Marc Key is back behind the wheel of a hobby stock at Merced Speedway, driving like he hasn’t missed a race in six years.
Actually, he’s missed all the races in the last six years. He had to sell his car back when he and his new bride, Stacie, came up short on the wedding bill.
“Marrying Stacie was more important than racing,” Key said. “But, that was just the beginning.”
Family is always more important to Key. Daughter Kylie was born a year later. Then came son Cameron, 3.
“It was a long wait to return to racing, but well worth it,” he said. “Raising a young family is fun. Now, the children are old enough to go to the track – and they want to race.
“I waited quite a long time for this – to have my kids cheering for me in the stands.”
For Key, a pipefitter by trade, racing has become a pastime. Even though he won two feature events this season, and was disqualified for his car being underweight after another win, Key finds racing more relaxing than it used to be.
“We used to get wrapped up in accumulating points for the championship,” he explained. “We had a brutal race schedule. Both my dad, Ray, and my brother, Rick, had cars. We were a team. It was a career back then.”
The Key family ancestry was all about racing. When Marc was a child, his grandfather and four uncles raced at Merced Speedway. One uncle, Tom, won the Ted Stoffle Classic.
Now, Ray is the one-man pit crew for his son. They bought a new Johnson stock car.
“We wanted a car that would run well everywhere – that was adaptable,” Key explains. “Now it’s about traveling with the family – maybe going camping – and racing. We’re focused on fun.”
The future generation is all about racing, too. Cameron and Kylie are showing an interest in the stock car. They help wash it.
“Hopefully, they will join me on the track, rather than replace me,” he said. “I don’t ever want to give up driving a race car. I’d love it even more if we raced together.”
Five-division show on tap
Antioch Speedway Limited Late Model division drivers Jim Freethy, Mike Learn and Fred Ryland will be invading Merced Speedway for Saturday night’s Super Stock challenge. The drivers are in pursuit of Merced regular Roy Hart from Dos Palos, who won the last two challenges. Learn is on a three-race win streak in Antioch.
Hotly contested points battles will continue in both the International Motor Contest Association (IMCA) SportMod division and the Hobby Stock division.
Ramie Stone of Winton leads 46 drivers who have raced in the IMCA SportMod division at the speedway this season. Chowchilla’s Rick Diaz is 15 points behind.
In the Hobby Stock division, the battle between Merced’s Raul Rodriguez and Kristie Shearer of Los Banos continues. Shearer is four points behind.
Mini-Stocks and Dwarf Cars will also be part of the program. Chris Corder of Modesto leads Mariposa’s Ronnie Cole by 13 points in the Mini Stock division.
Merced Speedway is inside 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 of tickets admits two children and two adults for $30.
Racing begins at 7 p.m. The grandstand opens at 5.