Merced Speedway owner and promoter Ed Parker died on Tuesday morning. According to his family, Parker suffered a heart attack. He was 51 years old.
“I had just talked to him the night before for about 15 minutes about the track,” said Ryan Porter, who races as the Merced Speedway. “When I heard the news my heart dropped. I literally didn’t believe it because I had talked to him less than 12 hours ago. It was pretty devastating news.”
Parker purchased the Merced Speedway in 2016. Local drivers were excited for Parker to take over the race track because it put the track back in the hands of someone from Merced and a former driver.
“He brought personality to the track,” said Ramie Stone, who has been racing at the track for more than 20 years. “Ed talked to people and people could talk to him. Ed wasn’t in it for the money. He was in it for his family. He was in it so the race track wouldn’t die.”
Away from the track, Parker worked full time as a sales engineer for P & F Metals, a general engineering and mechanical contractor based in Turlock.
As a promoter, Parker excelled in getting drivers to come to Merced to race. According to those around him, Parker knew that he was new to racing. So he traveled to other racing venues to learn what he could. He wanted to see how other tracks were able to draw more drivers and fans. He tried to bring some of those ideas back to Merced.
“He was a sales person at heart,” Stone said. “I cherished the moments I had with him. He was a kind-hearted gentleman. He was tough at times, but he helped everyone he could.”
Drivers say one of Parker’s strengths was he listened to drivers.
“Every Saturday night, either before or after the races, Ed would talk to drivers,” Porter said. “He’d ask how was everything? How can we improve? The key was we could give our input because he was a former racer.”
Mike Shearer has been racing at the Merced Speedway for years. He says Parker was always open to ideas.
“Ed gave me a lot of opportunities the last few years that I wouldn’t have gotten if it wasn’t for him,” Shearer said. “I wanted to bring a class of cars (mini late models) from back east. When I told him about it, he was on board. He asked what he could do. I had his full support.”
When Shearer wanted to open a business and sell parts at the track, Parker gave his blessing.
The number of drivers competing each week in Merced increased during Parker’s time as owner and promoter.
“He completely turned the place around,” Porter said. “There were cars traveling from two to three hours away to race at the track. He pumped up the number of cars in each division. We went from eight to 10 in the modified division to 18 to 22 cars every night.
“He talked to a lot of people. He did a lot of talking on Facebook. He would travel to other tracks. He kept putting up more money for the winners. When you put up more money more drivers are going to show up.”
Parker was survived by his wife Patricia and son Cody.
There will be a Celebration of Life on Friday, July 6, at the Fairgrounds at 11 a.m.
There were no races scheduled this week at the Merced Speedway. The Timmy Post Memorial with a free firework show is still scheduled for Saturday, June 30.