Merced Speedway's addition of International Motor Contest Association (IMCA) Modified Stock Cars to the season opening "World of Outlaws" sprint car event in March came as a welcome surprise last week. Now, a "challenge series" has local racers excited about the upcoming season.
The cars, simply known as "modifieds" to the locals, are considered Merced's preferred racecar. This season, Merced Speedway's rules will be in line with tracks running IMCA rules throughout the U.S., but more importantly with its closest competitor -- Kings Speedway in Hanford.
Competition will be heightened by the Central Valley Modified Clash, which pits the IMCA modified divisions at both tracks against each other.
Through off-season negotiations, Merced Speedway General Manager Doug Williams not only worked out a non-conflicting Saturday night schedule with Kings Speedway manager Scott Woodhouse, but also actually developed the challenge series between the two tracks.
The IMCA modifieds will have four races -- two at each track -- as part of the 2013 Central Valley Clash. There will be a point fund for the four-race series to see which track's modified drivers fare the best in racing at the two very different racetracks.
"It's definitely going to be an exciting season," said Merced's Eric Rose. "With a level playing field because of IMCA rules across the board, the drivers and fans are going to benefit. Starting with the World of Outlaws, then following with the clash, we will have fun this year."
Eric owns an IMCA modified and has Vance Beltran of Atwater driving for him.
Eric's dad, Tom Rose, also has a modified that Eric's brother Karl drives.
"Having the modifieds with the World of Outlaws Sprint Cars will put local racing on a national stage," Tom Rose said. "When we raced in the same program two years ago, it was one of our best races ever -- and Karl finished third in front of a packed grandstand of fans from everywhere."
Karl Rose finished third to Chowchilla's Alex Stanford and Bobby Hogge IV of Salinas, considered to be two of the top drivers in the West. Both are expected to race in the event this year.
Last weekend, Tom Rose was busy working on his car in a meticulous one-car garage attached to his modest Merced home. He professed his love for the modified division. His plan is to race locally and then compete in the mecca for IMCA racers -- the Supernationals in Boone, Iowa, this September.
"It fits us well," he explained. "Modifieds are still easy to work on -- we can fabricate everything we need and be competitive under IMCA rules."
Both Tom and Karl Rose are precision sheet metal fabricators by trade. Karl Rose builds satellites for the space program. Eric Rose's specialty is automotive wiring.
The Roses even build their own racing engines. An engine is installed in a purchased chassis, for which they fabricate a hand-made car body.
The Rose Family's local competition will come from modified champion Bill Egleston of Atwater and Derek Colvin of Merced, as well as others.
"Racing in front of the World of Outlaws crowd and having IMCA rules this season is like a dream come true," proclaimed Egleston. "I'm finishing one car this week, and I'm building a second car."
Colvin will drive for Merced Businessman Dale Ferriera.
"We're putting the engine and the car together for the upcoming season," said Ferriera. "With uniform rules, big events, a challenge series, and Saturday night racing it should be a great year for Merced."
Ferriera isn't thinking of racing at other tracks.
"I support Merced," he said. "I support my local track. I want to see it do well."
The World of Outlaws Sprint Car show with IMCA modifieds takes place on Friday night, March 29. Reserved tickets for the season opening event are on sale for $40 on the World of Outlaws website, woosprint.com. General admission tickets will be sold the night of the event until sold out. Adult general admission is $35 and general admission for children is $15.
The Merced Speedway schedule is now complete. The track will have stock car racing on Saturday nights after the Friday, March 29 World of Outlaws event through the season closing "Delta Series" for "open" modified stock cars on September 28.
Included this year will be King of the West Sprint Car Races and special events during the Merced County Fair.