By Mike Adaskaveg
Last Saturday’s feature win in the Merced Speedway “Mini-Stock” division was a personal milestone in the young sports career of Mariposa High School sophomore Ronnie Cole.
“I had nothing but bad luck the last couple of years,” the 16-year-old explained when talking of his baseball and racing careers. “Winning changed things. It finally happened.”
Cole broke his hand playing baseball and will put that career on hold for another year. He hopes to try out for the high school team again next season.
The broken hand curtailed his racing endeavor. When he came back in the fall he had a new car and was running in second place in the feature event- until his car’s rear axle broke.
On Saturday, Cole beat his bad luck by installing a new engine in his Acura Integra at the last minute. He and dad Frank were working on the car right up to race time.
“I’ll have more time to concentrate on racing this year,” he explained. “The win took the monkey off my back. I feel confident now – we have a win, and I’m looking for more wins.”
Cole raced go-karts when he was “a kid” and started racing in the four-cylinder, front will drive, “Mini-Stock” division at the speedway three seasons ago. His best finish prior to the win was a third-place finish before he broke his hand.
The only student racing stock cars at his high school, Cole has begun to have a following. A teacher and several students have attended the races at Merced Speedway to cheer for him and his racecar, numbered 2x.
Cole would like to see more high school students racing at the track instead of on the streets.
“I don’t see any street racing up here (in Mariposa) but in some of the Valley cities it is popular,” Cole said. “It is much more fun and safer to race on a track, with the proper safety equipment installed. It would be great to have more competition from people my age.”
One friend Cole races against is 15-year-old Alisa Caldwell of Turlock. Cole, who wants to make a profession as an automotive technician, has helped Caldwell in her racing endeavor. When he moves up a division, he will offer his “Mini-Stock” for her to drive.
Soon, Ronnie Cole will be behind the wheel of one of dad Frank’s more powerful, rear-wheel drive racecars. He may even drive his father’s stock car this Saturday night.
“I’m ready,” Ronnie Cole said. “I’ve practiced in his street stock and drove his modified stock car. I have experience with rear wheel drive cars from racing go-karts all those years.”
Late Model Stock Cars and Easter egg Hunt Featured Saturday Night
The powerful late model stock cars – full bodied cars that race at special events throughout the season – will visit Merced Speedway for the first time as they share the spotlight Saturday night (April 19) with the International Motor Contest Association (IMCA) SportMod division.
Local drivers Frank Cole of Mariposa and Randy Brown of Chowchilla will field cars in the event. Jeff Decker of Morgan Hill is the man to beat in the division, coming off of a win at sister track Antioch Speedway last week.
Also competing with a full program of qualification races and feature events will be the Hobby Stock and Mini-Stock divisions.
Ronnie Cole will try to make it two in a row in the Mini-Stocks, and Winton’s Josh Hensley, who has won two weeks in a row in the Hobby Stock division, will try to keep his streak alive. Ramie Stone of Winton leads in points in the SportMod division, and he will be trying for his second win of the season
The Easter Bunny will hand out candy to children and there will be an Easter egg hunt in the infield of the speedway as part of Saturday night’s program.
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. Family pack of two kids, two adults is $30. Racing begins at 7 p.m. The grandstand opens at 5 p.m.