By Mike Adaskaveg
His car’s fuel pump was failing. The brakes were fading. Yet, Chowchilla’s Rick Diaz was able to give Fred Ryland of Brentwood a side-by-side battle all the way to the checkered flag Sunday night in the IMCA SportMod feature at Chowchilla Speedway.
Saturday night at Merced Speedway, the battle will continue.
Ryland, who is ranked second in the IMCA’s nationwide point system, has made no secret about going for the national championship. Diaz, who will be defending his Merced Speedway championship, wants to stop Ryland in his tracks.
“Every point counts – especially for the track championship,” Diaz said this week. “We had a bad start in January, and we need the wins.”
Diaz showed how strong his desire to win was on Sunday at the Chowchilla race.
“First it was the fuel pump, then the brakes,” he explained.
Yet, he still managed to stay side by side with Ryland for most of the 30-lap feature.
“I couldn’t get down low on the track because of my car’s situation,” he reasoned. “So I just drove as fast as I could in the top groove, and let the momentum keep my car alongside of his (Ryland’s).”
Ryland, who now has three straight IMCA SportMod victories in the young season, maintained his line throughout the entire race.
“He (Diaz) only had the momentum to pass me in the second turn,” he said. “So I held my line down low. I knew he couldn’t run well down there. That’s what gave me the advantage.”
Coming off of his rookie year, Chris Falkenberg of Turlock turned in an impressive run to take third in front of Chowchilla’s John Fore, Jr. Mark Squadrito of Manteca finished fifth in the 18 car field.
Vogt Coming Back
Santa Maria’s Josh Vogt ran so well Sunday at Chowchilla Speedway, he said he will be coming back to race the Valley drivers in the IMCA modified division this Saturday night at Merced Speedway.
“It should be fun racing against the drivers there,” Vogt said. “I love the competition. There should be a good field of cars.”
Vogt is the reigning track champion at Chowchilla Speedway. His only challenge Sunday came from Billy Wilker of Reedley. Wilker ran high on the track, relinquishing the bottom groove to Vogt.
“Only Josh can run the bottom like that,” Wilker explained. “I‘m better on the high groove.”
Chowchilla’s Jeff Streeter finished third, followed by Ray Mayer of Bass Lake and Michael Shearer of Los Banos.
Hobby Stocks and Mini Stocks
Kevin Joaquin of Sonora raced his hobby stock to victory over Austin Van Hoff of Chowchilla. Both drivers are expected to race at Merced Speedway Saturday night.
In the Mini-Stock division, the field was told the run the track in the opposite direction. Darren Miguel of Merced topped Brian Widdowson Denair. Merced’s Joy Alger was third.
Saturday Night at Merced Speedway
The start of the weekly racing season begins at Merced Speedway Saturday night at 7 p.m. The new tri-track schedule has Antioch Speedway running sprint cars on the same night, meaning Merced Speedway should have a larger field of IMCA Modified and SportMod drivers. Chowchilla Speedway is on a monthly schedule.
Merced Speedway is located within the Merced County Fairgrounds, 900 Martin Luther King Way in Merced. The grandstand will open at 5 p.m. Admission is $12 for adults, $10 for senior citizens and $5 for children. A family four pack of tickets is $30.