Fun

(070216) Merced Speedway - Rookie Bruce "Bubba" Nelson (4) races fellow Mercedian Karl Rose (5) in the IMCA Modified division at Merced Speedway. (Mike Adaskaveg Photo)

Modified rookie Bruce “Bubba” Nelson (4) races fellow Mercedian Karl Rose (5) in the IMCA Modified division at Merced Speedway.

By Mike Adaskaveg

Merced Sun-Star

When Bruce “Bubba” Nelson won the Merced Speedway Hobby Stock feature event last Saturday night, he jumped onto the door of his car and raised his arms with hands in the air, bowing to the grandstand like he won the biggest race of his career.

(081316) Merced Speedway - Bruce "Bubba" Nelson bows to the crowd after winning his third Hobby Stock division feature event while driving his wife's car. (Mike Adaskaveg Photo)

Bruce “Bubba” Nelson bows to the crowd after winning his third Hobby Stock division feature event while driving his wife’s car.

Nelson usually doesn’t race in the Hobby Stock division.

He wasn’t driving “his” car, either. He borrowed the hobby stock his wife, Shannon, usually drives – because she decided to attend a Fresno Grizzlies game with some friends.

“It’s all fun and games for me,” Nelson said. “There is nothing more exciting than winning a stock car race. I’d rather race than watch. I took her car out for a test drive and won.”

Nelson, 30, is a late bloomer – starting his speedway career 10 years ago. He moved up from the Hobby Stock division to the International Motor Contest Association (IMCA) SportMod division and this year became a rookie in the track’s top division – IMCA Modified.

Interestingly, the man known simply as “Bubba” has won three of the four times he ventured out in his wife’s car this season.

“He made sure everything in the car is in good working order for me,” Shannon Nelson laughed in agreement with her husband. “Now the car is ready for me this weekend.”

The couple has two sons, Bentley and Bryce, who are their biggest fans.

“Bubba” Nelson’s hard-charging on-track attitude, coupled with his colorful post-race antics, has earned him legions of fans. He’ll do a back flip from the top of his car or jump up on it’s roof – all seeming to go hand in hand with his unforgettable name.

Few people call “Bubba” by his real name, Bruce – because that’s his father’s name. When he was a toddler, his family began calling him “Bubba” – a name that would later fit perfectly for his driving career.

As a rookie in the IMCA Modified division, “Bubba” Nelson has run well with the top drivers. After a third place finish on the quarter mile at Merced, he ventured to Ocean Speedway in Watsonville for the Cecil Memorial race two weeks ago. He took third place to winner Bobby Hogge IV of Salinas while challenging second place Alex Stanford of Chowchilla.

“I’ve won races in several divisions,” “Bubba” Nelson said. “The biggest accomplishment for me would be if I could win, as a rookie, in my IMCA Modified.”

Nelson’s rival last year in the SportMod division was Chowchilla’s Rick Diaz, who stayed in that division as Nelson moved on.

“I won quite a few INMCA SportMod races, but I only lost to Rick Diaz and I wouldn’t want to lose to anyone else,” he said. “This year there is a longer list of drivers I’ve lost to – and they are some of the most respected drivers around – Paul and Ramie Stone, Randy Brown, Mike Villanueva – just to name a few.”

Nevertheless, Nelson is fourth in points.

“I’ve done the math – the three drivers in front of me would have to not qualify for the remainder of the season and I would have to win every feature in order to win the championship,” he laughs. “That probably isn’t going to happen.”

The Nelsons are part of the race team that is owned by Michael Shearer and his mother, Margie Mejia. Five hobby stocks and the modifieds driven by “Bubba” Nelson and Villanueva comprise the team.

“Bubba” Nelson works as a welder by day, making hospital doors at Merced’s Safety First. After work, he heads to Shearer’s Atwater garage to work on the cars.

When Saturday night comes, Bubba and Shannon Nelson will each be driving their respective cars in the divisions they usually race in.

“It is hard to drive two different cars in two divisions on one night,” “Bubba” Nelson explained. “It is better to concentrate on one car, rather than drive two without success.”

Last year, “Bubba” Nelson went to the IMCA Supernationals in Boone, Iowa, competing with 300 cars for a spot in the main event.

“I didn’t make it to the big show, but I raced a lot and learned a lot,” he said. “My motto has always been ‘have fun first and the wins will come’. That’s exactly what I’m doing.”

(070216) Merced Speedway - (Merced, CA)

Bubba Nelson in his IMCA Modified. (All Photos Courtesy Mike Adaskaveg)

Saturday Night At Merced Speedway

 

            A full program of IMCA Modified and SportMod racing will highlight the program Saturday night at Merced Speedway. Also featured are the Hobby Stock and Mini-Stock divisions. There will be qualification races and a feature event for each division of cars. Merced Speedway is located in the Merced County Fairgrounds, 900 Martin Luther King, Jr. Way.

 

Racing begins at 7 p.m.  Grandstand Opens at 5 p.m.

Program will be approximately 3 hours or less.

Adults  $12.00

Seniors 65 and older $10.00

Students with an ID – 13 to 17 –  $10.00

Children 6 to 2 $5.00

Kids 5 and under FREE

Family Pack 2 adults and 2 children  $30.00

 

 

Photo Highlights: Sportsman Legends of Merced Night Honoring Jerry Holzer

(081316 Oakley, CA) 305 Parts - . Saturday, August 13, 2016. Staff photo by Mike Adaskaveg.

The Sportsman Legends Group Photo – (Left to right)  Back Row: Mike Friesen  Mickey Shaw, Duane Noe, Dennis Moomjean, Rod Poor, Jerry Cecil, Chuck Griffin, and Jerry Holzer. Next Row: Gary Rocha, Irv Eldridge, Eldon Minor (longsleve white shirt) and Jack Houston. Third Row: Paul Gomez, Gordon Rogers. Charlie Huff,  and Tom Friesen. Up front are race director Doug Williams and Promoter Ed Parker.

(081316 Oakley, CA) 305 Parts - . Saturday, August 13, 2016. Staff photo by Mike Adaskaveg.

Mike Friesen, the Winner of the Jerry Holzer Sportsman Legends of Merced Speedway, was presented with this cup.

(081316 Oakley, CA) 305 Parts - . Saturday, August 13, 2016. Staff photo by Mike Adaskaveg.

Mark Odgers, who led more than half of the Valley Sportsman feature event, was passed by Mike Friesen, who went on to take the cup.

(081316 Oakley, CA) 305 Parts - . Saturday, August 13, 2016. Staff photo by Mike Adaskaveg.

Before Odgers took the wheel for the feature, it was honoree Jerry Holzer who took the ‘Missle” around the track.

(081316 Oakley, CA) 305 Parts - . Saturday, August 13, 2016. Staff photo by Mike Adaskaveg.

(081316 Oakley, CA) 305 Parts - . Saturday, August 13, 2016. Staff photo by Mike Adaskaveg.

Victory lane for Valley Sportsman winner Mike Friesen, flanked by race sponsor Larry Brammer and Jerry Holzer.

(081316 Oakley, CA) 305 Parts - . Saturday, August 13, 2016. Staff photo by Mike Adaskaveg.

Bubba Nelson almost did a back flip after winning the Hobby Stock Main

(081316 Oakley, CA) 305 Parts - . Saturday, August 13, 2016. Staff photo by Mike Adaskaveg.

Lucy Falkenberg, Left, celebrated second with Mini-Stock winner Chris Corder.

(081316 Oakley, CA) 305 Parts - . Saturday, August 13, 2016. Staff photo by Mike Adaskaveg.

Rick Diaz (714) continued on his mission to win the IMCA SportMod championship in honor of  friend John Fore, Jr. Here he passes Patti Ryland (7) in route to his sixth victory of the season. 

(081316 Oakley, CA) 305 Parts - . Saturday, August 13, 2016. Staff photo by Mike Adaskaveg.

Diaz celebrates with Baby Ellie and race team director and wife Farren, right. At left are crew members Joe Gonella and Mark Morton, along with super fan Wyatt Franklin.

(081316 Oakley, CA) 305 Parts - . Saturday, August 13, 2016. Staff photo by Mike Adaskaveg.

A surprise visit from Legendary flagman Eldon Minor, who was behind the wheel of the classic E and H Garage wrecker from back in the 60’s. Fearless Minor waved the flags from on the track – a practice no longer allowed! All photos courtesy Mike Adaskaveg

August 13: Legends Night Honors Jerry Holzer

By Mike Adaskaveg

1968 Merced Speedway Track Champion Jerry Holzer (Photo from Merced Speedway Archives. Original was from Merced Sun-Star)

1968 Merced Speedway Track Champion Jerry Holzer  (Merced Sun-Star Photo)

Merced Sun-Star

When Jerry Holzer was drafted into the U.S. Army in 1951, he had no idea how his life would change after returning home.

He had a “ride” as a motorcycle racer before serving his country. Two years later, he returned to Merced to dust off his bike and ride again.

Fate would have a different path for Holzer.

“I met this girl named Billie, and she didn’t care much for motorcycle racing,” said Holzer, now 88 years old. “We went to Merced Speedway, and they were racing jalopies – she said she’d rather see me driving one of those.”

That began the storied racing carrier of Jerry Holzer, who will be honored Saturday night in the annual “Legends of Merced Speedway” program at the Merced Fairgrounds oval.

Each year, the track celebrates its rich history on “Legends” weekend. Honored are the drivers who brought national stock car racing attention to the city starting with its (National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing) NASCAR affiliation and continuing with its present day (International Motor Contest Association) IMCA sanction.

After coming back to the city in 1953, Holzer got a job at E and H garage in Atwater. He continued racing at the track until 1975.

“They had a half-built jalopy sitting there and I asked if I could take over the project,” he recalled. “I took to stock car racing as well as I did motorcycle racing. It was something within me that gave me that ability.”

Holzer won some of the tracks biggest races. The old ’32 and ’34 Ford jalopies are a fond memory for Holzer.

“We pulled them from the junk yards, gutted them out and put roll bars in,” he explained about the jalopies. “We tweaked the engines. We tried different things to get more compression out of those old ‘flat head’ Ford engines – so we could go faster.”

At first the VFW ran the stock car races at the Fairgrounds. Then came NASCAR.

“We started with jalopies and $99 cars and wound up with NASCAR Sportsman division cars – real race cars – and they became the cars being raced for a long time,” Holzer said.

Some of the sportsman cars live on in the present-day Vintage Valley Sportsman division, which is on the program for Saturday’s “Legends” night.

(082315) Merced Speedway - (Merced, CA)

The legends line up for a group photograph at last years event. (photos courtesy of Mike Adaskaveg)

“In the old days anyone could afford to race on their own,” Holzer explains. “A lot of people wanted to be drivers. There were a lot of cars trying to make the feature. Now, sponsors are needed to help with the cost of a racecar -it may be a different way to get a race car, but it is still racing and still a lot of fun.”

The pinnacle of Holzer’s career was in 1968, when he beat friend Dennis Moomjean for the NASCAR track championship by two points. Moomjean was considered impossible to beat at that time. NASCAR invited Holzer to race at Daytona, but he declined, choosing to stay close to his family. He and Billie had five children by then.

“Winning a track championship is the hardest thing to do,” Holzer said. “It means you have to race a whole season without your car breaking down. You can’t crash, either. You have to finish up front in every feature event.”

Holzer is modest about his accomplishments.

“ I wasn’t too bad in the 25 lappers but in the long races I was hell for a while – until something happened to the car or the tires and I dropped back,” he said.

Billie passed away six years ago, after 53 years of marriage. Son Mike took over his father’s stock car for a few seasons after 1975.

“Billie would have loved to be here on Saturday night,” Holzer said. “I’m on the uphill side of 88, and I am very fortunate to be honored.”

There will be a full program of IMCA SportMod, Hobby Stock, and Valley Sportsman races at the Legends of Merced celebration.

(082315) Merced Speedway - (Merced, CA)

The legendary Valley Sportsman division will be the highlight of Saturday night’s program.

 

Legends of Merced Speedway Schedule:

3:00 p.m. Pit Gates Open

5:00 p.m. Grandstand Opens

7:00 p.m. Racing Begins – Parade of Legends

 

Adults  $12.00

Seniors 65 and older $10.00

Students with an ID – 13 to 17 –  $10.00

Children 6 to 2 $5.00

Kids 5 and under FREE

Family Pack 2 adults and 2 children  $30.00

 

 

IMCA SportMod Championship Drive: Mike Drake On the Move

(072116 Merced, CA) Merced Speedway - College Student Mike Drake is in third place in the IMCA SportMod division at Merced Speedway and has his eye on the championship.  Saturday,  July 02, 2016.  photo by Mike Adaskaveg.

Merced Speedway – College Student Mike Drake is in third place in the IMCA SportMod division at Merced Speedway and has his eye on the championship. 

By Mike Adaskaveg

Merced Sun-Star

No Car. No Money. No worries.

College Student Mike Drake’s laid-back demeanor hides a burning desire to win the International Motor Contest Association (IMCA) SportMod Championship at Merced Speedway.

Drake, from Turlock, doesn’t have a job. He doesn’t own his own racecar. He’s a single, full-time student at Modesto Junior College. Yet, he sits in third place among 45 divers who compete in the speedway’s SportMod division.

What he does have is a friend in George Medeiros. A perennial car owner who has raced in hobby stocks and SportMods, Medeiros saw the potential in Drake and turned over his steering wheel to him.

“”He’s a great driver, he’s a hard worker, and he’s smart,” Medeiros said of Drake at the start of the season.

(072116 Merced, CA) Merced Speedway - Mike Drake in the lineup.  Saturday,  July 02, 2016.   photo by Mike Adaskaveg.

 Mike Drake in the lineup. He’s third in IMCA SportMod points – competing with 45 drivers this season. 

Medeiros is pretty smart himself. His plain, low cost SportMod, with Drake behind the wheel, is just four points behind second place Steve Stone of Winton, who has 307 points. First place Rick Diaz of Chowchilla has 332 points.

Drake has developed a cult following. He and Medeiros are the “little guys” that fans are cheering for. They are lined up to see him and his car after the races.

Can they top Diaz and Stone?

“All kinds of new people greet me every week in the pits,” he says of his newfound popularity. “They all ask ‘can you do it?’ I tell them ‘of course I can’. I still believe I have a chance to win the championship.”

An IMCA SportMod championship brings its owner more fame than fortune. To be ranked as a track champion puts the winner in an exclusive category within the history of the organization. That record is preserved for eternity.

Like many of the racers in the Valley, Drake’s interest was passed down from his dad. Dan Drake raced through the 1990s at the speedway. Son Mike took up the sport in 2008, at age 16.

“I watched my dad race as long as I can remember. The day I said I wanted to race, he told me he would retire,” Mike Drake said. “I was sad, but he did that to help me.”

Dan Drake became part of his son’s crew, and now joins Medeiros to maintain the car at home and in the pits on race night.

“We need a win and we need to run up front the rest of the season to beat Rick (Diaz),” Drake said. “He’s a really smooth driver and he doesn’t make many mistakes.”

Drake has caught the attention of Diaz and Stone.

“They stop by my pit stall to talk every week,” Drake said. “I must be in their minds.”

Luck plays a major role in racing. Incidents happen on the racetrack. Cars break. Perfect maintenance and driver’s skills can be negated by a number of unforeseen events.

“I had my steering box blow out. I had my transmission stick in second gear. Thank God I’m in third place,” Drake said. “We’re hoping for good nights when the other guys have bad nights, and not the other way around. That’s the way for us to win the championship.”

(072116 Merced, CA) Merced Speedway - Mike Drake in George Medeiros' IMCA SportMod at Merced Speedway.  Saturday,  July 02, 2016.  photo by Mike Adaskaveg.

Mike Drake in George Medeiros’ IMCA SportMod at Merced Speedway.

THIS WEEK AT MERCED SPEEDWAY

            It paid off for Chowchilla’s Randy Brown to fly home from North Dakota to compete in last Saturday night’s IMCA Modified feature event. Brown drove to victory and now leads the championship point standings in that division. Brown (281) has a four-point lead over Atwater’s Bill Egleston. Ramie Stone is third with 266 points

            The IMCA Modifieds and SportMods will headline the program Saturday night at Merced Speedway. It will be the last show prior to a two-week summer break. Mini-Stocks and Junior Box Stock Go Karts will also race in a full program of qualifying races and feature events.

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

Racing begins at 7 p.m.  Grandstand Opens at 5 p.m.

(072116 Merced, CA) Merced Speedway - Mike Drake (05) passes Nick Tucker (84) in IMCA SportMod competition at Merced Speedway. .  Saturday,  July 02, 2016.  photo by Mike Adaskaveg.

Mike Drake (05) passes Nick Tucker (84) in IMCA SportMod competition at Merced Speedway. (All Photos Courtesy Mike Adaskaveg.)

Program will be approximately 3 hours or less.

Adults  $12.00

Seniors 65 and older $10.00

Students with an ID – 13 to 17 –  $10.00

Children 6 to 2 $5.00

Kids 5 and under FREE

Family Pack 2 adults and 2 children  $30.00