Merced Speedway honors 2012 track Champion Bill Egleston on Saturday night with the re-scheduled memorial race that was rained out in March. Egleston, of Atwater, was killed while racing at Perris Auto Speedway in Southern California the second week of January. The race purse has increased since March, with $4015 being awarded to the winner of the IMCA modified feature. A contingent of cars and drivers are expected to attend in honor of personable driver. The Speedway will begin its program an hour earlier in anticipation of the large field of competitors.
“Friends are donating money and prizes to make this race a happy race – something fun, something Bill would have looked forward to,” says his widow, Maria Egleston. “Bill’s motto was ‘lets go have some fun’ and that is what everyone should do at his race.”
From an idea at the beginning of March, the event has grown into one of the most significant races in the Fairgrounds oval’s history. Egleston’s crew member, Mat Wood, approached speedway owner Ed Parker asking that opening night be a memorial race to honor the well-known driver.
“Ed (Parker) was on board with the idea,” says Wood. “We put the word out on social media that Bill would be remembered with a special event – and it took off from there.”
Egleston’s other crewman, Mike Aldrich, immediately donated $1,000 to the purse. It started a snowball effect, as the two men worked together to raise funds for the race. Friends and fans of Egleston pledged money to increase the race’s purse.
Early this week, the winner’s share grew to $4,015. Now donations of expensive racing fuel and $100 gift certificates for gasoline added as bonuses that drivers could win.
“Drivers from Arizona to Oregon and across California said they are coming to honor Bill,” says Aldrich. “It could be thebiggest IMCA modified race of the year in California.”
With the blessing of Bill’s wife Maria Egleston, Aldrich will drive her husband’s back-up car in the race. The car will be wrapped in a special motif to honor its owner. Wood will take the wheel of the Egleston late model stock car, numbered 15 with wings on the number. The late model car will pace the field of modifieds.
“Both Mat (Wood) and Mike (Aldrich) always said that Bill was like a father to them,” Maria Egleston says. “They initiated this race out of respect for Bill. It warms my heart that they feel this way about Bill. I’m very proud of them.”
At Merced Speedway, Parker and his crew have toiled all week to dry out the clay track after last week’s storm. His team was also preparing the facility for the expected large crowd.
“The outpouring of support for this race is a testament to Bill Egleston’s respect for all racers and the friendships he made throughout his career,” says Parker. “He touched the lives of many people – on and off the race track.”
Saturday night at Merced Speedway
Five divisions of racing will all see increased purses as Bill Egleston is honored on opening night. The IMCA Modified ($4015 to win), IMCA SportMod ($1815 to win) Hobby Stock ($1215 to win), Mini-Stock and Dwarf Car divisions will each have a complete program of qualifying races for cars to compete in feature events.
The speedway’s pit area will open at 1 p.m. The grandstand gates will open at 4 p.m. Cars will be on the track at 5 p.m., with racing beginning at 6 p.m. Admission is $12 for adults, $10.00 for military and students with school ID, $5 for children 6-12 years old. Children under 6 years old are free. A family four-pack of ticket is $30.