By Bob Burbach
Marysville-Marysville Raceway Park hosted another outstanding 5-division show Saturday night for Buttes Insurance Agency’s Night at the Races. The event was punctuated by a runaway performance in the featured MRP Winged Sprint Car class by Brandon Dozier. The race was, however one of the most bizarre events in the modern history of the raceway. Mitch Machado returned to capture his 2nd straight MRP Super Stock feature as Misty Castleberry returned to victory lane in the MRP Mini Stock feature. Tim Maclaughlin won the Pro 4 Sprint Car finale as Jeremy Hawes returned to victory lane in the new Hobby Stock class.
A quality field of championship caliber drivers crammed the pits for MRP’s 3rd Winged Sprint Car show of the young season. The preliminary events went quickly into the books with entertaining, high speed events on the immaculately prepared clay. Andy Forsberg, Cody Lamar, Mason Moore, Jeff Parady, Dozier and Jeremy Phillips all scored heat race victories.
As the night’s proceedings were having a mini-bout with mother nature, promoter Paul Hawes exercised his promoters option and allowed all 24 remaining cars to start the feature event without running a B main. Two aborted starts and a wild flip over the 3rd turn wall by 2009 Rookie of the Year Garry Burdick provided early race action.
By the time the event got rolling, it was apparent that Dozier from his up front start would be hard to beat. As it turned out, he led every lap. But, a remarkable number of minor crashes and spins by some of northern California’s biggest stars kept this feature relegated to a series of 2 and 3 lap segments until things got rolling with 5 to go. The number of on track, minor incidents was so many that, in fact, the race took on an almost bizarre look about it.
In the final laps, as the drivers were finally able to put in some consecutive laps of racing action, fuel became a factor as several front runners chugged to a stop. The final green flag segment provided a runaway drive for the high flying Dozier and a heart stopping, runner-up finish as 5-time champ Korey Lovell and a much-improved Robbie Hight were separated by thousandths at the line. Hight got the nod for 2nd after the electronic scoring loops determined the outcome. Kyle Hirst was 4th at the end with Mason Moore rounding out the top 5. Only 8 of the starting drivers were around at the finish.
It was encouraging to see injured MRP Winged Sprint Car star Mark Michelet in attendance at the raceway for this event. Michelet was badly burned in an accident here just 3 weeks ago and painful skin graft surgery was performed at U. C. Davis shortly after his accident. Mark was in good spirits as he took in the night’s action. Michelet’s remarkably positive attitude through all of this has been an inspiration to all of us at MRP. Also on the mend from burn injuries suffered last week in a freak incident in his stock car, Mike Dehoogh was back at the track once again taking photos of everything that moved. Except for the bandages, and a bit of a hobble, you would never think he’d been injured; another tribute to a positive attitude in a difficult situation. A tip of the straw hat to these two.
Mitch Machado’s rapid run to his 2nd consecutive MRP Super Stock checkered flag capped a very entertaining event. Unlike the sprint car event, the Super Stock tussle was filled with wheel-to-wheel racing and long green flag segments.
Machado had company at the front as a returning Ray Trimble, James Castleberry and Jeff Olschowka made this one interesting from the start. Olschowka’s miserable luck with mechanical failures stayed with him and he was an early out. Throughout the entire event point leader, and defending champion, Corey Hall was biding his time and picked off competitors one by one to a well-deserved runner-up position at the end. Trimble and Castleberry both had their share of troubles and Trimble was a late race DNF. Castleberry stayed 3rd, but was the last car on the lead lap. Donny Fortney and Brent Hall completed the top 5.
The MRP Mighty Mini Stock feature was a 100% inversion with all of the top runners mired in the back at the start. Last week’s feature event winner Shawn Merritt was the first of the hot shoes to emerge from the swarming pack and quickly established a good lead out front. Castleberry was on the go and ran down Merritt with a series of slick moves. The pair renewed their rivalry instantly as Castleberry edged by the quick Merritt. Merritt fought back and there was contact, but Castleberry continued on to score the win in arguably the best race of the evening. Jeff Olschowka, doing double duty, clawed and banged his way into a 3rd place finish. Alan Furuta and Howard Law stayed pretty much glued together as this pair took 4th and 5th places from the back.
Jeremy Hawes easily outdistanced the Hobby Stock feature contenders and grabbed victory #2 on the year. Hawes’ early competition came from crowd favorite Armond Sarcomo, but Sarcomo had mechanical issues for the 2nd time in 3 starts. Hawes had a passenger strapped into the bright #21, and, if body language and arm movements mean anything, it looked like a harrowing ride. Strapping into his primer gray, gold doored, rookie striped, paint can numbered Hobby Stock was Leonard Petty. Much to the relief of the frightened multitudes, he finished.
Tim Maclaughlin took advantage of Chad Thompson’s hand grenade like misfortune, turned left, passed 4 cars and roared to an easy victory in the Pro 4 Sprint Car main event. Maclaughlin was so quick in the later stages that he wound up lapping the entire field, save 2nd place finisher P.J. Petersen. Johnny Burns was 3rd in his best ever showing.
Next week, the mighty King of the West 410 Sprint Cars will be back with their hammer-down show. More on this event later as the top guns in California will make their way to the racy clay at MRP.