Monday, July 26, 2010

Looking Back: "The Big Dog" Ramie Stone

Ramie Stone #06 won the 2000 Street Stock championship at Merced Speedway. Photo by L&J Photography

Ramie Stone #06 won IMCA Modified four championships at Merced Speedway.
Photo by L&J Photography

When it comes to talking about the greats of Merced Speedway through the years, there are names that will immediately come to mind. Racers like Dennis Moomjean, Vern Willhoite, George Steitz, Ted Stofle and George Steitz are sure to come up from the 1960's and 70's. Doug Williams, Ray Morgan, Doug McCoun are a few who will be mentioned from the 1980's. Larry Folkner, Gordon Rodgers and Darren Thomas are a few who will surely be mentioned from the 1990's. Then, it really gets fun when you start talking about who was the greatest to race at the track. That, of course, is a matter of opinion.

But there are a few drivers from the last decade who deserve to be in that discussion, and one of those is the man they call "The Big Dog" and "Godzilla". He stood taller than about anybody in the pits, and behind the wheel of his green #06 car, he was hard to beat. That man is Ramie Stone, and he was part of the Stone Family invasion of valley racing that happened at the track in 1996. All four of the Stones went on to win at least one championship in their careers. Ramie became a champion in every division he competed. In 1996, Merced Speedway was in the second year of it's Little Truck division. Ramie and his brother Troy Stone were joined by cousins Paul Stone and Steve Stone.

That first season, he was eighth. A year later, his brother won the championship, while he was fourth behind Jack Stanford and cousin Paul Stone. A year after that, Ramie won the championship. While Troy and two time Merced champion Paul Stone had moved up to the IMCA Modified class, Ramie opted to go Street Stock racing in 1999, finishing second and topping the rookies that season. A year later, the Stones ruled the Street Stock division as Ramie won the Merced championship, while cousin Steve won the Chowchilla title. Ramie even ventured down to Chowchilla on occasion and won a feature there.

And Ramie would win several Main Events in his career. In 2001, he opted to go IMCA Modified racing, and he finished fifth, again topping all rookies in the class. It seemed like it didn't matter what kind of car you put him in, Ramie was going to find his way to the front of the pack. For the next two seasons, he dominated the IMCA Modified scene at Merced with back to back championships, ranking in the top five in the region, winning the IMCA State championship and even winning the DCRR State championship twice.

Having the honor of announcing the races at Merced during that time, I can tell you a win by him was something to see. While others were content to run down low on Chuck Griffin's smooth, dry slick 1/3 mile dirt oval, Ramie would put his car up on the outside and start driving his way to the front. It didn't matter where the green #06 car was starting, if things held together, it was going to the front of the pack. He continued to race at Merced for the rest of the decade.

In the most recent three seasons in which Ramie has chased points, he won championships in 2006 and 2008, and finished a close second to Garrett Steitz in 2005. He didn't chase points last season, but he was still a feature winner.

Looking at the impressive numbers of Ramie Stone, he won six championships at Merced Speedway among three divisions and ranked second twice, and he did all of this in 15 seasons of competition. He definitely belongs in the conversation of who is the best in track history at Merced Speedway, and even if you don't believe he's #1, it would be hard not to put him somewhere on the very impressive top ten list.

I'm not sure whether Ramie will be racing at Merced this season or in the future, but I can tell you if he does, watch out. This is a man who brings his best to the track, and he'd be almost certain to be a top contender on the quarter-mile dirt oval, no mater who he was racing against. Plus, he's always been one of the racers the fans enjoy watching at Merced Speedway.