By Bob Burbach
Marysville- Paul and Kathy Hawes’ Marysville Raceway Park, the Yuba-Sutter area’s only professional sports venue, will bring up the curtain on its 44th consecutive professional racing season Saturday night. After a series of weather related disappointments the first Championship Point Race of the season will be presented. It will be the “Ace Hardware-Union Lumber Night at the Races.” The Mighty Performance Auto Supply Winged Sprint Cars will headline the program with the MRP Super Stocks headlining the fendered portion of the 4 division show. The BCRA Midgets will make their first visit of 2012 along with the MRP Hobby Stocks.
The sprint car field is expected to be an excellent one. 2011 champion Billy Wallace could not be reached as to whether he will run the entire season at MRP again this season. Wallace (who gathered some $4,000 at the last banquet) will have some pretty stiff competition from all over northern California, Nevada and Oregon as MRP kicks off its 2012 Super Season.
The “Colfax Comet” Colby Wiesz said he’ll be at MRP Saturday to try for that elusive feature event win #50. Wiesz, who is a 3 time champion at MRP and a 6 time winner of the prestigious Mel Hall Memorial Race, confirmed that he’ll be there. With regard to that 50th win, Wiesz emailed this observer that getting that 50th win seems to be a “jinx” for him and that he “…can’t get over that hump”. Wiesz has not won since August of last year at MRP, though he has won elsewhere, including this year’s Silver Cup. Wiesz, one of northern California’s most successful sprint car stars, has been in the hunt at every appearance since that August evening when he picked up #49 at MRP, but has had a couple of uncharacteristic “hard luck” nights along the way.
5-time champ Korey Lovell aboard his famous #71 has dispelled any notion of retirement. As a matter of fact if Lovell’s performance in the recent Sherm Toller Memorial at MRP is any indication, Lovell is back, big time. Also tossing his hat in the ring for 2012 is 3-time champ Brent Dothage from Kelseyville. Dothage confirmed today that he’ll be there…and that’s really good news for the fans and maybe not so good news for the other racers. Dothage is truly one of the hardest chargers ever to wear the MRP crown. Speaking of chargers, the 2007 MRP Champ Jeremy Burt is expected along with former champion Mike Monahan out of Sparks, Nevada. Once again MRP presents a great “Race of Champions” for opening night in the winged sprinters.
Watch for young MRP stars like William Fielding, last year’s Rookie of the Year and Garry Burdick a former MRP Rookie of the Year to do well this year. Fielding is reported to have all new equipment. Lady star and multi-time feature event winner Reyna Krueger is expected to make her 1st appearance of the new season. It will be a thriller on Saturday as some 20 other teams are expected and will be vying for feature event starting positions. For those fans who have asked and prompted the raceway to continue the current format, MRP will continue to run the fan friendly dual heat race format. This gives fans an additional opportunity to see the stars and cars “race for it” while trying to gain starting positions in the feature event. Marysville Raceway Park is part of the Contingency Connection Bonus program again this year. The first race will go off at 6.30PM, getting everybody home at a reasonable hour. Don’t forget to visit facebook.com/marysvilleracewaypark for your opportunity to win free tickets to the races. We give away 2 free grandstand seats every Thursday.
The MRP Super Stocks will roar onto the MRP clay in their first event of the year as well Saturday night. Defending series champion Cory Hall of Yuba City will have some serious competition this year. It looks like Brother Brent who starred in several late season races last year is among those who really have a shot at taking the title away from the current champ. As a matter of fact, successes for the Hall brothers happened more often than other competitors liked last year. But there are a couple of other drivers that you should watch for this season.
The familiar black #86 of former champion Phillip Shelby has been wicked quick in open practice sessions so far this year. Shelby has made it clear to this observer that he is going all out for the title. Shelby has had numerous successes at MRP in his Super Stock efforts, but this young man has dominated Mini Stock competition and has been a factor in wingless sprint car action as well over the last decade. A wealth of experience will be behind the wheel of #86. Dad Phil Shelby is turning the wrenches on this hot rod and said he has had a series of problems getting it to run right. But, by the end of Monday’s open practice it was clear that whatever the trouble was, they’ve figured it out.
Cory and Brent Hall have made changes in their cars as has James Castleberry. All three cars were worked over and have what appear to be significant changes for the 2012 season. All three drivers were feature event winners. The cars are absolutely beautiful. Time will tell whether the changes will turn into quicker laps and additional feature event victories.
Watch for ageless “Wild” Willie Horn and Auburn’s Wayne Trimble try to knock out the competition in their winged stockers. 2-time champ Billy Knoop is putting together something special, if you believe the rumors. But, will Billy be behind the wheel? A rip-roarin’ field of Supers is ready for the first big slam-bang stock car race of MRP’s Super Season 2012.
The MRP Hobby Stock season will also be part of opening night 2012. “Iron” Mike Dehoogh took the honors in last year’s season finale, the 2011 Great Taxi Cab Open. Added to that, 3 additional victories during point race competition made him 2nd only to track champion Jeremy Hawes in class wins. Hawes will not be back to defend his title. Dehoogh missed 2 events last year while on the sidelines with injuries. Dehoogh could have been a factor in the points had he been in those events.
BUT! The vacated Crown Vic that Hawes steered to the title will be chauffeured Saturday night by race promoter Paul Hawes!! Yep, I rubbed my eyes, too. Hawes will once again grab a helmet and do some slip-slidin’ in last year’s #21 championship car. Hawes raced for years at the raceway he now runs. Hawes ran stock cars and modifieds for the most part. Hawes keeps things sharp by running 24 hour endurance road races from time to time. So, it seems that promoter Hawes could be a factor on Saturday. At least it will give everyone in the house someone to cheer (or boo) for depending on how you feel about the boss. We’ll take a survey just before the race. Returning veteran driver Gentleman Jim Waller is expected to be a formidable contender in the Hobby Stock ranks this season aboard his familiar #19. Some more slam-bang stock car action is on tap in this class.
Another star of this week’s opening day event is the facility itself. The new configuration of the turns 3 and 4 complex is completed. There is a tall, new wall above the crash wall that offers a number of benefits. The wall will have a significant impact on the problem of the setting sun in late June through the 1st week in August. MRP has been plagued with its east-west layout forever. The sun will now drop behind the wall earlier and higher, thus the heretofore necessity of “sun-breaks” could be a thing of the past. Being a former driver himself, once again promoter Hawes takes a look at a problem and tries to manage it for the benefit of the drivers.
When looking at the track from the grandstand, under the lights with a bright white wall behind the moving cars as they slide through the turn, they are simply brighter and the entire track surface is brighter. It is a real fan friendly improvement and the drivers will likely find a vast improvement in visibility. The sensation of speed as observed from the grandstand is really improved as well. The sprinters looked like they’re flying through 3 and 4 against the white backdrop during the Toller Memorial.
The wall retained the moist clay thrown up by the churning open wheels and dropped it right back onto the high side of the track. It created a great high side “cushion” for high-side runners to lean against during the recently presented Sherm Toller Memorial Race and presented more opportunities to pass.
Another benefit will be the sound. This observer was impressed with the throaty roar of the twisted V8s as the sound bounced off of that wall. It can really get your attention while at the same time keeping things quieter for MRP’s neighbors.
MRP is now one of the nicest, fan friendly short tracks in the west. The outstanding food and beverage opportunities offered make MRP a fabulous place to have a race-day dinner. Great Mexican cuisine, Debbie’s Restaurant and a superb, friendly beer garden are highlights of this racetrack midway that features the finest racetrack food and beverages available.
Also on Saturday’s program are the BCRA Midgets. This will be the 1st of 2 stops at MRP this season. This professional touring group will be in their 1st race of their new season. For more information on BCRA cars and stars go to bcraracing.com.
Pit gate opens at 3PM. Grandstands open at 5PM. Hot Laps at 5.30. 1st race at 6.30PM