MERCED -- When race leader Karl Rose spun his car into the infield in the final lap of last Sunday's modified stock car feature event at Merced Speedway, he thought his first victory in two seasons had disappeared.
Not so. Track officials called a penalty. They saw Bill Egleston's car tap Rose's.
Egleston, of Atwater, who thought HE won his first race of the season, was set back to second place and Rose, from Los Banos, was declared winner.
"I told Bill he did a great job. I thought he won the race," Rose said. "I slowed in the turns because my car had a broken ball joint; I was trying to hold my position and drive the same line."
Then officials broke the news to the two drivers.
Egleston wasn't happy.
"I didn't mean to spin him out. I just tapped him. That's racing as far as I'm concerned," Egleston said. "I don't intentionally hit anyone - that's not how I race."
Just like on the street, a rear-end collision is seldom the fault of the car in front. The officials felt a pass using a different line (position of the car on the track) would have been the prudent thing to do.
"My car was skating a bit," Rose said. "I was fighting for that win. That's why we all race -- to win."
The frustration for Egleston is that he has a top running car, but the checkered flag has eluded him week after week.
"Second place might as well be last place, because it's not a win," Egleston said.
For Eric Rose, Karl's brother and Merced businessman who owns a stable of cars, that call meant a lot. As in other sports, the official's call may not be popular, but it is final.
"I'm impressed that the call was made," Eric Rose said. "We had not been regulars at Merced Speedway, but knowing there is officiating without bias means we'll be back this Sunday, and more cars are likely to show up."
Egleston will be there, too.
"I talked to my team," Egleston said. "What came out of this race? We decided we're coming back to win. The last time I had a call that did not go my way, I came back and won five in a row."
Look for a showdown on Sunday, when the modifieds again headline the Merced Speedway show.
"We're putting in the gears on our second car. We'll have at least three cars there," Eric Rose said.
Vance Beltran of Los Banos will drive the other Rose modified, and the Rose family will also bring a Four Banger to the track.
Joining the modifieds Sunday at Merced Speedway will be Super Street Stock, Hobby Stock, Sport Modifieds, Dwarf cars and Four Bangers in complete programs of qualifying heats and main events. In addition, Wingless Sprint cars return to the speedway for the first time this month.
Gates open at 5 p.m. on Sunday. Racing begins at 6. Admission is $10 for adults, $7 for children and $8 for senior citizens. A family four-pack of tickets is $28. Merced Speedway is located in the Merced County Fairgrounds, 900 Martin Luther King, Jr. Way in Merced.
The number of race cars in the pits keeps on growing at Merced Speedway, with 50 drivers in attendance last Sunday. ... The modified division feature started 13 cars --- with top runners Paul Stone, Troy Foulger and Robby Jeppesen rounding out the top five at the finish. ... Legendary Larry Damitz, 83 years old, won the Super Street Stock main event over his perennial rival Fred Ryland. ... Los Banos was well represented as Harley Turner was victorious in the Sport Modified feature event. ... Bubba Nelson brought home the Hobby Stock main event, with musician Chris Falkenberg and school teacher Kristie Shearer chasing him to the finish line. ... It was a big win for Josh Strickland in the Four Banger division. Strickland's dad, who was his crew chief, passed away earlier this season. Alex Odishoo was second. Teen star Nastasia Dodd crashed in the feature. ... Tim Prothro won in the Valley Sportsman Division.