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

 

 

The Race for the Championship: Brown Delivers in IMCA Modifieds

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

No Time to Slow Down: Randy Brown at work in his trailer in the Merced Speedway pits, where he keeps his IMCA Modified and SportMod in competition on the same night. 

by Mike Adaskaveg

Merced Sun Star

Life is a highway for Chowchilla racer Randy Brown and his young family. Racing in North Dakota this week, and Oregon two weeks ago, the Browns will be back at Merced Speedway when the International Motor Contest Association (IMCA) modifieds are headlining the show on Saturday night.

“We’re in the hunt for the Merced Speedway IMCA Modified championship,” Brown explained by phone from North Dakota. “We haven’t been up that high in the standings in a long time, so we’re going for it. A Merced championship would mean a lot to us.”

Brown is sandwiched between 2013 Champ Bill Egleston of Atwater, with 246 points and many-time champ Ramie Stone of Winton with 240 points. He leads Stone by a mere point.

Coming off a big Merced County Fair race victory, Brown finished second to Bakersfield’s Robby Sawyer in the IMCA modified feature at the Tim Post Classic. He has the momentum to capture the championship title. His only IMCA championship to date has been at Chowchilla Fair Speedway, which is not operating this season.

(070216 Merced, CA) Merced Speedway - Randy Brown (16B) charges to the inside of turn two at Merced Speedway, trying to beat eventual winner Robby Sawyer of Bakersfield in the Tim Post Classic on July 2. Bill Hughes (28) held off Sawyer momentarily, and Brown chased Sawyer across the finish line. Photo by Mike Adaskaveg.

 Randy Brown (16B) charges to the inside of turn two at Merced Speedway, trying to beat eventual winner Robby Sawyer of Bakersfield in the Tim Post Classic on July 2. Bill Hughes (28) held off Sawyer momentarily, and Brown chased Sawyer across the finish line. 

Brown, unlike many drivers, started his driving career in the top class – modifieds – in 2006. He and his dad, D.C. Brown, fielded both IMCA Modifieds and SportMods for the past decade.

“We learn a lot on the road, but there is nothing like racing in front of the hometown crowd,” Brown said.

In the decade since he began tracing, brown has married and is raising a family. His wife, Sabrina, daughter Kenzie, and son Kaylin are all in the pits, watching and helping their dad from his car hauler.

“We travel together as much as we can,” Brown said. “There is a lot for your family to experience by taking trips to other states.”

Both children have started racing careers of their own – driving go-karts locally.

Brown has three cars presently being raced. He took one IMCA modified to the Dakotas, along with crewman Tanner Mah. His other IMCA modified is in Chowchilla being prepared for Saturday’s race by crew members Nick Tucker and Chuck Crews. The third car is an IMCA SportMod, driven by Bakersfield’s Levi Keifer. Keifer won the Tim Post Memorial two weeks ago in Brown’s car.

The Merced County Fair race was a thriller, as Brown was able to hold off challenges from Paul Stone, who is considered one of the top IMCA modified drivers in the country.

Stone and Brown are friendly foes – often hanging out as the Californians when they visit far away places.

“If you can run with Paul Stone, then your doing pretty well,” Brown said. “He’ll be away Saturday night, but I’ll have to deal with Ramie Stone – he’s just as good.”

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

Randy Brown at the Wheel of his IMCA modified.  (All photos Courtesy of Mike Adaskaveg).

This Saturday Night at Merced Speedway

IMCA Modifieds and IMCA SportMods, along with Hobby Stocks and Vintage Valley Sportsman comprise the Saturday night program.

Chowchilla’s Rick Diaz (293 points) is still in front of the crowd in the IMCA SportMod standings. He’s being chased by Winton’s Steve Stone (281 points). Mike Drake of Turlock (267 points) is within striking distance of the top two.

The Hobby Stock division is still led by Atwater husband and wife Michael Shearer (170 points) and Kristie Shearer (143 points). Robbie Loquaci of Madera (123 points) is third.

 

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

 

 

 

Hobby Stock Championship a Family Affair for the Shearers

(070216 Merced, CA) Merced Speedway - Hamming it up at the speedway, husband and wife Kristie Shearer, and Michael Shearer have fun with the fact they are battling each other for the track championship in the Hobby Stock division. Saturday, July 02, 2016. Staff photo by Mike Adaskaveg.

Hamming it up at the speedway, husband and wife Kristie Shearer, and Michael Shearer have fun with the fact they are battling each other for the track championship in the Hobby Stock division. Saturday, July 02, 2016.

By Mike Adaskaveg

Merced Sun-Star

A schoolteacher and a racecar shop owner are in a fight to the finish for the Merced Speedway Hobby Stock Championship. Husband and wife Michael and Kristie Shearer are at the top of their class, which is featured along with IMCA SportMods, Mini-Stocks and Junior Stock Go-Karts this Saturday night at the speedway

What started as sharing a common recreational activity for the shearers has turned into serious competition between the two.

After last weekend’s feature, Michael leads Kristie by 25 points. With racing being one of the few sports offering a level playing field for men and women, Kristie could top her husband in the weeks to come.

“She knows what to do to be in first place,” Michael Shearer says, smiling as he stands beside his wife in the pit area. “I give her a hard time, but it’s only to push her to beat me.”

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

Michael Shearer, left, gives a few words of encouragement to Kristie Shearer

Kristie shows strength in dealing with jibes from her husband.

“He’s got a big head now that he’s in the lead for the championship,” she fires back – albeit with a smile. “I’m tired of being in second place and I’m trying my best to beat him for the championship. It is doable.”

The Shearers have been racing together for six years.

“But we started racing against each other for the last four,” laughs Kristie, who is a fourth grade teacher at McSwain School in Atwater. “Yes, we trade comments back and forth all week long.”

Michael likes it that way.

“It is all in good fun, but at the race track, if she beats me, it’s a win for me, too,” he laughs.

“I admit, he does take care of my car and makes sure everything is perfect,” she says. “I show up to drive.”

The couple has two children, daughter Hayley and son Ian. Ian, 10, is already driving Junior Outlaw Go-Karts.

The Shearers moved to Atwater recently, where Michael cares for his stable of seven racecars. Shearer family members and friends race the cars at Merced Speedway.

Michael’s mom, Margie Mejia, is an avid race fan and helps support her son’s racing endeavors.

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

Kristie Shearer at speed on the Merced Speedway quarter mile.

 

Mejia, who is Tribal Chair Woman for the Lytton Rancheria, sponsored the Timmy Post Memorial program last Saturday night. She asked to to help new track owner Ed Parker resurrect the annual Fourth of July fireworks display and make it a free admission event.

On Saturday, the grandstand was filled to near capacity, harkening to the speedway’s heyday decades ago.

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

Michael Shearer’s night did not end well after a tangle in the Tim Post Memorial main event broke the left front suspension of his car.

Mejia’s Benevolence Continues Saturday Night

Merced’s Ron Penrod, 66, was recently diagnosed with stage four cancer. He raced at Merced Speedway more than 40 years ago and wanted a few more laps around the track before he started chemotherapy.Screen Shot 2016-07-09 at 7.59.59 AM

His wife, Lucy, casually mentioned his wishes to friend Mejia.

“Margie (Mejia) called my wife and said her son, Michael, has a car for me to drive this Saturday night,” Penrod explained. “They said they would have my old number, 83, on the car.”

Shearer worked hard over the last two weeks to put a new body on one of his cars and number and letter it as if it were Penrod’s car.

Penrod is excited for the chance to race again.

“The doctors told me I’m strong enough to receive the highest amount of chemotherapy. They are surgically implanting it into my chest next week,” Penrod explained. “Saturday will be very special to me. I don’t even know Michael Shearer, and barely know Margie (Mejia), but they have to be great people.”

(Pernod, right, and his #83 in a photo from the 1980s.)

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

Margie Mejia, third from the right, poses with the team that made the Timmy Post Memorial a Success.

Saturday Night At Merced Speedway

The leaders of the IMCA SportMod division, Chowchilla’s Rick Diaz and Winton’s Steve Stone are now sharing the lead in the championship tally, each with 256 points. Merced’s Josh Hensley moved up to third with 232 points after a strong finish last Saturday night.

The SportMod, Hobby Stock, Mini Stock, and Jr. Stock Go Kart divisions will each have qualifying races and a feature event.

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.

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

Just One More – Michael Shearer (67) races Cody Parker in his new car during the Timmy Post Classic.( All Photos above courtesy of  Mike Adaskaveg).