By Mike Adaskaveg
Merced Sun Star
When Nick Tucker of Hilmar was just a toddler, his dad Gary immersed him into the world of stock car racing. Always a helper, he made the transition to driver last year and now competes in the International Motor Contest Association (IMCA) SportMod division at Merced Speedway.
“I was a little bitty guy – helping the big guys back in the ‘80’s,” Tucker smiled as he was preparing his car in the Merced pit area. “Then, as I grew up in racing, I was always the ‘wrencher’ (crew member), not the driver.”
The IMCA SportMods will be part of the Merced Speedway program Saturday night, as the speedway returns to action from its holiday break. Tucker races his SportMod whenever his work schedule at Hilmar Cheese allows the time.
“I’m hoping to be in twice as many races this season,” Tucker added. “It was a long road to being a driver.”
That long road included a move to Arizona 15 years ago. Once there, he continued to feed his racing appetite at Casa Grande Speedway, a dirt track similar to the tracks back home – Merced and Chowchilla Speedways.
“The best thing about Arizona was meeting my wife, Nicole Harrison, at the race track,” Tucker said. “She was good with my needing to be part of the racing scene.”
The couple has three children – Makenna, 10; Payten, 8; and Brody, 2. They left Arizona to return to the Valley.
“This is where I came from, and the family loves it here,” Tucker continued. “Now, Brody follows every footstep I make with a wrench and screwdriver in his hands, just like I followed his grandfather years ago.”
Expanded Program, Big Field Expected
Merced Speedway’s sister tracks are dark this weekend, meaning visiting drivers will be making their way to the quarter-mile clay track this weekend. Joining the SportMods will be the IMCA Modified stock cars, Limited late Models, Hobby Stocks and Mini-Stocks.
Darren Miguel of Merced continued his winning ways in the last Merced Speedway Mini-Stock feature. Miguel’s archrival, Chris Corder of Modesto was second in that feature. Kristie Shearer stopped streaking Kevin Joaquin in the last Hobby Stock feature. Joaquin, still holding the lead in the season’s points, was second in the feature, with Shannon Nelson of Turlock finishing third.
Rookie Josh Hensley proved he is a force to be reckoned with the IMCA SportMod class, as he picked up a win in the event two weeks ago, topping Shawn Bryant of Los Banos and IMCA national contender Keith Brown of Pittsburg.
Antioch drivers are expected to compete in the IMCA Modified and Northern All Stars Limited Late Model divisions – since that speedway is closed for fair weekend. Mark Garner of Antioch leads the Limited Late Model division point standings at Merced, with Mariposa’s Buddy Thatcher in second and more than 100 points out.
Atwater’s Bill Egleston, a former Merced Speedway track champ, is only seven points away from the top spot in the IMCA Modified class. Antioch’s John MacDougall is trying to maintain the lead he grabbed with an early season win.
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.