A rookie champion, a first time champion and three repeat champions were honored at Merced Speedway's 2012 Awards Banquet last Saturday night at DiCicco's Italian Restaurant in Merced.
Bill Egleston was crowned champ in the speedway's premier division, the "Modified" stock cars. Egleston, of Atwater, said he was dedicated to wholeheartedly race at the local speedway this year.
"It was a lot of hard work for my crew to make every event, but it paid off," Egleston said. "I came within a few points in previous seasons and knew there would have to be extra effort if I wanted to be champ."
Egleston has raced for six seasons, and was a former "Rookie of the Year" at the speedway.
Merced's Alex Odishoo ran all the way home in his first season competing in the track's four-cylinder "Mini-Stock" division. His record included winning four main events, and finishing second and third four times each. He also won the Merced Fair race in June.
Odishoo will move up to the track's "SportMod" division, which is sanctioned this season by the International Motor Contest Association (IMCA).
"The athlete inside me wants more of a challenge," Odishoo explained. "I want to step up a division to test myself."
Odishoo will have to face tough competition in the "SportMod" division from Andy Welch, who won three main events and had six second and third place finishes in route to being crowned champion.
Veteran driver Andy Welch of Merced, a champion at the speedway in 1994, took seven years off before returning to the cockpit in 2012, and grabbing the "SportMod" championship.
"The season was unbelievable. I never expected to be champion. I really like this new division. I had fun, and won. I'll be back for more," he said.
For Chowchilla High School senior Christian Hickman, a two-year reign as king in the wingless sprint car division will come to a halt, as he will travel to compete in the Bay Cities Racing Association (BCRA) next year. The BCRA conducts open wheeled midget car racing throughout the state.
"Being the Merced Speedway champ for two seasons in a row has given me the confidence to move upward in the sport," He said. "It was uplifting for me, a newcomer, to be able to race side by side with veteran drivers and win."
Valley Sportsman champ Mike Hausmann, a local businessman, isn't about to leave Merced Speedway. Scoring a hat trick -- three championships in three straight seasons -- is special to him since his No. 1 competitor is his son, Shane.
"If Shane didn't pop a motor in the last race, I wouldn't be the champion," he laughed. "I guess we will have to blame the guys who take care of his engine."
The Hausmanns work on each other's engines and share the same crew.
Doug Williams of Merced, the new promoter of Merced Speedway, introduced new track announcer Patrick Bradley at the awards banquet. ... Williams also announced race directors for the season would be Doug Lockwood and Kevin Vaught, who will observe proceedings from the announcer's booth. ... Merced Speedway's 2013 schedule is being finalized by Oval Motorsports president John Soares and will be released next week.