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Cleveland takes a thriller. 
Bragg, Castleberry, Hawes and Brown also get trophies
By Bob Burbach
Marysville CA - April 17, 2010 --- Marysville Raceway Park lit up the sky again Saturday night with a spectacular 5-division show. The BCRA returned with a full field of midget racers and the California Modifieds had their strongest showing at MRP in years. Misty Castleberry and Jeremy Hawes were repeat winners in the MRP Mini Stock and Pro 4 divisions respectively. Duane Cleveland dodged every bullet and parlayed some extraordinary luck into an excellent modified victory. Greg Bragg held off a stellar field of BCRA contestants and Mark Brown won the opening race on the schedule for the EXTREME BOMBER division in the smallest car entered.

Promoter Paul Hawes had MRP rocket fast and multigrooved for the entire program. Whatever he’s doing, this observer hopes he’s writing it down. The heat races opened the program and all were rocket fast, highly competitive and had few yellows, a testament to the outstanding track preparation once again.

The MRP Mini Stocks presented their feature first and this event proved one thing…somebody’s going to have to figure out how to get by defending MRP champion Misty Castleberry. She rocketed away from a great field of cars to a wire-to-wire victory, her 2nd in a row. Castleberry outgunned fellow front row starter Jason Clayton, moved to a 6-car length lead and stayed there all race long. As a matter of fact Castleberry has led every lap of the last 2 feature events.

The real show again this week was the great drive to 4th place by former champion Joel Giusti. Giusti was mired in mid pack at the start, but gradually picked his way through contender after contender finally getting to 4th. The race was also peppered with exciting wheel-to-wheel action through out, but always about 6 car lengths, or more behind Castleberry. Clayton stayed closest and came second as the checkered flag flew with opening night victor Howard Law a close 3rd. Jimmy Foster returned after a long absence with a fine effort to finish 5th behind Giusti. A spectacular, 3 car crash mid way through the event found Jimmy Ford mired in the lake (affectionately called Lake Hawes ) that still is situated in MRP’s infield. Erik Davey and Mike Merritt were also in the crash. All restarted with Davey clawing his way back to 7th. Castleberry, Clayton and Law picked up the heat race wins.

The Pro 4 feature was another walk away for local Wingless Warrior driver Jeremy Hawes. This time it wasn’t quite so easy as 3 time champion Tim Maclaughlin slugged it out with Hawes mid way through the event. Hawes started outside row 2. He got to the lead right away and Maclaughlin got to 2nd just as quickly. As the race approached 1/2 way Maclaughlin was suddenly all over Hawes as a steady stream of blue smoke appeared in the Hawes 01. Maclaughlin actually nosed by Hawes as many in the grandstand thought Hawes may be saddled with another mechanical problem…wrong.

Hawes got back up on the wheel and re-secured the #1 spot and after that brief, but exciting dice, motored on to an easy victory. Maclaughlin crossed the line 2nd. Mini stock winner Castleberry strapped into a Pro 4 for the 2nd time ever and took 3rd. PJ Petersen and Jim Pfifer completed the top 5. Hawes won the heat race as well to complete the sweep of the program.

The mods were next…and it was a thriller from the start. Winner Duane Cleveland was the pole sitter, but he had to work for this one. At the green fellow front row starter Mark Abouzeid took the field into turn 1 with the lead. Then the most extraordinary series of events pared the 19 car starting field down to 9 by lap 5. A spectacular bone jarring wreck in turn 4 collected 5 cars as other, less spectacular spins and wall-crunchers shuffled the field.

As a matter of fact Cleveland lost the handle while challenging Abouzeid and started a lazy spin that dropped him like a rock through the field. But, the racing gods were looking after Cleveland as the 5 car wreck happened in the same lap allowing Cleveland his spot back.

Leader Abouzeid, himself, lost it turn1 allowing Cleveland to cruise on by. Abouzeid retired and a 15 lap sprint to the finish kept the fans on edge as Cleveland was under relentless pressure from Ryan McDaniel. McDaniel showed Cleveland his front end with about 7 to go and Cleveland appeared to get a big-time wake up call.

At Jerry Witzke’s white banner Ryan McDaniel was all over Cleveland. Cleveland bobbled ever so slightly in 1 and McDaniel was beside him as the pair diced for the lead up the back chute. McDaniel drove to the bottom and Cleveland kept his momentum up on the top in turn 3. The grandstand rose as one as they came to the line side by side. Cleveland, on the outside, nosed out the hard charging McDaniel in the closest modified feature event ever staged at MRP. A tip of the straw hat to both competitors, it was a thriller. Kellen Chadwick stayed close to the leaders, but clearly could not challenge in the end and finished 3rd. Randy McDaniel was 4th after having to go to the back in one of the early race incidents. Dustin Massey was 5th. Massey and Randy McDaniel snared heat race victories.

The early laps of the BCRA midget main event featured some scary fast dicing among the top ten competitors. Gregg Bragg seemed to have 1st place in control at lap 5 when heat race winner and high side rider Jimmy Sills caught a wheel as he tried to get by 5th running Dillon Silverman. Sills had started 12th and was the only driver using the high road. Sills’ silver 17 gyrated through the air in a twisting series of flips, pounding the 3-time USAC champ in the process. Sills got out moments later apparently unhurt.

Bragg was unchallenged at the end. Scott Nail was 2nd with USAC Western States Midget champion Ryan Kaplan in 3rd. Please see bcraracing.com for additional information and a complete finishing order. It was great to be reminded how intense, and spectacular full midget competition is at MRP. It was a fine, well crafted program.

The first slam bang edition of this year’s EXTREME BOMBERS was the closer on Saturday. The fender ripping, chassis bending extravaganza featured a war between 2 worlds. Race leader Armond Sarcomo was running a great race early in a high riding Bronco/Blazer type vehicle (couldn’t tell…too much mud). It was among the tallest cars in the field. Cruising along in 2nd was Mark Brown in the smallest car in the field…a tiny GEO Metro.

As Sarcomo was headed for the white flag he collided hard with vehicles on the front chute and went for a swim in Lake Hawes. Brown, who was a distant 2nd, just putted on by the frantic Sarcomo. Brown won in the smallest car entered. A large crowd that stayed for this unique event enjoyed the collision happy EXTREME BOMBER show. The scorers were still scratching their heads trying to figure who was 2nd. They gave up, as only the winner of these events picks up the trophy and prizes. In the end Lake Hawes had a pink police car sunk into it, a vehicle on fire in turn 4 and happy group of race fans headed on home.

Next week the Mighty MRP Winged 360 Outlaw Sprint Cars return for point race #3 in their championship series. Butte Insurance will host the program that includes the Joe Hunt Magneto Wingless Warriors returning for the 2nd challenge event of 2010. The Joe Hunt Series will seed drivers into the season ending Gold Cup wingless sprint car finale in September. This observer would recommend taking in this race Saturday as round 1 of the Joe Hunt Series featured 29 cars with that and more likely to show up at MRP. This will be the first of four stops for the series at MRP. The MRP Super Stocks will also be on the card with the Pro 4 Sprinters and BCRA Midget Lites filling out the ambitious 5 division show.

The pit gate opens at 3PM. The spectator gates will open at 5 PM with practice at 6 PM. IMPORTANT: The first race will start after hot laps at about 6:30.

Note: Please make this observer aware of any names that are misspelled or incorrect. The text is based on information we have at the time of its release. Complete finishes, stats and points become official and available at the close of business on Tuesday and will be posted to the web site.