Hunt Wingless Spec Sprints make lone Merced Speedway appearance
By Don Martin II
Merced Speedway will be coming off of the one-week break following the successful Fourth of July weekend special. This Saturday”s offering will include the Hunt Wingless Spec Sprint Series. The IMCA Sport Modifieds will be there along with the Hobby Stocks and the California Sharp Mini Late Models.
In the years that followed the successful launching of the Wingless Spec Sprint division at Antioch Speedway in 1999, there were attempts to bring all of the racers together in one special series. About 10 years ago, it finally happened with the formation of the Hunt Wingless Spec Sprint Series. These are Sprint Cars that run 360 cubic inch cast iron motors, which has made it possible for racers who might other not race Sprint Cars to do it on a reasonable budget. Prior to the Spec Sprint division launching, Merced Speedway had a decade-plus run with their own Winged Limited Sprint/Cal Mod effort.
The Hunt Series generally brings anywhere between 15 and 25 cars on any given weekend. Jake Morgan got off to a strong start with a pair of victories. Reigning champion Shawn Jones stopped Morgan’s win streak at two, but Morgan finished second behind Jones at the recent event in Stockton. This has enabled Morgan to maintain a 603-597 lead in a very close point battle. Scott Chapetta currently holds third in the standings 545-540 in another good race with last season’s championship runner-up, Troy Degaton. Boy Moniz is only 10 points behind Degaton and leads Alan Miranda in a closer battle for fifth, 530-526.
Dwarf Car fans are familiar with Jones. He’s won championships with both the South Bay and Nor Cal Dwarf Car groups and has won several big Dwarf Car Nationals events. Over the past few seasons, he had been competing occasionally in the Spec Sprint division, but he set his sights on the Hunt Series title last year and emerged victorious. Some of the other stars of the group to watch for this Saturday night include three-time series champion Terry Schank Jr, Tim Sherman Jr,, Cody Fendley, Angelique Bell and Cody Spencer.
The IMCA Sport Modified point race is being led by past champion Fred Ryland following his win on Fourth of July weekend. Ryland has five Top 5 efforts so far, which gives him a 10 point advantage over two-time winner Kelly Wilkinson. These two seem to be pulling away from the rest of the pack just a bit, while State point leader Guy Ahlwardt runs third, 25 points back and 11 ahead of Patti Ryland.
The Sport Modified division has been very competitive this year with four winners in five races. Some of the drivers looking for their first win this weekend include Nick Tucker, 2018 point runner-up Danny Roe, Chuck Weir, reigning champion Jeremy Hoff and Tanner Thomas.
The Hobby Stock battle has gotten just a bit closer following the most recent event. 2016 champion Michael Shearer recently picked up his sixth Top 5 finish in six races, moving him to within eight points of leader Shannon Nelson. Nelson hasn’t finished outside of the Top 10 so far and has two wins to her credit, while Shearer is still looking for a victory.
Rookie Allen Neal is holding on to third in the standings. The reigning Mini Stock champion leads Donnie Shearer by 11 points and Austin Van Hoff by 17. The season has been a mixed bag for Van Hoff, who only has one Top 5 finish so far. He’ll be looking for the win this week, and other drivers to watch for include Timmy Crews, Kristie Shearer, Race Shelton and multi-time champion Raul Rodriguez Sr.
This is the third season for the Mini Late Model class, which was brought to the speedway as a way to bring new racers up from the Outlaw Karts. These scaled-down versions of Late Models run 600cc motors. The driver to beat continues to be reigning champion Timmy Crews. Crews has won four of the five races so far, giving him a 23 point advantage over Logan Clay. Though Clay has all Top 5 finishes, he is still looking for his first win. He is 11 points in front of Riley Jeppesen in a closer battle for second. These three drivers run strong, and other drivers to watch for this week include rookie competitors Kaylin Lopez, Jeremiah Enriquez and Kennzzie Brown along with Ian Shearer and Carson Guthrie.
The Hunt Wingless Spec Sprint Series puts on a good show everywhere they go, and Saturday night should be no exception. It’s a four-division lineup that definitely offers a nice variety for the fans to enjoy. For further information, go online to: mercedspeedway.net.