Weather looks good! Ladies & gents, start your engines

By Bob Burbach

Marysville –The weather forecast for Saturdays 43rd opening day at MRP has been modified to show a slight chance of a light shower in the afternoon. Even if it happens, the track and pits likely can take that after week long preparations. So, get your machines on the road toward MRP tomorrow. Frankly, a prediction of 72 degrees and partly cloudy with a pleasant, cool evening could be optimum dirt track racing conditions. Race time temperatures should be about 70 degrees with feature event temperatures in the late 60s. The track tends to stay racy and the cars make great horsepower in the cool evening weather. So, let’s go racing!

The MRP championship racing season will get underway on Saturday night with a great 5 division show. The alcohol guzzling 360 Winged Sprint Cars, the Performance Auto Supply Wingless 360 Sprint Cars, the mighty Super Stocks, the MRP Mini Stocks and the Pro 4′ Sprinters will raise the curtain on MRP’s 43rd season. The field of racers will again be the who’s who of northern California dirt track racing. With no other area tracks operating, the pits at MRP will be chocked full of fabulous talent. The pit gate opens at 3pm. The grandstands open at 5pm. Hot lap sessions start at 6pm with the 1st race scheduled to hit the dirt at 6:30pm.

Also, tomorrow, the IHOP Restaurant in Yuba City (Franklin at Hwy 99) will host the annual MRP Race Car Show. This gala event will kick off the professional auto racing spectacular scheduled to start at the track at 6:30 PM. The racecar show will be staged from 11am to 3pm at which time the drivers and cars will head for MRP for opening night. Female MRP Mini Stock star Johnna Hensen is helping with the car show. There will be awards and a raffle during the show.

From 3-29-11: . MRP’s own “FIVE TIME” Korey Lovell will be back for a try at an unprecedented 6th winged sprint car championship. Opening night will bring tough challengers in the winged division where Lovell has enjoyed such extraordinary success. A pair of 3 time champions will be back to test the clay and Lovell at the Simpson Lane speed plant. Colby Wiesz will be back as he seeks to be the first ever 50-time winner in MRP’s long history of winged sprint car racing. Wiesz has 46 victories at MRP in his illustrious career in sprint cars. Lovell is second with 37 feature event wins. Lovell will also be looking for his 3rd championship in a row. This, an accomplishment only Wiesz has been able to achieve. Wiesz was the champ in 1999, 2000 & 2001. Lovell’s first sprint car title came in 1998 after a short stint in modified midgets.

The third 3-time champion cruising into the pits will be hard charger Brent Dothage. Dothage edged out Lovell on a couple of occasions to grab titles, and in his finest year ever, won the title by a healthy margin. Speaking of healthy margins, Lovell didn’t even show up for the final night last year. He had made arrangements to attend a friend’s wedding earlier in the season and wound up clinching the title without having to race on 2010’s final night. Actually, but for the sake of a total of 18 points in 3 other seasons, Lovell could have been an 8 time champion. But, there’s the rub. POINTS. Every one counts. In this division and 4 others we’ll start counting on Saturday. A stellar field of sprint car stars will be on hand at the sparkling clean Marysville Raceway Park.

2004 champ Mike Monahan will be in the field. He beat Lovell by a single point in that title fight; another that Lovell nearly won. 2007 champ Jeremy Burt will make the tow in his new car.

With other facilities dark we can expect great champion drivers like Andy Forsberg, Mike Henry and a host of others to vie for the winner’s share of the purse at MRP.

A slimmed down, more focused Lovell told this observer recently that he would be shooting for the 2011 title, eliminating any rumors that told of his retirement after last season’s dominating championship performance. I think he wants to win more. But it’s the championships that everyone remembers.

All of MRP’s primary divisions will be racing this Saturday, with the exception of the newly formed Hobby Stock class. They will debut a week from Saturday night.

The Performance Auto Supply Wingless Warrior Series will feature returning champion Terry Schank in Roger Gleeson’s bright red hot rod. Schank was just so dominant in the series last year that he not only swept the Wingless Warrior Series, but also claimed the Joe Hunt Magneto Wingless Shootout series title. Schank also took home the hardware from Chico’s wingless series in 2010. He literally won it all. Once again, Schank can expect intense competition coming from such stars as Billy Wallace, local hot shoe Brian Southers and an amped up and ready to go Jeremy Hawes. Scary fast, Hawes may be the one to watch this year.

Moving into promoter Paul Hawes sweet “Flyin’ Ford” will be 2-time mini stock champ Joel Giusti. Giusti has made a quick move into Pro 4 sprint cars with great success…when his car finished. Hawes gave Giusti the ride for 2011 in the ketchup and mustard colored #01. It will be an interesting combination to watch.

2010 Super Stock (used to call ‘em Street Stocks) Champion Corey Hall will be returning to defend his crown. The relentless pursuit of the title will continue for MRP’s most prolific winner over the last 4 seasons, Jeff Olschowka. The “O” Man has done everything in this division except win it. Jeff told this observer that he’s after it again. The “O” Man’s got a ways to go as the Super Stock field continues to grow.

There’s also a serious unknown in this class that must be considered. That is the long awaited return of Jerry Bartlett. Bartlett keeps mumbling about retirement. But, perhaps he’ll have a go at one more title before he hangs up the goggles. So goes the rumor mill anyway.

The ultra competitive Mini Stock class will also debut Saturday and 2-time champion Misty Castleberry is ready for all who would grab the title away from her. Castleberry’s monumental accomplishment of 10 consecutive feature event wins still creates a buzz. Highly motivated competitors within his class include Jimmy Ford, Jason Clayton, Damian and Mike Merritt and a dozen others who have been quick, but not quick enough to dethrone MRP’s own “Blonde Bombshell”.

Speaking of Ketchup and Mustard, 2011 Pro 4 Champ P. J. Petersen will jump into wicked quick Pro 4 out of the Hawes stable. Pro 4’s youngest champ will get the ride in what has been arguably the fastest Pro 4 around. 3-time champ Tim Maclaughlin might just have something to say about the outcome. We’ll see.

The stirring 5-division show will kick off MRP’s 43rd season and the 5th season under the watchful eye of promoter Paul Hawes. It’ll be a rip roarin’ thriller. Don’t miss it.

The pit gate opens at 3pm. The grandstands open at 5pm. Hot lap sessions start at 6pm with the 1st race scheduled to hit the dirt at 6:30pm.

IMPORTANT: 2011 minor releases must be signed by parents for all minors entering the pits. Concessions will be available. All classes of racecar are invited to participate.