By Mike Adaskaveg
When it comes to being a winning stock car driver, Darren Miguel calls himself a “late bloomer.” Miguel, from Ballico, is riding high on his rookie season success at Merced Speedway.
Saturday night, Miguel will leave his day job in almond processing far behind when he dons a fire suit and helmet to hop into his ’94 Acura Integra at the quarter-mile clay track.
“I always wanted to drive a race car, but never had the opportunity,” Miguel, 28, explains. It was his cousin, Josh Hensley, who gave him a shot at being behind the wheel late last season.
“Once I strapped in, I was hooked,” Miguel says. “I bought the Integra, stripped it down over the winter and made it into s race car.”
Miguel is racing and winning in the highly competitive Mini-Stock Division at the speedway. It is an entry-level class of compact four-cylinder powered cars affordable to just about anyone who wants to try racing.
Hensley and Miguel’s cars carry the number “86”, a number which has been in the family for three generations of Merced Speedway racers.
“Having that number is a legacy for our family,” Miguel points out. “It is the number that gives us luck.”
Miguel is riding second in the point tally that determines the track champion. He’s just eight points behind Modesto’s Chris Corder, a veteran Mini-Stock driver.
“Even though we are rivals for the Mini Stock championship, we talk on the phone a couple of times a week,” Miguel says. “He offers me advice – he knows I am new to the sport.”
Miguel has a crew comprised of family members helping him work on the car during the week and performing pit duties at the track. In the stands are his brothers, sisters and cousins to cheer him on.
“I look forward to Saturday night,” Miguel says. “It is exciting to race and hear the cheers of the crowd. I can’t thank my family enough for their help and for their support.”
When Hensley moved up from the Hobby Stock division to the IMCA Sport mod division this season, it opened up a second opportunity for Miguel. He put an exclamation point on his rookie season when he jumped into Hensley’s Hobby Stock car and won the feature on the his first night out.
“I’ll be driving the Hobby Stock again,” Miguel adds. “And, I’ll be definitely chasing the championship in the Mini-Stock Division.
Two Classes of IMCA Racing Saturday Night
The International Motor Contest Association (IMCA) Modified and Sport Mod classes will headline Saturday night’s program at Merced Speedway.
The Northern All Star Limited Late Model Stock Car division will visit Merced to continue the challenge between the drivers of Antioch Speedway and Merced Speedway. Along with the other three classes of cars, the Hobby Stock and Mini Stock divisions will each compete in a complete program of qualification races and a feature event.
Merced Speedway is located inside the Merced County Fairgrounds; 900 Martin Luther King, Jr. Way in Merced, Calif. Admission is $12 for adults, $10 for senior citizens and $8 for children 6-12. A family four-pack of tickets admits two children and two adults for $32.
Racing begins at 7 p.m. The grandstand opens at 5 p.m.