Friday, March 22, 2013

Saturday Nights Should Mean More Cars At Merced Speedway

     A view of the Merced Speedway pits at playday. More pictures are on their website.

Merced Speedway opened for the first of two practices last Sunday.  I believe it was Mike Adaskaveg (I didn't see a byline there) who filed a report on the official Merced Speedway site, so I'll let that speak for itself.  From the looks of it, they had a bigger car count than many of their races last season, which is definitely a good sign.

My other thought was that Merced will be seeing some Watsonville (Ocean Speedway) driver support this season.  This is further evidenced by the fact that some of their drivers showed up for this practice.  Merced was once the strongest supporter of IMCA in the state with more races than any other track.  Drivers have been asking for it, and now they will get it.  It will be interesting to see just how many old familiar names return under the IMCA banner.

The Sport Mods are sure to see an increase in car count, and I won't be surprised to see double digits.  The Friday-Saturday Watsonville-Merced combination used to be heavily supported back in the day,  and it could be again.  The reason John Soares Jr. went after Merced Speedway in the first place was because he felt he could restore the track to glory.

Some amazing things have already happened, and it's only the beginning.  The World Of Outlaws are coming again soon.  With Doug Williams now acting as General Manager, IMCA sanctioning the Modifieds once again and the track returning to Saturday nights, Merced Speedway is poised to have its best season in several years.

A Look at some key dates in Merced Speedway 
(from the old Merced Speedway website with updates)

* April 13, 1946 Late Joe Herb requested to start motorbike races but withdrew request.

* May 25,1946 Billy Hunefold requests for midget auto racing and Board was to take the matter up with the state. 1946 Fair, September 11 would eliminate the 3 nights horse show.

* July 20, 1946 denied midget car racing, due to the costs involved in preparing the track.

* August 24, 1946 Mathewson and Joe Herb requested budget races. September 11th and September 24th, 1946 for Living Memorial Benefit Fund and weekly midget races, providing divisions of fairs.

* September 7, 1946 Promoters, Mathewson and Joe Herb - secured insurance for auto racing.

* November 23, 1946 Joe Herb's request denied for auto racing during regular schedule fair only.

* November 29, 1947 again a request presented by Joe Herb and Mathewson.

*January 28, 1950 Board to relocate Barns and Race Track.

* July 15, 1950 Authorized Hard Top Races after the verification of the proof of financial insurance.

* August 18, 1950 Request to rent arena for Hard Top Auto Races beginning early 1951.

* September 30, 1950 Agreement with Auto Racing Insurance for Hard Top Races beginning May 1, 1951.

* November 29, 1950 Joe Herb and Harold Mathewson request to hold Jalopy and Hard Top Races during the 1951 Auto Racing.

* March 16, 1951 Joe Herb and Harold Mathewson hold Jalopy, Hard Top, Stock Car, Midget and Motor Cycle Races.

* April 16, 1951 Work started on track and the Crash Wall.

* July 17, 1951 Joe Herb, President of Merced Racing Association wanted a new agreement and extension for races after the fair. The extension to conduct races and run any day of the week.

* April 14, 1952 Motor Cycle Races, acts and Firework Sunday at the Fair.

* October 13, 1952 Renewed Merced Racing Association contract to Joe Herb and Harold

* June 29, 1953 Contract with Merced Racing Association for stock car or Other Racing.

* July 13, 1953 Cable and Fences.

* August 26, 1953 Permission to have one or two extra races after the regular season.

* November 2, 1953 Harvey Harson V. F. W requests for V. F. W to sponsor Jalopy races in 1954 season. He stated the race drivers and owners were dissatisfied with the deal they were getting from the Racing Association.

* February 4, 1954 Joe Herb agreed to sell the goodwill to V. F. W so that they could contract for Racing at the fairgrounds for 1954 season.

* June 3, 1956 Herb Thomas won a NASCAR Grand National race.

* June 29, 1957 Clyde Palmer wins NASCAR Pacific Coast/Short Track race.

* 1970's and 1980's Bob Barkhimer associate had the racetrack.

* 1985 Chuck and Marylee Griffin started managing and promoting for Barkhimer until 1991 Chuck and Marylee R/C bid on Merced Speedway.

* January 1991 with volunteers the track was extended to a 3/8-mile track.

* Chuck and Marylee's 22st year begins in March 2006.

* September of 2009 Chuck and Marylee finish their 25th and final year.

* Oval Motorsports wins the bid for the track and begins an abbreviated weekly schedule in July of 2010.

* April 1, 2011 World of Outlaws Sprint Cars make first Merced appearance, won by Sammy Swindell.

* March 30, 2012 World of Outlaws return and Sammy Swindell wins again.

* 2013 Former Merced Speedway champion Doug Williams begins his first year as the tracks general manager.