Stock car driver Rick Diaz is a man on many missions.
He’s second in points – nationally – and wants to win the International Motor Contest Association (IMCA) SportMod title. His rival, Nick Spainhoward of Bakersfield, now races at Merced Speedway just to battle him one-on-one.
Diaz is battling the speedway’s legendary multiple champion Ramie Stone for this season’s track crown. He’s one point behind Stone going into this weekend’s race.
Diaz also wants to win the California state title in the SportMod division.
All those missions pale in comparison to his main mission: Diaz has dedicated his racing endeavor to bringing about a cure for cancer.
Diaz’s racing career was put on hold last year after the birth of his daughter, Ellie. At just more than a month old, she was diagnosed with neuroblastoma. He and his wife, Farren, missed work to care for their baby – driving to UCSF in San Francisco and to Valley Children’s Hospital in Fresno for treatments.
The racing community came to their aid.
“There were fundraisers and donations that helped us through it,” Diaz explained.
Diaz found out about “Racing for a Cure” and said it directly helped Ellie and other children with cancer. Now, after three surgeries and treatment, Ellie is in remission.
When the new season began, Chowchilla car owner Randy Brown gave Diaz, who could not afford his own race car, a ride. A season ago, Diaz tried out as a driver for Brown, and won a feature from the 12th position. Brown agreed to carry the “Racing for a Cure” message on the car.
The message has been in the forefront of local racing. Diaz and Brown have eight wins. That has also given them increased fame in the national IMCA ranks, which is usually dominated by Eastern drivers.
“We have a good shot,” Diaz said of the national championship. “It has now become our goal.”
The national spotlight is on Merced Speedway. Diaz’s rival, Spainhoward, now holds a narrow lead in the points race. Stone, of Winton, topped Diaz in the track championship battle by a point after the Merced County Fair races last week.
Diaz’s favorite car was badly damaged in a Watsonville crash last week. He’s now in a backup car, while his damaged car is being transported to Arkansas to be fixed. Taking the championship battles seriously, purchase a second car, and have both returned to his shop in July.
“It will be a battle to the end, no matter what,” Diaz said. “I’m just thankful for everything.”
Tonight’s program – Merced Speedway will feature the IMCA SportMods and a special showdown between Antioch Speedway’s Limited Late Model racers and Merced’s Super Stock division. Mini Stocks and Dwarf cars will also be featured.
Merced Speedway is located on the Merced County Fairgrounds, 900 Martin Luther King Jr. Way in Merced. Admission is $12 for adults, $10 for senior citizens and $5 for children 6-12. A family four-pack admits two children and two adults for $30.
Racing begins at 7 p.m. The grandstand opens at 5 p.m.