Champions Honored at 2016 Merced Speedway Awards Banquet

(111916 Merced, CA) Merced Speedway Banquet - Saturday, November 19, 2016. ©2016 Mike Adaskaveg.

Rick Diaz presents the IMCA SportMod Championship Trophy to Lisa Fore, widow of John Fore, Jr. who died in a work-related accident just before the start of the 2016 season. Photo by Mike Adaskaveg

By Mike Adaskaveg

Merced Sun-Star

Back at the start of the 2016 racing season, driver Rick Diaz set out on a mission to win the Merced Speedway IMCA SportMod division championship in honor of friend John Fore, Jr. – a fellow driver who died in a workplace accident just weeks before.

On Saturday night, at the Merced Speedway 2016 Awards Banquet, Diaz was crowned champion of his division – and he immediately carried the large trophy he won to tearful widow Lisa Fore, who was seated with her family at a nearby table.

“I won the championship for him – this year was not about me,” Diaz explained. “I was looking forward to racing with John this season. He took a big part of a lot of us with him when he died.”

For Diaz, the road to the championship was a rough one – but he persevered to accomplish his goal. He drove three different cars – one a “loaner” from a Bakersfield competitor – so he wouldn’t miss any races and could tally up enough points for the championship.

In 2014, Fore, Jr. was Rookie of the Year, and Diaz the champion of the SportMod division. This year, Diaz started driving a car owned by fellow Chowchilla racer Randy Brown. Midway through the season, Brown and Diaz parted, with Wayne Dotson of Bakersfield offering his car to Diaz in order for him to continue on the championship mission. Diaz had a chassis of his own on order from and Arkansas company, and was awaiting its delivery.

“It was a hiccup in the plan, but we did not give up,” said Diaz of the car changes. When the new chassis arrived, crewmembers Chuck Crews, Joe Gonella and Mark Morton worked day and night to turn it into a racecar. Diaz drove it in the season’s last three races.

Diaz’s new car was on display, along with the championship cars of each Merced Speedway division, along the “red carpet” entrance to the banquet at Half Dome Hall in the Merced County Fairgrounds. A remembrance to Fore, Jr. is prominently emblazoned on the nose of the car.

“That memorial will be on every car I own – forever,” Diaz vowed. “No sponsor could pay me enough buy that space.”

(111916 Merced, CA. Merced Speedway Banquet - Saturday, November 19, 2016. ©2016 Mike Adaskaveg.

The memory of John Fore, Jr. is celebrated on the hood of Rick Diaz’s SportMod. Photo by Mike Adaskaveg

BROWN WINS IMCA STATE MODIFIED DIVISION CHAMPIONSHIP 

            Randy Brown’s dedication to his hometown track saw him racing his IMCA Modified in the organization’s Dakota Tour on a Friday night, jumping on a plane and driving a back-up car at Merced Speedway on Saturday night. He did the same when on an IMCA tour in Oregon.

His returning to California not only enabled Brown to win the Merced Speedway Championship, but the California Championship.

“Winning the track championship was hard – considering that we were doing what we set out to do this season – driving everywhere and anywhere the IMCA was racing,” Brown said. “Winning the state championship was icing on the cake for a great season.”

For the Brown family, life on the road is enjoyable. Sabrina Brown, and the couple’s children Kaylin 13, and Kennzziie [cq] love racing. Both children race go-karts.

“Randy had 70 races on the schedule this year and I only missed the six races on the Dakota tour,” Sabrina Brown proudly said.

112216mercedspeedwaychamps01

The 2016 merced Speedway Champions were honored at Half Dome Hall in the Merced County Fairgrounds on Saturday. From left to right are: IMCA SportMod Champ Rick Diaz, Hobby Stock Champ Michael Shearer,IMCA Modified Track and State Champ Randy Brown, Mini-Stock Champ Chris Corder and Valley Sportsman Champ Kenny Birdsong. Saturday, November 19, 2016. Photo by Mike Adaskaveg.

Randy Brown wanted a racecar when he turned 15. His dad, D.C. Brown, made him build an IMCA modified car from the ground up. At age 16 he won the 2006 IMCA Western States Rookie of the Year title. Since then, he’s captured four IMCA track championships – two at Merced Speedway and two at Chowchilla Speedway.

SHEARERS RACED SIDE BY SIDE AND HAD FUN

Michael and Kristie Shearer raced side by side, with Kristie making a run on her husband for the Hobby Stock division championship early in the season.

Starting the New Year with a win, Michael Shearer had consistent top finishes that enabled him to maintain a season long lead.

“Kristie got close – within a few points – but I wasn’t going to back off,” Michael Shearer said of his first championship. “We had a lot of fun. Now its her turn to win a championship.”

Surprisingly, Michael Shearer won’t be racing in the Hobby Stock division next season. He’ll be crew chief for Kristie Shearer and friend Shannon Nelson.

“It’s time for the women to win,” he said. “I’d like to see them finish one and two.”

BIRDSONG DRIVES CHILDHOOD DREAM TO CHAMPIOSHIP; CORDER’S LOVE OF SMALL CARS HELPS WIN CHAMPIONSHIP

Merced’s Kenny Birdsong built a replica of the car he saw Rod Poor drive in 1969 and drove it to the 2016 Valley Sportsman division championship. The original car, built by Johnny Freitas, still sits in a local wrecking yard.

“I was raised around that car and always dreamed of driving it,” said Birdsong, who is 60 and in his third year of racing. “I wouldn’t drive anything else.”

Birdsong’s son, Christopher, painted his replica car in the original 1969 scheme – complete with local sponsors of the era.

“I can drive my car with one finger,” said Mini Stock division champion Chris Corder of Modesto. “I love my Acura. I’ve always been into small cars. Mini-Stocks handle like road race cars.”

Corder started racing on pavement, then switched to racing on dirt at Merced Speedway.

“It’s more fun sliding sideways through the turns,” Corder said.

(111916 Merced, CA. Merced Speedway Banquet - Saturday, November 19, 2016. ©2016 Mike Adaskaveg.

(111916 Merced, CA. Merced Speedway Banquet – Saturday, November 19, 2016. ©2016 Mike Adaskaveg.

SPEEDWAY NOTES

            Rookie of the Year honors went to Garrett Corn of Cathay’s Valley in the Hobby Stock division, Chase Thomas of Atwater in the IMCA SportMod division, Bruce “Bubba” Nelson of Atwater in the IMCA Modified division, Paul Lauretti of Watsonville in the Mini-Stock division and Shannon Fry of Corralitos in the Valley Sportsman division.

First-year owner and promoter Ed Parker celebrated a successful season at the gala – which was complete with a “red carpet” entrance, tables with fresh flowers, door prizes and a live band.

Parker announced plans for the new season, which will include a wider variety of racing events and even a new division – mini late models, powered by 600cc motorcycle engines. Sprint Cars and a National Dwarf Car race will be added attractions in the new season.

 

 

Nov. 19: Awards Banquet Honors 2016 Track Champions

(070216 Merced, CA) Merced Speedway - . Saturday, July 02, 2016. Staff photo by Mike Adaskaveg.

Full grandstands and large fields of cars made the 2016 season the most successful in recent years for Merced Speedway. IMCA Modified Champ Randy Brown leads a pack of cars on the front straight away of the quarter-mile speedway. (Mike Adaskaveg)

Merced Speedway’s champions and top drivers in each division will be honored at the 2016 Awards Banquet on November 19.

“We will celebrate a very successful season,” first-year speedway owner and promoter Ed Parker said. “We will honor the champions and give recognition to the drivers who competed in each of our five regular divisions.”

The banquet will take place at Half Dome Hall in the Merced County Fairgrounds. There will be a cocktail hour at 6 p.m., followed by a tri-tip and chicken dinner at 7 p.m.

Parker will have tickets on sale under the speedway grandstand on October 29 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. The tickets will be $30 the presale day only and will be $40 at the door on November 19. Tickets for children to attend the banquet are $15.

Tickets can also be ordered by mail. Send quantity needed and enclose a check to: Merced Speedway, 900 Martin Luther King, Jr. Way, Merced, CA 95341

(052116 Oakley, CA) All Stars- . Saturday, May 21, 2016. Staff photo by Mike Adaskaveg.

In the IMCA Modified division, Randy Brown (16B) ran side by side with Ramy Stone (06) early in the season, but pulled ahead 478-446 points at the season’s end (Photo by Mike Adaskaveg)

Michael Shearer (67) battled his way to the Hobby Stock Championship with 237 points, fending off hard-charging Kevin Joaquin (97) who compiled 226 points . (Photo by Mike Adaskaveg)

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

IMCA SportMod champion Rick Diaz took command of the division early in the season, dedicating his effort to friend John Fore, Jr. who passed away before the season. Diaz drove three different cars in route to topping second place Mike Drake 569 to 511 points. (Mike Adaskaveg Photo)

(052116 Oakley, CA) All Stars- . Saturday, May 21, 2016. Staff photo by Mike Adaskaveg.

Kenny Birdsong (25) took the inside lane and topped Mike Friesen 183 to 167 points. Jeff Bristow (14) finished third with 143 points. (Mike Adaskaveg Photo)

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

Chris Corder scored 205 points as he was crowned mini-stock division champion. Paul Lauretti was second with 161 points. Rookie Destiny Carter finished third with 148 points. (Mike Adaskaveg Photo)

(040216 Modesto, CA) Creevan EFI - . Saturday, April 02, 2016. Staff photo by Mike Adaskaveg.

A Man on A Mission, Rick Diaz started the season saying he wanted to win the IMCA SportMod division championship and he did so – in memory of friend John Fore, Jr. who many times walked the pits alongside him. (Photo by Mike Adaskaveg)