Bunch holds off Hall at the line at Marysville

From Bob Bubridge

Marysville, CA — (June 28, 2014) —  Saturday’s five division show at Paul and Kathy Hawes’ Marysville Raceway Park once again produced a thrilling end to the MRP Winged Sprint Car main event. John Michael Bunch of Paradise returned to victory lane Saturday. The Bay Area’s Mitch Machado won his eighth career MRP Super Stock feature as Misty Castleberry and Olivehurst’s Eddie Hammett also grabbed feature event trophies in championship point race competition. Concord’s Jim Perry grabbed a victory in the added California Hard Top exhibition.

The featured event in the premiere division, the MRP Winged 360 Sprint Cars, was an absolute, high-speed thriller. Bunch jumped into an early lead as Marysville’s Brandon Dozier and Jeremy Hawes immediately went to the cushion and started to rocket past competitors in the early going.

On lap three, Dozier over-cooked it into turn three and flipped wildly; bringing out the red flag and taking him out of the competition. He walked away from his battered racer.

The restart found Bunch in command, but Oroville’s Heath Hall was flying around the bottom of the wicked-fast MRP clay. Hall went from sixth to second by half way and started to hunt down Bunch.

Behind the leaders Hawes and three-time champion Billy Wallace of Grass Valley were in a titanic battle for fourth. In front of them Grass Valley’s Jeremy Burt, Yuba City’s Korey Lovell and Woodland’s Pete Paulson diced back and forth for third. It was hard to know where to look.

A late race crash and flip by championship contender Kevin Lovell of Yuba City closed up the field for a dash to the finish. Lovell walked away from his banged up hot rod.

At the new green Hall was all over Bunch and Paulson slipped by Burt for third. Hawes seemed to surprise Wallace with a dazzling outside move and twisted his way into fifth.

Hall gave it one last try on the final lap and Bunch struggled to take away the line. The crowd rose in unison as the pair raced for the checkers with Bunch just getting the nod over Hall.

Paulson got third just ahead of Burt and Hawes came home fifth. Korey Lovell had a tough couple of laps at the end and came home seventh behind Wallace.

When Bunch hopped out of his car in victory lane he quipped, “…who was that behind me, Lovell?” (sprint cars do not allow rear view mirrors). When told it was Hall, he wasn’t surprised. Hall was up on the wheel and pressing forward all night from his sixth starting position. He is also Bunch’s closest rival in the point standings.

It was a spectacular sprint car race by any standard. Bunch was eligible for the Contingency Connection bonuses.

In the companion MRP Super Stock closer a number of issues clouded what was another spectacular finish. Machado led the event from green to checkers, but what went on behind him could fill volumes.

An early race, front stretch collision between championship hopefuls, Marysville’s Rick Dozier and Yuba City’s Phillip Shelby resulted in Shelby’s retirement from the event and a black flag disqualification for Dozier.

At the restart, with emotions high, point leader Jerry Bartlett was quickly moving through the field after having to start in the last row. Bartlett did not participate in his heat race. With three to go Bartlett was all over Machado and, once again, this was a race that was worth standing for.

Machado just held off Bartlett at the checkers. The Bay Area’s Mike Walko was third in another sensational run for the veteran racer. Yuba City’s Corey Hall kept his championship hopes alive with a fine fourth place finish with brother Brent finishing fifth.

Misty Castleberry made short work of the Pro 4 Sprint Car field and easily won the event.

A very competitive MRP Hobby Stock feature found Olivehurst’s Eddie Hammett back in victory lane keeping his championship hopes alive. Chico’s Brian Compton and two time champ, Yuba City’s Jeremy Hammons, were third and fourth respectively.

An exhibition race of California Hardtops was an entertaining addition to the evening’s program. The drivers of this association were going after it hard in a nostalgic look at racing as it was presented in the 60s and early 70s. Jim Perry of Concord came home the winner.

MRP will take a week off in observance of the Fourth of July. The MRP Winged Sprint Cars will head the card on H & H Trenching Night at the Races on July 12th. More later.

Gates open at 5 with racing at 7,

Look for the latest updates at www.marysvilleracewaypark.com or at the Marysville Raceway Park Facebook page.