Important Night Ahead for Rick Diaz, Ramie Stone in IMCA SportMods

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Ramie Stone on the Move (Diane Ratzlaff Photo)

By Mike Adaskaveg

Merced Sun-Star

The season-long battle between rookie SportMod stock car driver Rick Diaz of Los Banos and former track champion Ramie Stone of Winton will be settled Saturday night at Merced Speedway. Diaz enjoys a five-point lead over his rival going into the race.

Saturday, the quarter-mile fairgrounds oval will hold its last program of the season where track championship points are awarded. The following week, the track will host drivers from across the state for the Delta-Valley Classic. The International Motor Contest Association (IMCA) sanctioned event will offer a large purse for the Modified Stock Car and SportMod divisions.

Diaz, in his first full year behind the wheel of an IMCA SportMod, wants to be track champion – and he wants a win this Saturday for a special reason.

“It would be just awesome to be champ in the first full year running,” he said. “But more importantly, Saturday night is a big night for my daughter. I want a win for her.”

Ellie, Diaz’s 17-month-old daughter, has been in remission from neuro blastoma for one year on Saturday.

Diaz faces a driving style dilemma.

“I really have to play it safe if I want the championship,” he said. “I can’t charge to the front to win. I can’t make any risky moves.”

Despite running for points, Diaz has five wins this season in the highly competitive SportMod division, which has 20-30 drivers competing.

“Sometimes, I think running for points is a bad deal,” he explained. “Driving to win is part of a racer’s nature.”

On Saturday night, Diaz will keep his season-long goal in sight.

“I’ll be in protective mode,” he said. “I’ll try to be consistent, stay out of trouble and finish ahead or real close to Ramie (Stone).”

Diaz won at Antioch Speedway last Saturday night.

Diaz won at Antioch Speedway last Saturday night.

For Stone, it’s business as usual. He left racing as a Merced Speedway track champion, raised a family, and he wants his return this year to come with a championship.

“I’ll give it my all,” he said. “It’s racing. I have my own personal quest.”

Stone is hoping for a clean race.

Ramie Stone has had a successful comeback year.

Ramie Stone has had a successful comeback year.

“May the best driver win,” he added.

Paul Stone is IMCA Modified Champion, Looks Ahead to Big Events

            One of the other members of the racing Stone family, Paul Stone, won the IMCA Modified Stock Car Track Championship at Merced Speedway last weekend, despite smacking the front stretch wall in the feature.

“I had a lot of work to do on the car this week,” he said. “It was pretty bent up. There are three weeks of big events coming up.”

Stone is relishing his Merced Speedway championship. His last track championship came in 1999.

“I ran for the championship in my rookie year (1998) and won both the Rookie of the Year and the championship,” he smiled. “To show it wasn’t a fluke, I backed it up with the 1999 Championship.”

He says the feeling of winning hasn’t changed.

“Now, I have a young crew and I feel the excitement through them,” he explained. “The championship is as good now as it ever was.”

Stone makes it no secret that he likes to travel to far away tracks. He equates it with going to school.

“You learn a lot about racing. It makes you a better racer,” he explained.

He’ll need that knowledge in the biggest race of the season, the Delta-Valley Challenge on Sept. 27 at Antioch Speedway and Sept. 28 at Merced Speedway.

Each leg of the race will have a big purse, drawing the top drivers in the west. Salinas driver Bobby Hogge IV will be tough competition at Merced Speedway.

“I’ve been doing this a long time,” Stone said. “And, I only beat Hogge IV a couple of times.”

This Saturday Night at Merced Speedway

            The IMCA SportMod division will be in the spotlight, but the retro-racing Valley Sportsman Division also has a close point battle for the championship. Mike Henault of LaGrange is two points ahead of Merced’s Tim Prothro. The two run close all season long.

A complete program of qualifying races and features will be held for the SportMod, Valley Sportsman, Mini-Stock and Dwarf Car divisions.

Merced Speedway is located inside the Merced County Fairgrounds, 900 Martin Luther King, Jr. Way in Merced, Calif.

Admission is $12 for adults, $10 for senior citizens and $5 for children 6-12. A family four-pack of tickets admits two children and two adults for $30.           Racing begins at 7 p.m. The grandstand opens at 5 p.m.

 

 

           

Delta-Valley Classic Set for Sept. 27 -28. Big Purse. Great Drivers. IMCA State, Regional, National Points

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Bobby Hogge IV moves in on Danny Lauer in the 2011 Classic at Merced.

Drivers at Antioch and Merced Speedways are preparing for the biggest race of the season – the 4th Annual Delta-Valley Classic – on Sept. 27 and 28.

“I am looking forward to racing in this unique event that combines the best drivers in the Delta and the Valley,” said driver Bobby Hogge IV of Salinas. “The track surfaces have been great this season. The racing has been fantastic.”

Two years ago Hogge IV became the only driver to win both legs of the event. Hogge IV is hoping for a repeat of that feat. He’s faced some stiff competition from Shawn DeForest at Antioch Speedway this year, and will have to get by Merced’s new champion, Paul Stone.

It doesn't get closer than this - Troy Foulger took the outside at Merced, with four cars trying to dive under.

It doesn’t get closer than this – Troy Foulger took the outside at Merced, with four cars trying to dive under.

“The competition is great, and there is no greater feeling than racing against a field of the region’s top drivers,” Hogge IV continued.

The event offers dirt track drivers in the International Motor Contest Association (IMCA) Modified Stock Car and SportMod divisions’ added incentive. The SportMod and the Merced “modified” races will be the last races in the area that will award state, regional and national points.

The two-day event begins on the smooth Delta Clay of Antioch Speedway at Sept. 27 at 6:30 p.m. The drivers will have to set up their cars for racing at dry and slick Merced Speedway on Sunday Sept. 28, at 5 p.m.

Foulger goes low under

Foulger goes low under Scott Busby at Antioch two years ago in the Classic.

Each race will carry identical purses. With 24 cars or more, the winner of the “modified” event will receive $2,000 at each track. Each position carries a hefty increase over weekly purses. Last place in the 18-car field will be paid $150. There will be a “B” Main event with non-qualifiers also being paid all the way back to last.

SportMod drivers will be racing for $700 to win, with close steps down to $75 for last place. The SportMod “B” Main will also pay to last position.

Support classes will also be part of the show, with complete qualifying races and a main event. At Antioch Speedway, the Limited Late Models, Hobby Stocks, “Four-Banger” and Dwarf Car divisions are part of the show. At Merced Speedway, the Hobby Stocks and Super Stocks will also be racing.

In appreciation of the fans, ticket prices will be held to the weekly rate, despite the Delta-Valley Classic being a big event.

Merced Speedway is located inside the Merced County Fairgrounds; 900 Martin Luther King, Jr. Way in Merced, Calif. Admission is $12 for adults, $10 for senior citizens and $5 for children 6-12. A family four-pack of tickets admits two children and two adults for $30. Racing begins at 5 p.m. The grandstand opens at 3 p.m.

Antioch Speedway is located within the Contra Costa County Fairgrounds, 1201 W. 10th St. in Antioch, Calif. Admission is $14 for adults, $10 for children 6-12, and $8 for senior citizens. Children under six years old are admitted free. A family four pack of tickets is $40. Secured parking is offered by the Fairgrounds for $5. Racing begins at 6:30 p.m.

Jimmy Ray visited from Texas and Shawn DeForest gave him some competition at Merced in the 2011 Classic.

Jimmy Ray visited from Texas and Shawn DeForest gave him some competition at Merced in the 2011 Classic.

NORTHERN ALL STAR MODIFIEDS: DEFOREST OVER HOGGE IV AGAIN!

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Larry Damitz (15) found some moisture on the bottom as he passed Mike Gustafson (2) for the win in the Limited Late Model feature event. (Photo by Paul Gould, Track Photographer)

Shawn DeForest of Livermore is savoring every moment of his victory over Bobby Hogge IV of Salinas Saturday night at Antioch Speedway. Hogge IV is considered to be the toughest driver to beat in oval dirt track racing on the West Coast.

Hogge IV and DeForest waged battle for half of the Northern All Stars Modified Stock Car main event. DeForest had beaten Hogge IV once before – when he led the whole way without being passed. Things were different for DeForest’s second win.

“This was my best race of the season – I actually had to pass Bobby (Hogge IV) to be him,” smiled DeForest. “We had a great race.”

DeForest started in the row before Hogge IV in the feature event. It wasn’t long before Hogge IV was alongside DeForest.

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Shawn DeForest (72) is passed by Bobby Hogge IV as the two waged a side-by-side battle. DeForest came back to get Hogge on the last lap of the Northern All Star Modified Stock Car main event. (Photo by Paul Gould, Track Photographer)

“Bobby has magic – he can get to the front quicker than any other driver I know of,” DeForest explained. “I charged to the lead, thinking I got a good jump on him. The next thing I knew, I saw him outside my window.”

Hogge IV and DeForest raced door-to-door for eight laps. A spinning car brought out the yellow flag, setting up a green-white-checkered flag finish.

“I had the lead at one point,” Hogge IV said. “But Shawn was back in the lead at the time of the last caution flag. He took the outside groove, and that seemed like it was the place to be.”

On the final restart, it was Hogge IV who took the lead again by passing DeForest on the bottom groove.

“Then on the next lap he slid up to the fence in the first and second turn, and I knew I had to race him down the backstretch to take him,” DeForest said.

“I went a little higher into the third and fourth turn to keep the lead.”

Hogge IV was not able to pass DeForest again. The checkered flag was just half the front stretch away.

“I made a last ditch effort,” Hogge IV said. “I just couldn’t keep my car down low enough on the track. It was good clean racing and everyone was happy with the outcome.”

Side-By-Side in Limited Late Models, Too

 Two of the track’s most experienced drivers raced side by side to the end in the Limited Late Model Feature. Larry Damitz of Vallejo battled Mike Gustafson of Concord for three laps before Damitz made a move to the bottom to secure the top spot.

“I saw there was a little moisture near the bottom of the track,” Damitz explained. “It was hooked up down there and I could get the car going later into the turn.”

Damitz used his nearly seven decades of experience to determine the advantage.

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Billy Macedo was all alone at the end of the All Star Wingless Sprint Car Main event after Bob Newberry spun out. (Photo by Paul Gould, Track Photographer)

“The other cars started to skate around a bit in the middle of the track, so I figured it was getting slick,” he said.

All Star Wingless Sprint Car feature winner Billy Macedo of Concord was in a side by side with Oakley’s Bob Newberry when the two cars touched, sending Newberry to the back of the pack. Kyle Bakkie of Sacramento finished second, with Keith Shipherd third.

Rick Diaz of Los Banos, who is in the running for national “Rookie of the Year” in the International Motor Contest Association (IMCA) SportMod division, won that feature event despite severe car problems.

“I barely finished – I had a bent wheel hub on the left and it nearly fell off the car,” he said. “I wouldn’t have made it another lap.”

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Rick Diaz of Los Banos was back for the win, despite wheel problems, in the IMCA Sport Mod main event. (Photo by Paul Gould, Track Photographer)

Rob Gallaher of San Jose was second in the SportMod event, followed by Pittsburg’s Keith Brown, Jr.

Christopher Brown of Antioch scored victory over tough competition in the Hobby Stock division. Brown had perennial top runners Nick Baldwin of Oakley and Patti Ryland of Brentwood right behind him.

Brent Curran of Antioch continued his winning streak, taking his sixth feature of the season in the four cylinder “Four Banger” division. Carlos Gonzalez of Bethel Island finished second.

Danny Wagner of Bay Point won the dwarf car main event.

THIS SATURDAY NIGHT AT ANTIOCH SPEEDWAY

Northern All Star modified stock cars and IMCA SportMods will highlight this Saturday night’s program at Antioch Speedway. In addition there will be Hobby Stocks, Four-Bangers and Dwarf Cars all competing in a complete program of qualification races and feature events.

This Saturday will be the last night for the drivers to prepare for the following weekend’s big Delta-Valley Classic event. The biggest race of the season for the Modified and SportMod classes will offer both prestige and a large purse. The two day event takes place at Antioch and Merced Speedways on the 27th and 28th of September.

This Saturday night’s racing program begins at 6:30 p.m. Admission is $14 for adults, $10 for children 6-12, and $8 for senior citizens. Children under six years old are admitted free. A family four pack of tickets is $40.

Antioch Speedway is located within the Contra Costa County Fairgrounds, 1201 W. 10th St. in Antioch, Calif. Secured parking is offered by the Fairgrounds for $5.

 

 

 

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