By Mike Adaskaveg
Beating dirt track racing legend Bobby Hogge IV is not an easy task. It happens seldom when Hogge IV, from Salinas, unloads his bright read race car at a local speedway.
Atwater’s Ryan Porter can now boast that Hogge IV was second to him at the finish line of last Saturday’s International Motor Contest Association (IMCA) modified stock car feature event at Merced Speedway.
Tonight, the IMCA Modified and SportMod classes again highlight the evening’s racing at the ¼ mile fairgrounds track.
“Not many drivers are on the list of those who beat Bobby (Hogge IV) to the checkered flag,” Porter said. “It is one of my biggest accomplishments in modified racing.”
Porter, who has been driving racecars for 11 years, moved up to the modified division in 2006. He takes he takes driving a race car seriously – and he trains for it by keeping physically fit. During the week, he’s an exercise specialist at a Lodi hospital.
When a track is “hooked up” (tacky) or if it becomes rough, Porter’s workout regime has him prepared. It takes stamina and strength to handle a car sliding through turns after an 80 mph sprint down a straightaway.
“Being in shape definitely helps me on the race track,” Porter, who is 26, explained. “Racing demands a lot from your body. I work out four times a week with weights and cardio, and I am prepared for Saturday nights.”
With the Merced Speedway surface fast and tacky on Saturday night, Porter first had to pick off Ricky Thatcher of Mariposa and stay ahead of Hogge IV to the checkered flag.
“I was in second and Bobby (Hogge IV) was in third on the seventh lap. All I could see was his bumper coming up alongside me,” Porter said. “All I could think is ‘Oh, no!’ – he’s coming for me.”
On a restart after a caution flag, Porter was on the outside of first place Thatcher.
“I knew I had to get around Ricky (Thatcher) if I had any chance to win,” Porter said. “Then I couldn’t make the slightest mistake or Bobby (Hogge
- IV) would catch me.”
Tonight at Merced Speedway
A large field of cars is expected at Merced Speedway as sister track Antioch Speedway is dark in preparation for Sunday’s World of Outlaws event there.
IMCA Modifieds and SportMods will headline the Merced Speedway show. The Northern All Stars Limited Late Model and Hobby Stock divisions will also compete in a full program of qualifying races and feature events.
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 $8 for children 6-12. A family four-pack of tickets admits two children and two adults for $32. Racing begins at 7 p.m. The grandstand opens at 5 p.m.