Merced, CA…October 5-6…2017 champion Fred Ryland won the 50 lap John Fore Jr Memorial IMCA Sport Modified race Saturday night at Merced Speedway. This was the second straight win in the big memorial race for Ryland, and he collected $2,000 for the victory. Two-time IMCA Modified champion Randy Brown was doing a three division effort, and he jumped into the Tim Elias car for the Sport Modified portion. Brown set the pace at the start ahead of 2014 State champion Nick Spainhoward and Ryland. The Top 3 remained the same until Ryland finally made his move on Spainhoward for second on lap 20. By then, Brown was nearly a straightaway ahead, but the complexion of the race changed when a yellow flag flew on lap 22. Brown suddenly headed for the pits, putting Ryland into the lead ahead of Spainhoward and Andrew Peckham. Ryland took command on the restart and steadily pulled away from the pack as the final 28 laps went without a yellow flag. Peckham took second from Spainhoward on lap 30, but he was over a straightaway behind Ryland at the checkered flag. Spainhoward settled for third, followed by Nick Tucker, Kenny Shrader, Jeremy Hoff, Tanner Thomas, Paul Stone, Kevin Johnson and Jack Aguiar.
The two-day format called for two sets of heat races on Friday night with the points determining who ran the qualifier. Nine lap heat race wins were earned by Spainhoward, Johnson, Tanner Thomas, Brown, Brent Curran and Peckham. The Top 6 finishers in the qualifier would earn starting spots in the first three rows of the big money show on Saturday. Spainhoward won that 15 lap event ahead of Brown, Johnson, Ryland, Peckham and Curran. The finishes in nine lap heat races on Saturday determined the rest of the Main Event starting order, and Tucker, Shrader and Aguiar won those races.
Ethan Dotson picked up the big $2,000 victory in the 50 lap IMCA Modified Main Event. Dotson led from the outset, but he had plenty of pressure throughout the race from 2018 State champion Shane DeVolder and four-time Antioch Speedway champion Troy Foulger, who both finished within a second of him at the checkered flag. Randy Brown finished fourth, followed by new champion Darrell Hughes II, Bobby Hogge IV, Ryan Porter, Paul Stone, Jim Pettit II and Austin Grabowski.
On Friday, Dotson was the only driver to win both of his nine lap heat races as Foulger, Hogge, Brown and DJ Shannon were the other winners. The nine lap distance is significant as that was the car number of John Fore Jr. Dotson won the 15 lap qualifier to earn the pole for Saturday’s big race. Shannon finished second, followed by Stone, Hogge, DeVolder and Brown. Saturday’s nine lap heat race wins went to Foulger, Josh Combs and Pettit.
Two-time Sport Modified champion Rick Diaz drove one of the FND Motorsports entries to the big $1,000 victory in the 40 lap Hobby Stock Main Event. Two-time Modified champion Randy Brown led the race early ahead of Bakersfield stars Chad Johnson and Nicholas Johnson. Nicholas Johnson took over second on lap 17 as Diaz was already in fourth from 11th starting. Brown’s lead came to an abrupt end when he slipped off the groove in Turn 2 on lap 20 with a flat tire. Nicholas Johnson had the lead as Diaz moved by Chad Johnson for second on lap 26. Two laps later, Nicholas Johnson slowed as he went down the backstretch with a flat tire and Diaz gained the lead. Diaz held off Cody Johnson over the remaining laps for the win. Bruce Nelson charged to a third place finish, followed by Brown, Marc Key, Austin Van Hoff, Michael Scruggs, Donnie Shearer, Nicholas Johnson and Chad Ragsdale.
Friday night heat race wins or recorded by Brown, Nelson, Cody Smiley, Nicholas Johnson, Kodie Dean and Austin Van Hoff. The Top 12 point earners from the heat races ran a qualifier with the Top 6 finishers grabbing the first 3 rows for Saturday’s Main Event. Cody Johnson won that 15 lap race ahead of Brown, Dean, Nicholas Johnson, Van Hoff and Raul Rodriguez. The rest of the drivers ran heat races on Saturday to determine the rest of the Main Event lineup. Those nine lap wins went to Nelson and Key.
Dakota Keldsen won the 25 lap Mini Stock Main Event and the $300 prize that came with it. Keldsen was driving a car with a paint job reminiscent of his uncle Lloyd Keldsen Jr, who recently passed away. Keldsen had the pole for the Main Event and steadily pulled away to win by over half a lap ahead of three-time champion Chris Corder. Jerry Tubbs finished third, followed by Jarrod Mounce, Lee Ragsdale, Jennifer Rodgers, Abigail Kennedy and Shawn DePriest.
The four nine lap heat races on Friday were won by four different drivers as Keldsen, Kennedy, Corder and DePriest took their turns in the winner’s circle. Keldsen won the 15 lap qualifier ahead of DePriest, Corder and Lee Ragsdale. Kennedy won the Saturday night heat race.
The big two-day blowout event concludes the 2018 season. Stay tuned for more information on the future of Merced Speedway. You can find the track at www.racemerced.com.