By: Gary Jacob|
Where: Merced, CA
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Merced, CA -- In just his second Merced Speedway appearance, IMCA Modified Western Region rookie of the year hopeful Darin Hawks from Fontana paced all 30 laps his outside front row starting spot Tuesday night at the annual Merced County Fair race, but he refused an engine claim by fellow Western Region rookie of the year candidate T J Etchison and was disqualified to hand the fair night win to Merced's own Bob Williamson Jr, the son of the track point leader. It was Williamson Jr's second career win in a 14 year old car as he has only made a handful of starts in 2004. Dirt late model racer Vance Beltran ran third in his former Bart Reid Cobra, but he also refused an engine claim by Mike Aldrich and he too was dropped from the feature finish. That moved Johnnie Baptista into the second place finishing spot ahead of 2005 Western Region rookie of the year candidate Alex Stanford and Monty Tomlinson Jr. California State Street Stock Championship Series runnerup Darren Thomas made a rare Merced Speedway appearance and easily won the street stock 30 lapper from an outside front row start. Red hot Ramon Neilson fell to the back when he got off the track on the opening lap, but stormed back to finish second ahead of Gary Tucker. Tucker regained the track point lead as Aaron Barker crashed hard into the fence in turn 2 and finished 8th. Barker had paced Tucker by just 4 points starting the night. Rim rider Lester Beavers took the lead from James Hall on lap 3 and he raced to a win in the 30 lap hobby stock main event ahead of point leader Raul Rodriquez and Shawn Bryant. Valley Sportsman point leader Kevin Freitas picked off another feature win ahead of David Todd and Tim Goodson, who gained third with the disqualification of Dennis Barcellos.
The IMCA Modified fair action drew a 27 car field, so the track transferred the top 4 finishers from the four heat races and added six transfers from a 12 lap B Main to complete a 22 car A Main grid. Tim Porter came from fourth to win heat 1 over Ramie Stone and front row starter Hawks, who spun out of the lead in his former Kevin Brown JetMod from Colorado. Outside front row starter Marcus Aue won heat 2 ahead of last starter Dustin Jenks from Chico, who was celebrating his birthday. Tomlinson Jr won heat 3 from fifth with Baptista second ahead of pole starter Jack Chapman Jr and Friday night Oildale dominator Mike Johnson. Sixteen year old A Stanford won heat 4 from 4th with Beltran second ahead of Williamson Jr. Celebrating their wedding anniversary, Jack and Debbie Stanford posted a $50 prize for the IMCA Modified dash winner and 16 year old son Alex picked off that prize with his victory ahead of Aue and Tomlinson Jr. J Stanford's recent neck surgery went very well and he has been given the clearance from the doctors to race. Garrett Steitz borrowed J Stanford's D&M for this nights action. Western Region rookie of the year point leader Andrew Krumm used an outside pass on the last lap to win the talent filled 12 lap B Main over Silver Dollar Speedway star Ryan McDaniel, Kings Speedway point leader Paul Stone, Steitz and Merced point leader Williamson Sr. Just missing the transfer was California State point leader Bill Saltzman and George Nevatt. Chowchilla Speedway Saturday night winner Ray Mayer finished off a tough night with an 11th in the B Main.
The IMCA Modified 30 lap feature had Chapman Jr and Hawks on the front row ahead of Aue and Williamson Jr. Hawks paced the opening lap ahead of Chapman Jr and Aue with Chapman spinning in turn 1 to force a yellow flag. On the restart, Aue raced into second over Williamson Jr and Baptista. Beltran and Baptista traded fourth several times and Aue's run up front ended as he clipped an infield tractor tire and spun for a lap 8 yellow. Aue tried to return, but he parked his ill handling car a lap later. Aaron Barnell was spun out of the race by Ramie Stone and R Stone parked his car. Williamson Jr was now second, but 1/4 lap behind leader Hawks when Beltran raced into third on lap 16. Beltran was able to pull alongside bottom groove runner Williamson Jr on several occasions but could never finish off a pass as they dueled for second place. The final 20 laps of the race were run without a caution flag and Hawks was never threatened. Tomlinson Jr and Stanford traded fifth several times and T Stone lost spots when he ran off the end of the track on lap 25. Hawks took the checkered flag ahead of Williamson Jr, Beltran, Baptista, Stanford, Tomlinson, Krumm, last starter Williamson Sr, Porter and Jenks. With the top four finishers parked in the claim area, both Etchison Jr and Aldrich pulled up with their $525 and the necessary paperwork to claim the engines from Hawks and Beltran. Both Hawks and Beltran refused to sell their engines just like Saturday night Antioch winner Duane Cleveland, who was driving the car that McDaniel drove tonight there. The disqualifications carry with therm a loss of all points, a 30 day suspension and large fine to return to IMCA action. The altered standings found Williamson Jr with his second career win ahead of Baptista, Stanford, Tomlinson and Krumm. The Stanford team is limited Alex's appearances at sanctioned events to set up a 2005 run for Western Region rookie of the year and plan to save their one remaining start for the year end Las Vegas race.
The street stocks had an 11 car turnout and Neilson won the dash ahead of Tony Chavez. The track used a point average to line up the main event and the only race that Thomas and 2003 track champion Ragsdale had run was not a double pointer so they shared the front row for their 30 lapper. Wheeling his car that was reworked by Paul Pelletier over the winter, Thomas was never threatened in the feature run. He took a quick lead over Ragsdale, but Jimmy Lust raced into second on lap 2. Barker came from 10th to 4th, but ran off the top of turn 1 on lap 5 with Tucker taking over fourth. In 8 laps, Thomas had a full straight lead over Lust. Ragsdale did nose ahead of Lust on lap 9, but Lust regained second on lap 10. Neilson had lined up 5th, but fell to the rear before getting back to fourth on lap 12. Thomas was now 1/4 lap ahead. On lap 15, Neilson passed both Tucker and Ragsdale on the inside to race to third. Barker spun on lap 16 for the first yellow flag. On the restart, both Neilson and Tucker shuffled Lust back to fourth place and John Clarke was sent off the track when he spun twice to force a pair of yellow flags on lap 19. Barker crashed hard into the fence in turn 2 to end his race on lap 23. Thomas stayed out front of Neilson for the remainder of the 30 lapper with Tucker a solid third ahead of Ragsdale, Ricky Thatcher, Lust and Speedy Davis.
The hobby stocks had a 14 car turnout and James Hall beat Lester Beavers in the dash. Rookie Alex Odishoo and Hall had the front row for the 30 lapper ahead of Beavers and Marc Key. Hall led two laps, but Beaver had a momentum building high line and he flew past Hall on lap 3. Bryant grabbed third from Key on lap 4 and Odishoo slammed hard into the back fence to end his race on lap 6. Rodriquez raced into fourth on the restart. Key blew a tire for a lap 8 yellow flag and Rodriquez took second from Hall on lap 17. Bryant was back to third ahead of Hall on lap 22 and Key broke for the last yellow flag on lap 24. For the final six laps, Beavers decided to switch to the bottom line to protect his lead from Rodriquez, but that gave the high line to third place Bryant. Bryant could never pull off a pass on Rodriquez and a lapped car blocked any chance that Bryant had on the final lap. Beavers won ahead of Rodriquez, Bryant, Hall, Pat Presley, Ryan Porter, Andy Welch and Chowchilla regular Dan Stephens.
All five Valley Sportsman raced in their dash with rookie Todd the winner over Goodson and Freitas. Todd led the opening lap of the 15 lap feature, but ran off the end of the track in turn 2 and Jason Belton was out front for two laps. Belton got too high in turn 1 and slipped over the cushion to hand the top spot to Goodson on lap 4. Goodson got into the turn 3 infield tires on lap 5 to force a yellow flag and he restarted in the rear. Freitas led the remaining laps to post another feature win with Todd second. Dennis Barcellos crossed the line in third, but was disqualified to move Goodson up to third ahead of Belton.
The track will be dark until July 31-August 1 when they run a rich two race weekend. The Annual Tim Post Memorial on July 31 will see the IMCA Modifieds racing 99 laps for $1000 to win and the street stocks 50 laps for $600 to win. The hobby stocks race for $200 to win that night and the Valley Sportsman $100 to win. George Steitz is sponsoring the Sunday night action to make up for an early season rainout. The IMCA Modifieds race for $450 to win that night, the street stocks $300, the hobby stocks $175 and the Valley Sportsman $100. In the street stocks and hobby stocks, you have to be a CCMR member to race the Tim Post Memorial Race.
Summary Valley Sportsman Dash-David Todd, Tim Goodson, Kevin Freitas. Main-Freitas, Todd, Goodson, Jason Belton. Hobby Stock Dash-James Hall, Lester Beavers, Marc Key. Main-Beavers, Raul Rodriquez, Shawn Bryant, Hall, Pat Presley, Ryan Porter, Andy Welch, Dan Stephens, Dan Holcomb, Cindy Briggs, Keith Cheevers, Key, Andrew Cheevers, Alex Odishoo. Street Stock Dash-Ramon Neilson, Tony Chavez, John Clarke. Main-Darren Thomas, Neilson, Gary Tucker, Tim Ragsdale, Ricky Thatcher, Jimmy Lust, Speedy Davis, Aaron Barker, Clarke, Chavez. IMCA Modified Dash-Alex Stanford, Marcus Aue, Monty Tomlinson Jr. Heat 1-Tim Porter, Ramie Stone, Darin Hawks, T J Etchison, Ryan McDaniel. Heat 2-Aue, Dustin Jenks, Aaron Barnell, Mike Aldrich, Garrett Steitz. Heat 3-Tomlinson, Johnnie Baptista, Jack Chapman Jr, Mike Johnson, Andrew Krumm. Heat 4-Stanford, Vance Beltran, Bob Williamson Jr, Brad Coelho, George Nevatt. B Main-Krumm, McDaniel, Paul Stone, Troy Stone, Steitz, Bob Williamson Sr, Bill Saltzman, Nevatt, Keith VanHouten, Mike Gillard, Ray Mayer. A Main-Williamson Jr, Baptista, Stanford, Tomlinson, Krumm, Williamson Sr, Porter, Jenks, P Stone, Johnson, McDaniel, Steitz, Etchison, Coelho, T Stone, Aue, Aldrich, Chapman, Barnell, R Stone.