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 Posted: Saturday Sep 9th, 2017 01:00 AM
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Don Martin II
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John Fore Memorial Slated For
Merced Speedway Saturday Night



Merced, CA...After the Labor Day weekend break, Merced Speedway returns to action with the biggest Sport Modified race of the season. It's the John Fore Jr. Memorial Race. Fore had a brief racing career, but he was one of the top drivers and more importantly very well liked by his fellow competitors. When he died in a work related accident prior to the 2016 season, it was decided to have a race in his honor. A huge turnout of drivers filled the pits for that post season race, won by Clint Reichenbach, and that's expected to be the case once again. Also on the card will be a Hobby Stock point race and the California Sharp Mini Late Models.

With IMCA holding their Boone, Iowa Nationals, no tracks are allowed to hold any sanctioned point races. However, points aren't a motivating factor to get the racers to come to Merced this week. The race will have an increased payout and a nice trophy, and there will be several drivers lining up for a shot at a big victory. Merced Speedway's two biggest stars will surely be in the mix. Rick Diaz is a two time champion who has won most of the Main Events this year. He also has the motivation of winning the race that honors his friend. Fred Ryland has one win this year, but he's usually been in second or third the rest of the time. Ryland also leads the championship race, which will resume on the 16th.

Bakersfield Speedway is not running this class this week because it can't be a point race, leaving the door open for Reichenbach to come back and try for a repeat performance. Another star likely to come is West Coast Sport Mod champion Nick Spainhoward. Nick has won a few races at Merced through the years. Lee Jensen and Michael Johnson are two other drivers from Bakersfield who have been doing some traveling this year. It's also very possible that Antioch area racers such as Guy Ahlwardt, Trevor Clymens and Todd Gomez may make appearances. West Coast Sport Mod stars from Chico and Marysville, such as Phillip Shelby, Todd Cooper, Brian Cooper and Jerry Bartlett, may also be on hand. There will likely be several stars from around California.

When they get there, Ryland and Diaz won't be the only regulars to contend with. Top 3 ranked Jeremy Hoff, who is a past Antioch champion, should be there hoping to make his first win of the year the biggest win of his career. The Thomas boys, Tanner and Chase, have been looking good, and either one of the teen leadfoots could make their mark. Another young up and coming racer to keep an eye on is Cody Parker. Like T. Thomas, Parker recently had a second place finish. Chuck Weir, 2015 champion Josh Hensley, two time Street Stock champion Tim Ragsdale and Mark Odgers are others to watch for among the star studded field. Points are not on the radar. It's the glory of the big win that will motivate the attendance.

Garrett Corn and Kodie Dean continue to battle fiercely for the Hobby Stock championship. Corn won his division leading fourth Main Event last time. However, Kodie earned his tenth Top 5 finish in second. With the Hobby Stocks using the IMCA point system, Dean still leads Corn by six points. Robbie Loquaci also had a good run in third last time, which keeps him 22 points out of the lead. While Dean is a three time winner, Loquaci is still looking for his first win of the season. Kristie Shearer finished fifth last time and is just five points behind Loquaci in the battle for third.

In the past few seasons, Austin Van Hoff has been both a Top 5 driver in points and a multi time feature winner. He was also the 2015 point runnerup at his home track in Chowchilla. Last time, Van Hoff earned his first Top 5 finish of the year in fourth to keep a seven point lead over Shannon Nelson in the battle for fifth. Nelson's husband may be a two time champion with many feature wins, but Shannon has also earned feature victories in the past. She won in 2015, and she's anxious to get back in the winner's circle again. Other hard chargers to keep an eye on this week include reigning champion Michael Shearer, 2015 champion Kevin Joaquin, Top 10 ranked Mike Stockton and Tony Peffer, John Hensley and third generation racer Kalob Shelton.

The California Sharp Mini Later Models are back again as they continue to build up this new 600 cc engine Mini Late Model class. The division can be seen as sort of a transitional opportunity for the Micro Sprit and Outlaw Kart racers to go from the smaller tracks to the quarter-mile of Merced. Car dealer Michael Shearer and Promoter Ed Parker both see this as a way to help grow the sport and keep new racers coming in. Timmy Vaught won the most recent race, and Tim Crews, Ian Shearer and Riley Jeppesen have supported the whole season. A couple races ago, M. Shearer fielded two more cars, and Troy Foulger is a feature winner in one of them. The Modified ace finished second last time ahead of Sport Modified star Rick Diaz. People are talking about this exciting new class, and interest continues to grow.

Saturday night is a night to remember a beloved member of the racing community with the biggest Sport Modified race of the year. The Hobby Stocks are also expected to have a big turnout, making this a night that you will want to be at the track. For further information, go to http://www.racemerced.com.



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