Bill Flegel, the newest stock car racer heading to the Merritt Speedway from Clearwater, stands by his 1983 Buick Regal, which he said is still a work in progress but is nearly ready to hit the track when racing starts in May. Photo by Jaime Polmateer

New racer drives into the fold

Bill Flegel puts finishing touches on car before season starts

Clearwater has a new stock car racer for the 2019 race season, and despite his recent entrance to the sport, he also happens to have the most experience behind the wheel.

After watching the local drivers at the Merritt Speedway last summer, Bill Flegel decided to spend the winter in the garage building a car so he could get back on the track after nearly two decades.

“I’ve always wanted to get back into it and then just going down to Merritt, watching Rusty and getting involved with his crew, that’s what got me going,” said Flegel, referring to Rusty Clark, whose son Kayden entered the sport late last year and saw a good deal of success on the track.

“My three sons really like it and they’ve been a big help with it too.”

Clearwater youth tear up the track in Merritt

Flegel said he drove to the Speedway in a 1983 Buick Regal last year to watch one of the races and was so inspired by the event that the following weekend the car was in the shop being gutted for modifications.

This year he’ll be drawing on his past experience, which goes back roughly 18 years when he raced bomber class and tried to get a mini stock class going locally.

“I did not bad (back then), had a few wins, nothing spectacular, but a few wins here and there,” Flegel said.

“We built a couple of cars back then too and tried to get a mini stock class going; Rusty and I worked on some mini cars and I had a little race track in the back yard and kind of went from there.”

There might be a stretch of years since he’s been on the track, but Flegel said he’s still confident he can give his competitors a run for their money.

In fact, it’s not even the actual racing that’s causing him the most uncertainty when anticipating the season ahead.

“I’m pretty pumped and quite excited; I think I’m more nervous doing time trials than the actual racing itself,” he said with a laugh.

“I have to see if I can keep up with them young fellas, but I’m pretty confident and I think I’ll do a good job—I’ll give them a run for the points I hope.”

The first race weekend takes place at the Merritt Speedway on May 18 and 19—keep an eye on future editions of the Times for more on local racers.

Flegel added he’d like to give a nod to his sponsors and others who’ve lent a hand, which include Clearwater Towing, DD Garage Bar and Grill, Fleet West Enterprise, Rusty Clark and team #10, Paint by Dakota Flegel, Ryan and Greg Sorrenson and a thanks to Bruce Clark, Dane and Dayton Flegel, and all the others that helped and swapped parts.

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