Merced Champs - Chris Corder in the Mini Stock Division, Mike Henault in the Valley Sportsman Division, Rick Diaz in the IMCA SportMod Division and Paul Stone in the IMCA Modified Division. Missing is Roy Hart, Jr.  champ in the Limited Late Model Division

Merced Champs – (left to right): Chris Corder in the Mini Stock Division, Mike Henault in the Valley Sportsman Division, Rick Diaz in the IMCA SportMod Division and Paul Stone in the IMCA Modified Division. Missing is Roy Hart, Jr. champ in the Limited Late Model Division

By Mike Adaskaveg

Merced Sun-Star

Champions Paul Stone and Rick Diaz will have their titles challenged when the local stock car racing season gets into full swing this weekend.

Stone is the 2014 Champion in the International Motor Contest Association (IMCA) Modified division and Diaz is the champion in the SportMod division. There are a number of drivers already eying their top spots as they head to Chowchilla Speedway on Sunday and Merced Speedway the following Saturday.

The 2014 champions were honored Saturday night at Merced Speedway’s annual awards banquet. Over the winter, Chowchilla Speedway came under the same management as Merced Speedway and Antioch Speedway, with an integrated schedule beneficial to drivers seeking state and regional IMCA championships.

Winton’s Bruce “Bubba” Nelson already has momentum, coming off of an Antioch Speedway win on Jan. 2. Nelson was third in SportMod points last season, behind Chowchilla’s Diaz and Ramie Stone of Winton.

“My goal is at least 15 wins and track championship at Merced Speedway,” Nelson declared at the banquet. “I already have one down, and 14 to go. Wins, points, trophies, and money – that’s what it is all about.”

Nelson is part of fifth place finisher Michael Shearer’s team. Shearer, from Los Banos, will be racing in both IMCA divisions. His wife Kristie will return in the hobby stock division, as well as Nelson’s wife, Shannon, who took a parental break from the race track.

Diaz takes defending his title very seriously.

“Bubba says he is running for the championship, but I’ll have something to say about that,” Diaz replied. “I will give him a run for the title.”

Cousins to Battle Again

            Five time Merced Speedway modified champion Ramie Stone came back from a six year hiatus to race in the IMCA SportMod division in 2014. This season, he’s vowing to give cousin Paul Stone competition in the modified division.

“I’m not too sure why I went down to the SportMod division – it was mostly because my old car fit best in that division,” Ramie Stone. “Skill comes with age and experience. I belong in the top division. I will return to the modified division with a new car this year.”

The Stone family battles are legend at Merced Speedway.

“We battled side by side for a lot of years,” said Ramie Stone. “I am looking forward to doing it again. It’s no problem racing with my cousin. He wants to beat me as much as I want to beat him.”

Champ Paul Stone came back from a bad wreck in Arizona a week earlier. He has been busy getting his cars ready for the local tracks.

“I love racing with the older guys. Respect is missing from racing today. We had that respect for each other years ago,” Paul Stone said. “I like running with Ramie – there will be wheel to wheel racing for sure. And, we can still make it through the season without having to change a bumper.”

Paul Stone, who feels it is important to race at other tracks to improve his skills, will take the speedway’s July 4 break to venture to the Dakotas, to Canada, and back into Iowa, where several major IMCA races will take place.


            Raulie Rodriguez of Atwater accepted the Hobby Stock championship for his dad, Raul, who was away on family business. Raulie said he and his dad have rebuilt their car for the new season – complete with new engine, transmission, and drive train. Raul is hoping to repeat as champion.

Friendly foes Mike Henault of LaGrange and Tim Prothro of Merced were on hand to reflect on a thrilling point battle that saw the top spot traded all season. In the last race of the year, Prothro dove under Henault to go three cars wide when the two touched, causing Prothro to spin to the infield. Prothro lost by two points.

This year, Prothro will move up to the IMCA SportMod division, while Henault will continue to race with his retro 1962 Mercury Comet in the Valley Sportsman division. Also moving up to the SportMod division will be Ronnie Cole of Mariposa, who finished third in the Limited Late Model division in 2014.

Joy Alger - born to race at Merced Speedway

Joy Alger – born to race at Merced Speedway

Joy Alger of Merced was all smiles after receiving her first trophy in the mini-stock division. Alger finished fourth behind Chris Corder, Jennifer Corder and Brian Widdowson.

Alger’s first year of racing had special personal meaning. She was born at the speedway when her mother went into labor while watching her dad, Robert, race in the same division.


            Chowchilla Speedway opens at 2 p.m. on Sunday with a full racing program headlined by IMCA Modifieds and SportMods, Hobby Stocks, and Mini-Stocks. Hot laps are at 3 p.m., and racing will begin at 4 p.m.

Admission is $12 for adults, $10 for senior citizens, and $8 for children 6-12. A family four-pack of tickets is $30. Chowchilla Speedway is located at the Chowchilla Madera County Fairgrounds, with entrance on S. Fifth Street.

Merced Speedway kicks off its regular season on Saturday, March 7. The same admission prices are in effect at Merced and Chowchilla Speedways.



Ryan McDaniel Takes Chowchilla IMCA Modified Main; Ryland Repeats in SportMods


Ryan McDaniel (10) battled Steve Noland in route to victory in the Chowchilla special race during the IMCA West Coast Nationals.

Ryan McDaniel of Chico hit his marks lap after lap as he stayed a step ahead of Torrance’s Cody Laney to win the final modified feature event in the IMCA West Coast Nationals Sunday evening at Chowchilla Speedway. Fred Ryland of Brentwood made it two straight wining the IMCA SportMod half of the event.

“As fast as it was up there on the top of the track I wasn’t about to venture anywhere else,” McDaniel said in victory lane. “It was a racey track, but there was no way he (Laney) was going to get me from the bottom.”

Laney stayed at the bottom of the track, thwarting third placed finisher Paul Stone’s bid for second. Stone, of Winton, was the top local driver in the event.

Troy Foulger (49) broke on the second turn of the first lap, making a bid to pass Billy Wilker (71)

Troy Foulger (49) broke on the second turn of the first lap, making a bid to pass Billy Wilker (71)

“He showed me a nose, but I kept ahead,” 19 year old Laney said of Stone. “I just couldn’t catch McDaniel. I knew I had to try something, but nothing seemed to work.”

Stone tried his best to crack the top two.

“I pushed a hole right through the floorboard,” he laughed.


Ryland was untouchable at both Merced and Chowchilla. His nemesis, Nick Spainhoward of Bakersfield tried in vain to catch Ryland.

“Our car was just perfect,” Ryland said in victory lane. “The crew set it up just right.”

Now the national points leader, Ryland was asked of his plans.

“The national title now needs to be considered,” he said of his 2015 schedule. “I just have to explain that to my wife.”


Chis Corder won the "Four Banger"Mini Stock feature in a pavement car

Chis Corder won the “Four Banger”Mini Stock feature in a pavement car.

Mini-Stock Champion Chris Corder of Stockton continued his winning ways in taking the first feature of the young season.

“I didn’t have a dirt car ready, so I came with the care I usually run on pavement at Madera,” Corder said in victory lane. “It surprisingly had no trouble winning.”
The racing season continues with practice sessions at Antioch, Merced, and Chowchilla speedways scheduled for February. The local season begins on March 1 at Chowchilla Speedway.


Duane Cleveland and Fred Ryland Share IMCA West Coast Honors at Merced


Duane Cleveland was all alone at the top as he won the IMCA WEST Coast Nationals at Merced Speedway.

Duane Cleveland of Chico opened his trailer this morning for the first time since racing in Las Vegas two months ago and unloaded the car that won the modified feature of IMCA West Coast Nationals at Merced Speedway. Cleveland shared the spotlight with Brentwood’s Fred Ryland, who brought home the Shannon Pump Company trophy for the IMCA SportMod division.


Impressive run for a first-timer: Tom Berry, Jr. (11x) fought off Troy Foulger (49) .

“At 7 this morning, I decided to race today, and took the car out of its trailer and scaled it,” Cleveland said in victory lane. “I got to Merced just in time for the show.”

Cleveland took the lead early in the 30 lap feature after battling Tom Berry, Jr. of Oregon. Cleveland was never to be challenged for the rest of the feature. Berry, who never before raced at Merced, held off challenges from Kellen Chadwick of Oakley until the waning moments of the race. Chadwick took up the chase of Cleveland but time ran out before he could catch him.

“It was a good time out there – the track was great,” Cleveland said. “The last time I won here I beat Chris Shannon. This time I won the trophy he donated.”

Fred Ryland (7) passes Megan Ponciano.

Fred Ryland (7) passes Megan Ponciano.

Ryland proved untouchable in the SportMod 30 lap feature. After a lap one pileup eliminated several cars, Ryland worked his way to the lead on the tenth lap. Bakersfield’s Nick Spainhoward, who was in the middle of the pileup, managed to come back to gain second place – despite having a damaged car.


Right after the pileup, racing resumed with Bakersfield’s Wayne Dotson and Rick Diaz of Los Banos taking turns at running down ryland. Dotson and Diaz tangled in the fourth turn, leaving the path to victory lane clear for Ryland’s next 20 laps.



Joe Willoughby on the inside of Ty Shelton in the Hobby Stock main event.

Joe Willoughby on the inside of Ty Shelton in the Hobby Stock main event.

            The 22-car hobby stock main saw Joe Willoughby of Watsonville take the lead from Brentwood’s Brad Myers. Willoughby then entered into a side-by-side battle with Ty Shelton of Merced that lasted until the end of the 30-lap feature.

Racing continues Sunday with the “Let it Rain 50” – two 25-lap features for the IMCA modifieds and SportMods, plus “Four Bangers” and “Mini Stocks” at Chowchilla Speedway.

Chowchilla Speedway is located within the Chowchilla Madera County Fairgrounds in Chowchilla. Racing will begin at 3 p.m.


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