Marysville Raceway Park
Official Press Release
For release on or after 8.11.14
By Bob Burbach
Sprint Cars slug it out Saturday at MRP!
Marysville- The summer break is over and it’s time to put it all on the line as the 2014 season quickly begins to wind down. MRP’s premiere series, the mighty MRP Winged 360 Sprint Cars, will top the card this Saturday night at Paul and Kathy Hawes’ Marysville Raceway Park. It will be the annual Merle Shepherd Memorial Race. The wingless warriors of the MRP Wingless Sprint Car Series, the MRP Mini Stocks and the Pro 4 Sprint Cars are also included in the four division show.
Much of this week’s racing press has dealt with the winged sprint car tragedy in upstate New York involving former NASCAR and USAC champion driver Tony Stewart of Indiana. As tragic as all of this is, sprint car racing remains one of the best ways to either get to the top of the profession or hone your skills once you get there. This observer, even after some forty five years of involvement in racing remains stunned and saddened by the events of last weekend.
But, note this. The truth be told, sprint car racing, though fast and furious with incredible high flying flips and crashes is also one of the safest forms of motorsport. The last decade has produced safety devices that make the driver of a sprint car virtually bullet-proof when these devices are properly installed and used. If a driver remains inside his cockpit until rescuers arrive and take control at an accident scene, an incident like the one that occurred last weekend in New York could not happen.
Other NASCAR and IndyCar stars, like Tony Stewart, have also gone through or continue to race in the sprint car ranks on the way to or while at the top of the sport. Bay Area native Jeff Gordon, Seattle’s Kasey Kahne, Elk Grove’s Kyle Larson, Missouri’s Dave Blaney, Michigan’s Ryan Newman, Arizona’s J.J. Yeley and last year’s NASCAR Rookie of the Year Ricky Stenhouse, from Indiana are all sprint car stars that now race at the sport’s top level. Blaney is a World of Outlaws sprint car champion and Yeley, along with Stewart are former United States Auto Club (or USAC) sprint car champions. Kahne, Larson, Yeley, Stenhouse and Stewart still saddle up with some frequency in local sprint car competition around the country. Kahne and Larson, as a matter of fact, have been victorious at MRP in recent years past.
The volatile and challenging MRP Winged 360 sprint cars will be the headliner Saturday night. The struggle at the top of the MRP Winged 360 Sprint Car Series remains unsettled as does the run for the title in the MRP Wingless Sprint Car Series. This is also particularly true in the MRP Mini Stock class.
The only real runaway in this week’s four-class offering is local lady racing star Misty Castleberry’s incredible grip in the Pro 4 Sprint Car division. She still leads by an almost insurmountable margin.
Championship point leader John Michael Bunch of Paradise will look to extend his lead on fellow drivers Peter Paulson of Woodland and rookie star Jeremy Hawes of Marysville in the MRP Winged 360 Sprint Car Series. It’s a 3-horse race now as the last 3 races in the series unfold. The intensity is becoming electric; at 100+ mph.
Bunch is a charger and is still the driver to beat. After an early season dominance of the class that featured a pair of feature event wins and severalup-front finishes, Bunch has had his challenges and crashes lately. But, with his early successes came valuable points that he has started to give back as Paulson and Hawes get closer each week with solid finishes.
Yuba City’s Kevin Lovell is fourth in the standings, but a couple of hard wrecks and just plain bad luck looks to have taken Lovell out of the hunt. He still holds a stake in the game mathematically, but he’s going to need some help from lady-luck and a trip or two to victory lane to really get back in it.
Three time champion, Kelseyville’s Brent Dothage, will be back this Saturday as will be MRP’s own “5-time” champion Korey Lovell of Yuba City. Lovell has 38 victories in his career at MRP. Dothage and Lovell posted victories earlier this season. Dothage has 34 feature wins.
Marysville’s Performance Auto Supply team with veteran drivers Cort and Brandon Dozier will have a great shot at bringing home yet another victory. Brandon has won this year and has been very quick in his last few outings. Cort Dozier posted a quick time two weeks ago and he, too, is due for a trip to victory lane.
Lady sprint car star, Orland’s Reyna Krueger, is expected and is a 4 time winner in the winged sprint cars, She has been a factor every time out this year though her appearances have been limited.
Oroville’s Heath Hall won the Dozier Classic three weeks ago and smoked the field again last time out. He is the fastest driver out at MRP at this juncture. He has also gained an incredibly loyal fan base at MRP. What truly would have been a serious run at the title was side-tracked by a brief, but difficult health issue. Hall missed one race and the points he might have gained. Hall has been a remarkable presence in the division this season and will be one to watch Saturday.
The return of the “Colfax Comet”, Colby Wiesz, is always a factor. Wiesz has won fifty four feature events at MRP. This is far and away the record in open wheel racing at the Raceway. Wiesz pressed Hall all the way to the checkers last time out. Wiesz, who no longer competes for championships at any California raceway, showed up two weeks ago and said he’ll be at MRP Saturday.
A rejuvenated former champion, Mike Monahan, out of Sparks Nevada is just itching for a return trip to victory lane. Monahan has been very quick lately after a sluggish start to 2014. He is winless in ten tries at MRP this year. Watch for Monahan to be in the hunt Saturday.
In addition to the $1000 in cash for the feature event winner the Contingency Connection Bonus program will offer some $1100 in additional bonuses to the winner.
The wild gyrations of the MRP Wingless Sprint Cars will also be offered as Sacramento’s Tim Sherman Jr. looks for his first ever title in any series. Former champion Grass Valley’s Brett Youngman and Marysville’s own Josh Vieira will keep Jr. honest in this division. Both Vieira and Youngman have won this season as this class will battle in the first of four races left in their season.
The MRP Mini Stocks will return with a three way rumble going on at the top. Yuba City’s Jimmy Ford has but a four point advantage on rival Yuba City driver Kyle Davey. Linda’s James Foster is only twelve points off the pace. Davey is expected back after a wicked crash two weeks ago that rocked the young charger. All three drivers are looking for their first titles
There is a 50 point turn around on points available in any racing weekend in every class, so this one is far from over.
Castleberry will lead the Pro 4 contingent when they resume competition Saturday. Colusa’s Tim Maclaughlin, a five time champion in the division will test Castleberry all the way.
The traditional Checkered Flag Lap will be taken remembering Merle Shepherd. Shepherd is the only driver ever killed in the fifty seven years of racing presented on the property now known as Marysville Raceway Park.
The pit gate opens at 3PM. Grandstands open at 5PM. Hot Laps are at 5:45 with qualifying scheduled for 6:30. Racing begins after qualifying.